Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Help Children Achieve Freedom From Erratic Lifestyle

“Think in the morning. 
  Act in the noon.
  Eat in the evening.
  Sleep in the night.” William Blake

You might wonder why I am dealing with an issue related to health and lifestyle. The reason is that we are what we eat and it is a matter of concern that the food habits of kids are changing for the worst. I was recently going through certain statistics that show the hike in consumption of junk and processed food by kids of 10 to 15 years of age and this hike is alarming. What made me skim through this data is the recent scenario of in-activeness among kids.

It has been a constant feedback by the teachers that students are inactive and many of them are drowsy in the morning when they come to school and hence find it difficult to participate in classroom interaction and extracurricular activities. Quite a number of them are generally tired. Many students (especially the ones in middle and high school) do not eat breakfast due to some obvious reasons. To understand and perform better the kids need to be active listeners and concentrate in the class. When we tried to find the reason, it is mainly improper food and sleeping habits. Some students say that as they go to sleep very late so are not able to get up early in the morning hence tend to get late to the school due to which do not get time to have breakfast. In some cases as no one else in the family gets up early so they do not get the breakfast prepared at all. Also the quality and nature of the food served has changed (processed food) and contribute negatively towards the health of the children. 

As processed food is easily available and convenient to cook, even the parents these days have switched to it. Packed food items and junk have become the smart and easy way to breakfast and brunch. Kids are depending on milk and a bowl of cereal for their breakfast, the meal of the day which is supposed to be the richest. Even in their lunchbox they bring fried stuff and oily preparations which are quick to prepare. They make the kids sleepy and lethargic.

The routine/schedule of all family members have undergone a sea change and late going to parties/ eating outside in restaurants has become very common (in some cases almost this is a daily routine). The children have their dinner very late which results in going to bed late. They most disappointing attitude here is that of the parents. They are solely responsible for providing them with such food items and junk. Outings and weekend get-togethers are no more about arranging a picnic or an athletic sport or spree in the park but it has become all about going to a restaurant and eating pizzas and burgers. Parents need to remember that it’s their responsibility to make sure that their kids eat healthy food at proper time and also make their kid realize the importance of balanced diet. Not everything is learnt from the theories of science book but by practice.

The lack of proper and adequate sleep is hampering the performance of students in class and they experience constant fatigue and drowsiness. They are bound to attend and be a part of late night family functions and parties. Even the parents have adopted a lifestyle where they go to bed in late hours and indirectly encourage the children too to do the same thus disturbing their schedule/routine.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. “The lack of sleep is also a result of constant stress the students are facing due to burden of tuition homework and 4 to 5 hours of coaching after school. This becomes so stressful that the brain comes to saturation and makes it impossible for a child to perform well on both these platforms i.e, school and coaching centers.

“There are data that sleep loss leads to learning and memory impairment, as well as decreased attention and vigilance,” says Dr. Kushida. “In the student-age population, studies have found that factors such as self-reported shortened sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, late bed and rise times, and poor sleep quality are negatively associated with school performance for adolescents from middle school through college. Thus, there is ample evidence to indicate that the lack of adequate night time sleep can lead to disturbances in brain function, which in turn, can lead to poor academic performance.”

The parents here need to realize that the environment these days asks for better food habits and sound sleep so as to be more productive in this competitive world.
I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It's crucial for good health and longevity to instil sound eating habits from an early age”, said Cat Cora and I believe this should be the way to go. Parents should adopt a healthy lifestyle and food habits for the kids to emulate. They should take care that the kids eat proper breakfast and brunch with maximum amount of protein. Physical activities should be encouraged and junk should be strictly avoided from a very early age.

The schools and the teachers also need to take this responsibility of educating the children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Not only students but parents should also be made aware of all the food groups and the importance of incorporating all of them in a day’s meal plan. Students at school should be appreciated if they eat healthy food and others should be encouraged to the same. At Maria Montessori Magnet School in Rockford, Ill., parent group members have got together to ensure that the students get only wholesome food to school.  Some parent groups purchase food and exercise journals for students, offering journals to other family members, making the food log concept a whole-family activity. The process of calculating calories burned and calories consumed can double as a math lesson too. Kids should be encouraged to turn junk into healthy food options themselves as they should be encouraged to experiment with chapattis tacos and wheat crust veggies stuffed pizza, fruit cream salads and homemade shakes.

AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medication) is a professional membership organization dedicated to the advancement of sleep medicine and sleep-related research. It has provided the following tips to help students get the most out of their sleep:
Go to bed early 

Children should go to bed early enough to have the opportunity for a full night of sleep. They need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Get out of bed 

If you have trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.
Stay out of bed 

Don’t study, read, watch TV or talk on the phone in bed. Use your bed only when you go to sleep.
Limit naps 

If you take a nap then keep it brief. Nap for less than an hour and before 3 in the afternoon has been found helpful
Wake up on the weekend 

It is best to go to bed and wake up at the same times on the weekend also as the children do during the school week. If you missed out on a lot of sleep during the week, then you can try to catch up on the weekend. But sleeping till late on Saturdays and Sundays will make it very hard for them to wake up for classes on Monday and Tuesday’s morning.
Avoid caffeine 

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and at night. It stays in your system for hours and can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
Adjust the lights 

Dim the lights in the evening and at night so your body knows it will soon be time to sleep. Let in the sunlight in the morning to boost your alertness.
Wind down 

Take some time to “wind down” before going to bed. Get away from the computer, turn off the TV and the cell phone, and relax quietly for 15 to 30 minutes.
Eat a little 

Never eat a large meal right before bedtime. Enjoy a healthy snack or light dessert so you don’t go to bed hungry.

If this appears to be impossible for the parents and children to follow then the government should change the school timings appropriately and it can be from 9 AM to 3.40 PM so that our children do not suffer from lack of sleep and proper food.

I hope my thoughts on this topic will be taken in the right spirit and healthy lifestyle would be prioritized by parents as well as students because all know it very well that a sound mind resides in a healthy body. I would conclude with this quote by Lord Buddha, “To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” 


  1. Respected Sir,
    I truly agree with you that most of the chronic diseases plaguing today can be drastically reduced with better nutrition and lifestyle changes.We are walking around overweight and bloated but actually we are starving for nutrients.
    The research of AASM which you have shared in this article will definitely help not only the students but everyone to follow those tips and to inculcate in their daily lives.
    Rimple Qureshi

  2. Respected Sir
    Most of the times we discuss that parents are responsible for the child's eating habits,behavior and so many other things. But I wonder how will they ( we, as parents )improve ? So that this improvement may pass further to these youngsters.
    Teachers do their part of job by imparting knowledge about the harm that processed food and fast food carries.It helps a little.Constant reminders are of great help.
    Change in the time of school is a good suggestion. New schedule may develop healthier eating and sleeping habits.
    Sunita Singh

  3. Everytime i read your article i feel this is the best...i am regretting why i have not read this article few days before , as there was PTM in our school and i would suggest the parents to read this article. .....i am against sleeping in day time as it wastes a lot of precious time. Early to bed n early to rise , is the reason that for the whole day i feel myself full of energy. I always suggest parents please do not allow your child to sleep in day time the result will be that they will feel sleepy early in the night and by doing so they will get enough sleep for 8 hours and this will help them to be energise d and active for whole day. still u feel tired in the noon you can take a power nap ( closing your eyes for 10 minutes to 20 min but not more than that ). ...this will really create a magic in their performance.