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School success depends on healthy eating and sleep patterns

  |   Aug. 3, 2013 at 8:32 PM
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. experts say school success depends on making healthy choices because eating and sleep patterns, are linked to academic success.

"Your brain can't work if you're not consuming enough calories, and in general that's not a problem," Krista Casazza, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a statement. "But when kids go to school without eating breakfast, their cognitive function can be affected."

Casazza suggests kids start the day with fruit, proteins and whole grains. Avoid sugary cereals because they cause a sugar high, then a crash, she said.

"A balanced breakfast will fuel the body for a long period and help sustain their attention level through lunch, when they need to eat well again," Casazza said. "This will hold them until dinner, and they won't snack ravenously after school."

If kids do need to eat something prior to dinner, consider these healthy options: yogurt, fruit and veggies. If they want "kid stuff," baked chips can be an option, in moderation, but provide water as a beverage, since soda lacks nutritional value, Casazza said.

Kristin Avis, a UAB associate professor, says, once homework and dinner are done, sleep needs to be the priority. Kids and adolescents ages 6-18 should get 9 hours of sleep nightly, but typically they average little more than 7 hours, Avis says.

"Children need a good night's sleep for their overall school performance," Avis said. "Lack of sleep can lead to problems with attention and memory in the classroom, affect impulse control and mood regulation lead to anxiety and even depression."

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