Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sleep Away Camp: Sweeter Dreams for All

For many cancer patients and survivors summer months can become a more stressful  with the added responsibility of children home all day from school. Many parents in the process of scheduling surgery, recovering from recent surgery,  in the middle of treatment or recovering from recent treatment choose to send their children to sleep away camp for the first time. 

Whatever the reason this year 10 million children will tote their sleeping bags to camp. But they may not get much sleep. For many children, healthy parents or not, overnight camp is the first time they've slept away  from their family for more than a night or two. Add an unfamiliar bed, strange noises and the overall excitement of camp and it's no wonder many kids come home from camp totally exhausted, cranky and stressed!

So while you are helping your children pack for summer camp, take a few extra steps to help them sleep well. With proper sleep they will indeed enjoy all the wonderful things summer camp has to offer and return home refreshed, happy, relazed and ready to fill you in on all the fun they had.

  • PACK SOME COMFORT - Don't forget to pack her favorite Teddy or his favorite blanket. According to leading pediatricians comfort items such as stuffed animals, pillows and blankets become important when kids sleep in an unfamiliar place, because they create a soothing sense of familiarity and security. Older kids may appreciate a small framed photo of the family or a note from mom and dad!

  • CHECK NIGHTIME TEMPS - While you're checking the daytime weather forecast for their camp destination, make sure that you check the nightime forecast too. Nightime temperatures may be much lower or higher than what your child is used to or you anticipated, particularly if they are sleeping in a cabin or tent. Pack several pairs of pajamas both light and medium/heavy as well as thick socks for layering in case it's cold at night.

  • PREPARE FOR "ACCIDENTS" --  Around 7% to 10% of kids wet the bed up until age 8. Some older kids may do so  if unsually stressed. If you or your child is anxious about the possibility of a bed wetting "accident"  and "mortified" at the thought of packing disposable training pants talk to her or his pediatrician. Some pediatric urologists recommend a short term prescription for a medication like desmopressin, which slows nightime urine production and can provide a TEMPORARY solution for bedwetting children during summer camp when bedwetting is specially embarrasing.

  • SEND MOONLIGHT MUNCHIES -- After an action packed day at camp, your child may feel her stomach growl just as the counselor announces "Lights Out!" If camp rules allow it pack a few bedtime snacks: whole grain crackers,  individual cold cereal bowls, granola and protein bars travel well. Tryptophan rich foods like nuts, sunflower seeds and soybeans add sleepy points to the scoreboard.

  • SAY NO TO NOISE -- A child who is particularly sensitive to noise may find camp's group sleeping arrangements disconcerting. And strange sounds can trigger night time fears. Consider "training" your child to use earplugs before going to camp and packing a set  of earplugs in her camp luggage. Make sure your child knows where to find the ear plugs so he or she can drift off to sleep in silence.

Home Sleepy Home!  No matte what you say or do, kids probably won't adhere to their regular sleep schedule at camp. When they return home getting back to their normal routine is really important. It may take a few days for them to adjust to their regular schedule, so post pone sleepovers and trips until after the kids have spent some time catching up on their regular sleep routine.

Good Luck!

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