Fitness pioneer Tracy Anderson recently sat down with Dr. Sherry Sami, the founder of Happy Kids Dental Planet in Agoura Hills, CA. Dr. Sami works extensively with parents and children to identify and resolve psychosomatic barriers to facilitate healing with orofacial, cranial, respiratory and myofunctional disorders. During this interview, she discussed with Anderson the importance of sleep, wellness, and integrative pediatric dentistry.

Dr. Sami's Interview with Tracy Anderson

Tracy Anderson: Medical visits and procedures can be scary or nerve wracking for patients, especially for our children. What are some tools or steps we can take to calm ourselves? Is technology like iPads or listening to music helpful or merely a distraction?

Dr. Sami: In our clinic, as well as with our own children, we view our Dento-Medical visits as opportunities for our kids to learn many physical, mental, and emotional life lessons. They can learn about their bodies and so become better advocates for their health as adults. We also teach the lesson that being brave doesn’t mean having no fear, but overcoming our fears. We often teach children how changing their breathing habits and doing simple visualization exercises can completely shift their physiology. These activities and information give them lots of opportunities to see their own progress and feel accomplished.

The problem I see most often in my practice is that it’s the parents who come in with so much fear and anxiety that their children become affected by it. So, it’s important for a parent to work on these issues prior to going to an appointment or perhaps to allow the other parent or a family member who isn’t quite so apprehensive to accompany the child instead. Another big problem is our new generation of parents many of whom have a slight obsession with wanting to save their children from all discomfort or pain. This is in spite of the fact that we know life brings discomfort and pain for everyone at various times, no matter how much we try to protect our kids. Teaching children how to give meaning to their discomfort and pain, and how to work through it is the biggest gift, in my opinion, a parent can give to a child.

“Other than rejuvenating the body, sleep sorts out the complexity of our life experiences and gives them meaning, generates creative ideas, reduces our stress level, detoxes the brain, lubricates our joints, and much more.”

Tracy Anderson: Why is sleep so important, and what are some tips to quiet the noise and prepare for better sleep?

Dr. Sami: There are so many important things that happen during our five stages of sleep. Other than rejuvenating the body, sleep sorts out the complexity of our life experiences and gives them meaning, generates creative ideas, reduces our stress level, detoxes the brain, lubricates our joints, and much more. Sleep hygiene is extremely important, especially in the internet age with so much constant distraction coming from computers, cell phones, and other media. Here are some basic tools you can use when you create you and your family’s sleep routines:

  1. Stop eating and cut off media usage at least 2 hours before sleep.
  2. Dim the lights 30-45 minutes before bed. It’s the blue spectrum from indoor lighting and media screens that mimics sunlight to the brain and says it’s not time to go to sleep, yet. Candlelight doesn’t have this effect. If you must work on the computer late at night, special sunglasses that block out blue light are available. However I do not recommend this for children, especially the younger ones.
  3. Take a short bath with some epson salt or lavender oil about an hour before bed. Both of them have properties that promote relaxation.
  4. Lower the temperature to 67-69 degrees. The body needs to cool down before sleep, and people tend to sleep better in a room that’s on the cool side.
  5. Do a few minutes of meditation or write down several things you’re grateful for in a journal. You can also share these things openly with a spouse or partner, or your family at bedtime.
  6. Get to bed a little earlier. The time between 10pm and 3am is where the body’s most important healing and rejuvenation processes happen. The sleep after 7am is not as beneficial to the body.
  7. Invest in some blackout curtains for longer summer nights and earlier sunrise to make sure your body gets enough hours to rejuvenate itself.
Dr. Sami's Interview with Tracy Anderson

Tracy Anderson: As we parent, what steps can we take to help our children get better sleep?

Dr. Sami: Most importantly learn the sleep times and amounts for kids of different ages. For example, children till age 5 need a nap. Many kids with airway issues have a really hard time settling down because they are in fight and flight since they can’t breath properly. Parents by mistake think they don’t need a nap and skip it by 2 or 3 yrs old. These children become overtired and more hyper and then either have a hard time falling asleep, or wake up in the middle of the night. Pre-school and early elementary children should be in bed by 7:30 pm. While during adolescence, because of their hormones, their body doesn’t start secreting melatonin till around 10 pm. However, both age group need between 10-12 hrs of sleep. These facts are essential for parents to know so they can set up appropriate routines to support the healthy growth of their children.

Calm down yourself first as their sleep time approaches. Most parents are still going 100 miles an hour from their day, and expect their children to calm down and go to sleep, so they can perhaps get more things done. Our kids tune in to us energetically and match our energy, especially with their moms. So do something even if it’s just for 5 mins to calm yourself and be grounded before you start the sleep routine.

Having a sleep hygiene that works for your family (you can also use some suggestions above) is really important. It brings predictability for the whole family and allows children to know exactly what to expect which helps them to relax and trust the wisdom of their parents.

Learn what are some of the signs that your children are not getting quality sleep. Snoring, kicking and moving around a lot, bed wetting after age of 3-4 yrs old, or getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, excessive thirst before or right after they wake up, dry mouth, and grinding are some of the signs that your child is having airway issues and not getting the quality of sleep they need. So make sure you speak with a knowledgeable health care provider (pediatric dentist, pediatrician, ENT, or Myofunctional therapist) and address it. Unfortunately most health care providers are not very educated about these areas. So make sure you don’t give up if someone dismissed your concerns and tells you “they are going to grow out of it.” This is an important time for their growth and development of their body and brain and it will have significant consequences if not addressed before age 8.

“In an age where we are being pulled in so many directions, to know your purpose and to remain true to it is of utmost importance. “

Tracy Anderson: We are flooded with books and products found in advertisements on tv, billboards, and even our mobile devices, to improve our health. How can we assess whether these products or advice found in articles and books are good for us or that they are simply more “noise?”

Dr. Sami: As we discussed in our talk, for good sleep, you don’t need much. If something makes a huge difference for you without exposing you to more radiation by all means use it. But they are not essential.

I think as women we especially have an extraordinary power of intuition. If we quiet the noise inside and tune in, we will be guided to use the information appropriately for ourselves, as well as our families.

Tracy Anderson: There are many benefits to “slowing down,” but it is so hard to do. What are the benefits to slowing down and how do we resist adding more tasks and duties to our daily life?

Dr. Sami: Have a mission statement or clear intention for your life, as well as for your family. Write it down and hang it somewhere where you can see it all the time. Read it every day and make sure everything that you’re saying yes to aligns with that philosophy and is moving you in that direction. This is so important for your health, happiness, and to make sure you fulfill the purpose of your life. In an age where we are being pulled in so many directions, to know your purpose and to remain true to it is of utmost importance. Remember, we are not guaranteed any number of days on this earth. I’m not saying this as a negative thing, but knowing it will assure we don’t waste our life doing things that are not of resonance with our higher purpose. Find your sacred “yes” everyday mindfully.

For more insights from Dr. Sami, follow her on Instagram and Twitter.