A Kid’s Guide to Understanding Sleep
Everyone needs to sleep to stay healthy. It’s common for people to think that they can put off sleep or get less sleep if they are busy or they’d rather be doing something else. But if you don’t get enough sleep, your body will suffer. Scientists have studied what can happen to people who don’t get enough sleep regularly. This research has shown that when the body doesn’t get the sleep it needs night after night, people can get sick. Heart disease and diabetes are just two illnesses that can happen to people who don’t sleep enough. It can also be hard to think when you are tired. To stay energized, healthy, and clear-headed, make sure you get enough sleep every night.
To feel good every day with energy to run and play, you need to get enough sleep at night. When you climb into bed at night and fall asleep, this rest is helping to restore your body after everything it did while you were awake. Running and playing outside takes lots of energy, and it uses your muscles. Sleep helps your muscles repair themselves so you can use them the next day. Working hard at school makes your brain work, and it needs to rest to prepare for the next day. After a long day, you will usually feel sleepy. This is your body’s way of telling you it’s time to sleep so that this repair can happen to prepare for the next day. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may feel grumpy during the day. You might have a hard time getting along with friends and family members. You might also have a hard time concentrating at school and remembering things you learn.
Everyone needs a specific amount of sleep to feel good and stay healthy. Doctors have realized that your age is part of what determines how much sleep you need. Babies need the most sleep every day, and this amount gradually gets smaller as you get older. School-age kids usually need at least 10 hours of sleep every night, and adults usually need between seven and eight hours of sleep every night.
As you sleep, your body goes through different sleep cycles. The first stages of sleep happen when you are just falling asleep and you go into a light sleep. You stop being aware of what’s going on around you, and your breathing becomes very regular. After being in a light sleep stage, you will fall into a deeper level of sleep. During deep sleep, your body repairs and restores itself. Your muscles relax, and special hormones release to help you grow. During the deep sleep stages, your eyes don’t move under your eyelids and your muscles don’t move. If someone tries to wake you up when you are in these sleep stages, it would be very hard. From deep sleep, people move into the REM sleep stage, which stands for “rapid eye movement.” REM sleep involves lighter breathing, an increased heart rate, and your eyes moving back and forth beneath your eyelids. Your body goes through sleep cycles all night long, usually lasting about 90 minutes for each full cycle. As the night goes on, the REM cycles get longer and the cycles of deep sleep get shorter.
Your brain is a very important part of the sleep cycle. When you go to bed to sleep, parts of the hypothalamus and brain stem are involved with helping you lose consciousness. After you enter the REM stage, your brain gets active, and you have dreams. If you’ve ever had a dream in which you want to move but you can’t, this is because your muscles are actually paralyzed during the REM stage of sleeping. Your eyes will move beneath your closed eyelids and your involuntary muscles will keep your heart beating and your lungs functioning, but you can’t move your voluntary muscles in your arms and legs. Brain cells located in the brain stem are in charge of REM sleep.
You can do some things to make sure you get a good night’s sleep every night. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This helps your body adjust to a schedule, which helps it know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake. Get lots of exercise and fresh air every day. It’s also helpful to slow yourself down a little before you go to bed. Turn off the television and stay away from electronics for an hour or so before bedtime. Your body will know it’s almost time for sleep if you turn the lights down. Your body will also know it’s time to wake up if you let light stream in through windows the next morning.
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Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Derek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sleepopolis. Derek has tested over 80 of the most popular online mattresses, and scores of other bedding accessories. His testing approach is grounded in objective criteria and personalized in-depth research. Derek lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Samatha and dog Tibbers.