Z is for ZZZ! Getting Enough Sleep!

Why sleep?

boy-sleepingCan you imagine what life would be like if we never went to sleep?  Time would stretch on and on, and our days and nights would seem never-ending!  In fact, it really wouldn’t be very nice at all.

Going to sleep every night helps us wake up every morning ready for a new day and a fresh start.

Everybody needs to sleep – even your dog or cat needs to have a curl up to give their bodies a tiny rest.

There are also important healthy reasons too.  While we sleep, our bodies are busy making lots of repairs to our muscles, skin and anything else that might need fixing after a long hard day.

Your bones and muscles have a chance to rest and if you’re not fully grown, they’ll grow a tiny bit while you sleep – why not measure yourself in the morning and see if you have grown!

It’s not just your bones that need a rest – your busy brain needs a break too. When you’re asleep, your brain can absorb all the stuff you learnt that day, so you have the brain power to learn stacks more new things.

How do we know when we need sleep?

tired-yawnThe simplest answer is we start to feel tired.  For example, your eyelids may start feeling really heavy and you can’t stop yawning!

As you’re drifting off to sleep, it doesn’t seem like much is happening . . . the room is getting fuzzy and your eyelids feel heavier and heavier. But what happens next?  A lot!

Your brain swings into action, telling your body how to sleep. As you slowly fall asleep, you begin to enter the four different stages of sleep:

Stage 1 – your brain gives the signal to your muscles to relax.  It also tells your heart to beat a little slower, and your body temperature to drop a little.

Stage 2 – this is a period of light sleep. You can still be woken up easily, say if your sister pokes you or you hear a car horn outside.

Stage 3 – a period of deeper sleep. Your brain sends a message to your blood pressure to get lower.  At this stage, your body isn’t sensitive to the temperature of the air around you, which means that you won’t notice if it’s a little hot or cold in your room.  It’s much harder to be awoken when you’re in this stage, but some people may sleepwalk or talk in their sleep at this point.

Stage 4 – time for the deepest sleep. It’s very hard to wake up from this stage of sleep, and if you do wake up, you’re sure to be out of it and confused for at least a few minutes.

Don’t rush your sleep

Since sleep is so important for your body, it is important not to rush it.  We all need a certain amount of sleep, with the recommended hours changing depending on our age.

The Government recommend that if you are between 7 and 10 years old, you should have between 10 to 11 hours sleep each night.  So if you need to get up at 7am, you might want to think about going to bed by 9pm.

What to do if you’re struggling to sleep

coop-activity-kidsEven though we know sleeping is an important part of making us feel upbeat and energetic the next day, sometimes it can be hard to get to sleep. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to help.

One good way is to make sure you’ve been active and done plenty of exercise throughout the day.  As well as making us healthy, being active helps us use up our energy and get a better night’s sleep. Click here to find out more about being active.

ethics_bnr_IYPThis may seem like it is at odds with the tip before, but it is also useful to have some quiet time, especially just before you try to sleep.  Being really busy can even stop you sleeping because your body and mind need to calm down first so that your brain knows that it can get ready to switch off!  Its therefore good to do relaxing things before going to bed. Click here to find out more about quiet time.

You should also be careful about what you eat and drink before you go to bed.  Don’t drink fizzy drinks that have caffeine and sugar, or eat lots of sweets before you go to bed – they’ll just give you energy that you don’t need, and might stop you from sleeping.

Another great tip is to try sleeping at the same time every night. That way, your body will learn to know when it’s time for bed and you will be able to go to sleep more naturally.

What if I have a nightmare?

If you’ve had a nightmare at one time or another, then you’re certainly in good company!  Most kids and even grown ups have had a scary dream at some point.

A nightmare is just a bad dream. It may make you feel scared, but nightmares are not real and so can’t harm you at all.

A good way of coping with bad dreams is to write a story of what happened in your dream, but with your own happy ending!

Getting enough sleep is very important for keeping us healthy and full of energy so we can make the most of each day. And who knows what fun things you’ll get up to in your dreams!

Check out more in the A to Z