What Sleep Is and Why All Kids Need It
Why Do I Need Sleep?
Sleep is more important than you may think. The average kid has a busy day. There's school, taking care of your pets, running around with friends, going to sports practice or other activities, and doing your homework. By the end of the day, your body needs a break. Sleep lets your body get rest for the next day.
Everything that's alive needs sleep to survive. Even your dog or cat curls up for naps. Animals sleep for the same reason you do — to give your body a tiny vacation.
Your Brain Needs Zzzzzs
Your body and your brain need sleep. During sleep, the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and even solves problems while you snooze.
Most kids don’t get enough sleep. Kids 5 to 12 years old need 9 to 12 hours each night. Not every kid is the same and some kids need more sleep than others.
Can you think of a time when you didn't get enough sleep? That heavy, groggy feeling is awful and, when you feel that way, you're not at your best. Without enough sleep, kids can feel moody, tired, or cranky. It might be hard to pay attention or follow directions. School work that's normally easy may feel impossible, or you may feel clumsy playing your favorite sport or instrument.
One more reason to get enough sleep: If you don't, you may not grow as well. That's right, too little sleep can affect growth and your germ-fighting immune system, which keeps you from getting sick.
How Can I Sleep Better?
For most kids, sleeping comes pretty naturally. Here are some tips to help you catch all the ZZZs you need:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps your body get into a routine.
- Turn off the TV, computer, and other devices, including cellphones, at least 1 hour before it’s time to sleep.
- Follow a bedtime routine that is calming, such as taking a warm bath or reading.
- Don’t have drinks with caffeine in them, especially in the late afternoon and evening. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some sodas have caffeine.
- Don't watch scary TV shows or movies close to bedtime because these can sometimes make it hard to fall asleep.
- Don't exercise just before going to bed. Do exercise earlier in the day — it helps a person sleep better.
- Use your bed just for sleeping — not doing homework, reading, playing games, or talking on the phone. That way, you'll train your body to connect your bed with sleep.
If you have a hard time falling asleep for more than one or two nights or have worries that are keeping you from sleeping, tell your mom or dad. They can help you solve your sleep problems. In fact, just talking about it with them could help you relax just enough (yawn) that you'll be ready to sleep.