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Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Sleep

You may hate bedtime, but if you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your mood and your schoolwork. Learn how to get more sleep with this guide to sleep.

Your parents are yelling for you to "turn out the light." But you want to watch the end of your favorite show. It seems so unfair. Why do your parents get to stay up late when you have to go to bed so early?

There's a good reason to make sure you get enough sleep. Right now, sleep is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. You need about 9 to 10 hours each night.

Sleep: Why You Need It

"Sleep affects everything we do and how we feel. It helps tweens think more clearly, do better in school, [and] be in a better mood," says Jodi Mindell, PhD. Mindell teaches psychology at Saint Joseph's University. Sleep also helps you have energy to be active and alert enough to do things you want to do.

Sleep and School

Losing sleep can make it harder for your brain to remember things. That's why, when you're tired, your mind might go blank when you try to answer questions on a test. You also can't pay attention to your teacher if you're snoozing in class.

"Sleep is fuel for the brain. It recharges the brain's batteries," says Marc Weissbluth, MD, from Northwestern University.

Sleep and Weight

It might sound strange that lying still at night can help you control your weight. But it's true. Kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight.

There are a few reasons why sleep and weight are connected.

  • While you sleep, your body releases chemicals called hormones. One of those hormones tells your body that it's full. Without this hormone, you could eat and eat and still not feel full.
  • Kids who don't sleep enough really want to eat junk foods like cookies and chips. Those foods don't offer your body the same kind of nutrients that other foods do.
  • When you're tired during the day, you may not have enough energy to exercise. Exercise burns off fat and keeps you healthy.

Sleep and Hyperactivity

Kids who don't sleep enough at night can feel squirmy and restless during the day. "We know that overtired kids are often overactive and have a hard time concentrating and sitting still," Mindell says. If you have ADHD, not getting enough sleep can make you even more hyperactive.

Sleep and Sadness

Kids who don't get enough sleep can be sad or upset. Being sleepy can put you in a very bad mood. When that bad mood lasts a long time, you might become depressed. Depression can make you feel bad about yourself.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

How you feel at the end of each day? It can help you tell if you are getting enough sleep. If you go to school all day, play sports in the afternoon, and still have energy left, you're probably OK. But if you're dragging by dinnertime, you probably need another hour or so of sleep each night.

Kids need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep every night. But many kids don't sleep as much as they should. Sleep problems like trouble falling asleep or waking up at night bother 2 out of 3 kids. But why? Some of it is stuff you can control. Almost half of kids lose sleep because they have a TV in their bedroom. Others lose sleep by staying up to text their friends or play video games. So turn off the tube and phone for better sleep.

How many hours of sleep you get is important. But when you go to sleep is also important. Kids who stay up late at night or sleep in late throw off their body's natural sleep cycle. "Listen to your body. Don't stay up late surfing online … or playing video games when you're drowsy," Weissbluth says. Have an out-of-whack sleep cycle and you'll have a hard time getting good rest.

How Can I Get a Good Night's Sleep?

You might be so busy with homework and other stuff that it's hard to find enough time to sleep. Remember that sleep is important, "Just like eating healthy and getting homework done," Mindell says.

Here are a few tips to help you get more sleep each night:

  • Ask your parents to help you figure out a bedtime that will give you at least 10 hours of sleep each night. Try to stick to that bedtime, even on the weekends.
  • If you're going to bed in 2 hours or less, don't eat a big meal. Heavy foods can make you feel too full to fall asleep.
  • If you're thirsty before bed, don't drink soda. It can be full of sugar and caffeine, which can keep you awake.
  • Set aside time to relax and wind down. About 1 hour before bedtime, do something that totally relaxes you. Take a warm bath, read a book, or listen to some quiet music.

Ready to make your room a great place to sleep? Try This: Making the Perfect Sleep Zone

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