What would happen to a person if they don’t get the sleep they need? Hedya, 11 years old, Australia
This is a really good question Hedya because it makes us think about how important sleeping. Sleep is actually one of the most important things we do.
While you were sleeping…
When we sleep, our body is really doing a lot of work. The first hours we fall into a very deep sleep. That’s when our body rests and recovers. Then we replenish our energy supplies for the next day.
We also sleep much lighter at different times of the night. This includes something called “rapid eye movement” or REM sleep. That’s when someone’s eyes flicker and move, even when they’re closed.
During this kind of sleep, we dream. Our brains are very, very active. It’s busy sorting and organizing information, storing memories, and even solving problems.
So there are a lot of really important things that happen when we sleep.
Read more: Why do children hate sleeping, while adults usually love it?
So what happens when we don’t sleep?
The first most obvious thing that happens when we don’t sleep is that we get sleepy. If we don’t get enough rest, it’s also harder to be active, want to do things, or get excited about things.
No wonder a lack of sleep can make us grumpy and irritable.
If we don’t get enough REM sleep, it becomes harder to concentrate and learn. It makes it harder to remember schoolwork overnight. All of these things make it harder to do good at school.
So having the right amount of sleep is very important.
Read more: Curious Kids: What happens to your brain when you don’t get enough sleep?
What if I have a few bad nights?
If we don’t sleep well for a night or two, we can probably make up for it. Our body and brain will recover and we will be fine.
But if we don’t get enough sleep or don’t get good quality sleep for a long time, it’s different. Since sleep controls so many aspects of our health, it can wreak havoc on our bodies and brains.
We have a better chance Failing school for a yeargain weight, become depressed and become quite ill for a long time, just to name a few few examples.
So it’s really best to set up good sleep patterns early in life, so that doesn’t happen to us.
Read more: Curious Kids: Do animals sleep like humans? Do snails sleep in their shells?
How much is enough sleep?
Not everyone needs exactly the same amount of sleep. But people who study sleep, like me, think that someone in your age group, Hedya, should be in the middle most of the time nine and eleven hours a night.
We also need good quality sleep. This means it should be restful, without waking you up too much during the night. It also means making sure we go to bed and wake up around morning same times every day.
Hello curious kids! Do you have a question that you would like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au