As long as there have been parents, there have been bedtimes. It has long been an accepted idea that children need more sleep than we do but few of us think to question if this is a true truth or just one of those things that gets handed down as if it is true. When children ask why they need to go to bed, we offer up a variety of answers that range from “so you don’t get sick” to “because I told you so.” Fortunately, research into the science of sleep has shed new light on how much sleep we need and what happens when we don’t get enough.
Sleep is as essential to life as air and clean water and its importance to our health cannot be overstated. This is true if you are 8 or 80. But for children, developing good sleep habits and understanding the importance of sleep early on is critical to having good sleep hygiene as an adult. So the next time your child or teen asks you why they need to go to sleep or explains that they aren’t tired, give them a lesson on the science of sleep.
1. Sleep Does a Body Good
One thing researchers have learned is that sleep gives our body a break. Just like the battery on their gameboy or iPod, our bodies work hard all day and then need time to recharge in order to be able to keep playing.
2. Sleep Keeps Our Brains Clean
While that may sound strange, science has shown that it is actually true. When we sleep, our brains are sorting, filing, storing, and putting all the information, memories, and experiences we have accumulated during the day into their proper place.
3. Sleep Helps Us Keep Our Cool
Sleep also helps us regulate our emotions. When we don’t get the sleep we need, everything feels harder, every emotion we feel is stronger, and nothing seems to go our way. No one wants to hang out with someone who is cranky, irritable, and moody.
4. Sleep Keeps Us from Getting Sick
Recent research into the role sleep plays in our lives indicates that there is a strong link between how we sleep and our health. When we don’t get enough sleep, it makes it harder for our immune system to fight things off and we are more likely to end up sick in bed.
5. Sleep Helps Us Make Friends
It may seem strange to your child that time spent alone and unconscious can actually help them make new friends, keep current friends, and even become more popular, but it’s true. By helping regulate our emotions, sleep makes it easier to interact with other people and helps nurture and preserve interpersonal relationships. Getting a good night sleep won’t make you cool, but it could help you stay cool when tempers get hot.