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The Science Behind: Sleep

One of my favorite Irish proverbs is - "A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything."

Couldn't agree more Ireland! Sleep is of the essence when you're a teenager. Running around balancing school and extracurriculars. Oh wait, you have to maintain a social life too!

"Sleep. Sleep. Sleep." It's what everyone seems to tell us. My question is why?

why do we sleep at all? why can't we just charge ourselves like iPhones? Why do we sleep at night? Why aren't we like vampires and sleep during the day?

During the 1950s people thought that sleep was so that the body and the mind could shut down for a bit. Relax, perhaps. More recent research shows that the brain is actually active during sleep.

When you sleep your brain processes the things that you learned during the day. Like that math equation that you were taught, your brain processes it and makes sure that you remember it the next day. This is why when you get less sleep, your brain doesn't remember things well.

Sleep is also the time when the brain gets rid of useless brain cells. This process doesn't work well during the daytime when we're out and about, therefore it is important to get a good night's sleep.

Sleep deprivation also results in many diseases. Symptoms of depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraines worsen if the patient doesn't get enough sleep.

Why do we sleep at night?

Our parents sleep at night, our grandparents, and all the people before us. They all slept at night. Our bodies are so used to resting at night, that our brain actually produces a chemical called melatonin that makes us sleepy. That chemical is produced when we see darkness. Therefore when the light outside fades away, our brain knows that it's time to sleep. Light means waking up, therefore it is essential that when we wake up we see light. Light tells the brain- "no more sleep"

Fun Fact: Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep.

No other animal leaves sleep to work or for entertainment purposes.

Until next time,

Stay Curious ;)




John Hopkins

Sleep for Kids

National Sleep Foundation

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