Everyone needs to sleep. Sleep is the only way our brains can get some much-needed rest from the hard work that they do during the day. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains may not work so well, and we can struggle to do even simple activities. When we are tired, we can also get cross and argumentative. One superhero who did not get enough sleep was Mr Incredible. When baby Jack-Jack’s mum, Elastigirl, is off fighting crime, Mr. Incredible is left to cope on his own. Looking after a baby is hard enough, but when baby Jack-Jack starts to use his special powers, he becomes more of a handful than a normal baby. Soon Mr Incredible starts to struggle with lack of sleep, and he becomes clumsy and cross. It is a good job that Edna is available to babysit.
So why do we need to sleep? Well, one reason is because only when we are sleeping a process called the glymphatic system can get to work. The glymphatic system helps the brain to wash out all the bits of junk (viruses, bacteria and fungus) which have found their way into our brains during the day. If we do not sleep well, the glymphatic system can’t do its job. All the junk stays in our brains and stops it functioning as well as it should. This is why we can experience brain fog in the morning – you know when you put the cat’s biscuits in your bowl for breakfast instead of the cornflakes!
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do to look after your wellbeing. But if you are having trouble sleeping that can be a challenge. The good news is that your brain has two ways of working out if you should have a nap. The first system keeps a record of when we last went to sleep. As the time increases since we were last asleep our brains start to make us feel sleepy. The second system is called the endogenous circadian timing mechanism. This system helps us to keep track of when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. This mechanism is located in an area of the brain called the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN).
Sometimes it can be a struggle to get to sleep. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark talks to his girlfriend Pepper Potts about how he works on his Iron Man suits late at night when he can’t sleep. He tells her about the nightmares and anxiety attacks he has after the battle for New York. When people have problems sleeping, they can be diagnosed with a condition called insomnia. However, if you are having difficulty sleeping you can try the suggestions below. If you are still struggling to sleep, you should talk to your doctor.
1) Exercising during the day (especially outside) can help you to sleep better at night.
2) Eating foods like cherries and kiwifruit can increase levels of the sleep hormone, Melatonin and can promote sleep.
3) Not looking at tablet/phone screens late at night can help us fall asleep. The blue light from screens can reduce our levels of melatonin and make it harder for us to nod off. If you must use screens before bedtime, it is a good idea to use a red-light filter app.
4) Sometimes we put off going to sleep because we start to think of other things that we would rather do. For example, you might decide that you want to read your book or watch an extra episode of your favourite superhero show. However, it is a good time to stick to a set bedtime and look forward to doing those things the next day when you’re refreshed.
5) If you can’t sleep because you are worried about something, write it in a notepad by the side of your bed. That way you can stop worrying about it and you can focus on going to sleep! The note will be there in the morning and you can deal with the issue then.
If you want to learn more about getting a good night’s sleep check out the Teen Sleep Hub website: