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Stephanie Watson

With  more than 10 years of experience as a freelance health writer and editor, Stephanie Watson has written or contributed to more than two dozen books on topics ranging from obesity to genetic disorders. She is also a regular contributor to several online and print publications, including HowStuffWorks and Cancer Monthly. Watson holds a bachelor's degree in mass communications from Boston University.

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Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Sleep

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep so you’re not cranky or sad.
WebMD Feature

child sleepingYour 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 nine 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.

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