Sleep is a period in which the body rests almost completely. It is as much a part of living as wakefulness. We are active for the most part of the day, shopping, working and doing different chores in order to make a living. Sleeping restores the energy that our bodies have used in our exercise and work. We need different amounts of sleep at different stages of our lives. The tiny baby sleeps most of its day. A child needs at least twelve hours of sleep. A student in the upper grades of elementary or high school usually gets about eight hours of sleep.
Scientists are still trying to understand exactly what happens when we sleep, and why we sleep. They know a great many things about sleep, but they still have much to find out. Perhaps, some day, they will know so much about sleep that they might be able to find a substitute for it. It might be some kind of pill that would be taken to do everything for the body that sleep does. Scientists do know that sleep is necessary to restore energy to the body after a day’s work or exercise. Something happens after we have used our energy for a number of hours. Perhaps, we do not have enough oxygen in our muscle tissues, or the blood supply to our muscles becomes less than it normally should be. Our body tissues, particularly our muscles, accumulate waste products. Some scientists believe that the brain has become tired from sending out the many messages that direct the activity of the body. Whatever the reason, the brain starts to relax and refuses to perform completely, as a result of which, we become sleepy.
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness, as we are not aware of what is going on around us. We do not consciously hear things and may not even respond to light. Of course, it depends how deeply asleep we are. The best preparation for sleep is to develop the habit of going to bed at the same time each night. A healthy person, especially a child, would usually become so sleepy by a certain time thast it usually falls asleep quickly. Some people have trouble falling asleep, They toss and turn and their minds remain active.
Inability to fall asleep easily is called insomnia. There is no real cure for this, but there are some things that help people fall asleep. The most important thing is to relax. Some people exercise before going to bed, in order to loosen their muscles. Others read or listen to soft music to relax their minds. Some people eat something, often with a glass of warm milk or some other warm beverage. There are other things that might induce sleep, such as breathing deeply and slowly. It is important to find a comfortable position in bed.
Sleeping conditions are important. The room should be dark and as quiet as possible; the bed should be firm; the blanket should not be tucked in too tightly. There is an old saying that “one hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight.” This is a good advice for children. Going to bed too late takes your body longer to relax.