Sleep is Food for the Brain

newborn-doctor-sliderSleep is food for the brain. Important body functions and brain activity occur during sleep. Skipping sleep can be harmful, even deadly, particularly if one is behind the wheel. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with others, can hurt scores on school exams, and can have an effect on the court or on the field performance. Remember: a brain hungry for sleep will get it, even when you don’t expect it.

Not getting enough sleep may:

  • Limit the ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems. It can even cause your child to forget important information like names, numbers, homework, or a date with a special person in their life.
  • Make the child more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems.
  • Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior, such as yelling at friends and being impatient with teachers or family members.
  • Cause overeating or lead to unhealthy food choices, like sweets and fried foods, which can result in weight gain.
  • Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase use of caffeine and nicotine.
  • Contribute to illness.
  • Cause the child to not use equipment safely.


  • Make sleep a priority. Decide what you or your child needs to change in order for him or her to get enough sleep, to stay healthy, happy, and smart.
  • Naps can help pick your child up and make him or her work more efficiently—if you plan them right. Naps too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with regular sleep.
  • Keep your child’s room cool, quiet, and dark. If you need to, buy eyeshades or blackout curtains. Let in bright light in the morning to signal the body to awaken.
  • No pills, vitamins, or drinks can replace restful sleep. Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can impair sleep, so your child should avoid coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate late in the day in order to sleep at night. Nicotine and alcohol also interfere with sleep.
  • Don’t allow your child to leave homework for the last minute. Try to avoid the TV, computer, and telephone in the hour before bed.
  • Sleep deprivation has the same impairment as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which is illegal for drivers in certain states. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 crashes each year. Make sure your teen can recognize sleep deprivation, and encourage him or her to call someone else for a ride.
  • Establish a bedtime and wake-time pattern and stick to it, coming as close as you can on the weekends. A consistent sleep schedule will help your child feel less tired, since it allows the body to get in sync with its natural patterns. You will find it easier for him or her to fall asleep at bedtime with a routine.
  • Have your child do the same things every night before going to sleep in order to teach the body the signal of bedtime. For example, have them take a bath or shower to help him or her relax. This could also free up extra time in the morning.

Most kids experience changes in their sleep schedules. Their internal body clocks cause them to fall asleep and wake up later. It is hard to change the habit, so you must find what works best for your child. Make sure activities at night are calming in order to counteract the already heightened alertness.

Written by: Michele Sfakianos, Registered Nurse & Award-Winning Author


About the Author

Michele Sfakianos is a registered nurse, award-winning author, leading authority of parenting, and speaker.

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