CLOSE
Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Why Do I Have to Go to Sleep?

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Kids ask a lot of questions. mental_floss has answers. Today we launch WHY?, our new series for kids and parents. We'll tackle all types of questions children have about how the world works by providing science-based, kid-friendly content. Our answers are written with early readers (ages 4–7) in mind, but we think they're interesting—and educational—for everyone.

Have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com. 

Sleep is a must for all animals, including you. You must sleep to live. When we sleep it may seem like we’re not doing much. But this is when our bodies are busy growing, healing, and learning—especially our brains. They make sense of the lessons, games, words, feelings, and thoughts we had during the day. 

We have something inside our bodies called a circadian (sir-CAY-dee-an) clock that tells our bodies when it’s time to sleep. It’s not a real clock! The circadian clock is a system controlled by neurons, or brain cells, behind your eyes that react to light. This clock tells us to be awake during the day and to go to sleep at night.

Because the human brain evolved before we created electric lights. You’re not reading this on the computer or phone in bed, right? Because that’s a bad idea. The light from the computer tricks your circadian clock into acting like it’s daytime, so you’re not as sleepy. When you stay up late and lose sleep, your brain and body don’t work as well the next day. It’s harder to learn new things, remember old things, and not be cranky. 

For fun further reading, check out MadScieNet's answer to the question, "Do worms sleep?"

nextArticle.image_alt|e
istock/Chloe Effron
Why Are Flamingos Pink?
istock/Chloe Effron
istock/Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

It’s easy to spot flamingos. These amazing birds have long, skinny legs and a long, skinny neck to match. When they first hatch, flamingos have pale gray feathers. As they grow up, their feathers start to turn beautiful shades of pink.

It’s because of what they eat. Flamingos hang out in big flocks in wetlands like shallow lakes and lagoons. They stand high and dry on their long legs and swish water through their big beaks to catch bits of food. What do flamingos like to eat? One thing is algae (AL-jee), a type of water plant. They also love tiny crustaceans (cruss-TAY-shuns)—animals like shrimp with hard shells or skeletons on the outside. These are the foods that turn flamingos pink. 

Just like the carrots, pumpkins, and tomatoes that humans eat, algae and many crustaceans contain natural chemicals with a red-orange pigment, or color. As baby flamingos digest algae and shrimp, these healthy chemicals get stored in their fat. The fat helps their feathers grow. Over time, this turns their feathers different shades of pink, orange, and sometimes even red. If flamingos stop eating the foods that turn them pink, their color fades!

Watch this video with David Attenborough to learn why a pink bird is a healthy bird! 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock/Chloe Effron
Why Do Astronauts Wear Space Suits?
iStock/Chloe Effron
iStock/Chloe Effron

WHY? is our attempt to answer all the questions every little kid asks. Do you have a question? Send it to why@mentalfloss.com.

Space suits don’t just make astronauts look cool. Without these special suits, astronauts wouldn’t be able to leave their spacecraft. They wouldn’t be able to walk on the Moon or work outside the International Space Station.

 

Space is a dangerous place for humans. There is no air to breathe. Space also has high levels of radiation (ray-dee-AY-shun), energy that can move through our bodies and make us sick. Some parts of space are really cold. Other parts are very hot. So astronauts could die in just a few seconds if they stepped outside their spacecraft without their suits. With a space suit, though, astronauts can move around in space for several hours.

 

Space suits seal astronauts safely inside. A backpack sends oxygen in to let astronauts breathe normally. At the same time, carbon dioxide that astronauts breathe out gets sucked away. The suit also protects them from harmful radiation and fast-moving space dust. Under the space suit is another suit that looks like a pair of tight pajamas with little tubes running through them. Water gets pumped through these tubes to cool off the astronauts. It can get hot in a space suit!

Want to find out more? You can play this game from NASA to learn about the different parts of a space suit.

 

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios