Candles and sleep: experiment time!

Posted in Kids Bites |

We’re sure you all LOVE your science lessons at school right?!  Well at least you might like the bit where you actually get to do something, maybe not the writing about it bit.  Well we’ve got a really interesting experiment for you guys to do, and don’t worry we won’t make you write down the method!

Here’s a little bit of background information for you – just so you understand what we’re experimenting with!

It's all about sleep

How well do you sleep?  Do you get enough do you think?  Sleep is very interesting actually, because when we're asleep it allows our body to do all sorts of things like growing, healing wounds, and storing memories of things we’ve learned in the day.  It helps us to regulate our appetite too.  Not getting enough sleep has been linked to obesity and bad moods.

Did you know that our eyes are the main thing that tells us when to sleep?  There is a special part of the eye, which senses when it is light outside so that we should wake up and it also senses when the light has gone so we should go to sleep.

Here’s how it works

Have you ever seen a rainbow?  A rainbow is just light that’s been reflected so that we see all the colours light is made up of.  But it’s handy to think about, because it’s the blue light (or the blue bit of the rainbow) that our eye senses.  When there isn’t enough blue light, the eye tells the brain to make a special substance called melatonin.  It’s melatonin that makes us sleepy.

When we were still cavemen, this worked very well because we went to sleep when it was dark and woke up when the sun came up.  Unfortunately today our eyes get confused, because we have artificial lights on in the house and we have lots of technology like mobile phones, ipads, computers, and televisions which all give out lots of blue light.  Remember – blue light from the sun wakes us up!

So to the experiment! 

We’re very interested to see if you can improve yours and your family’s sleep.  

  • Firstly, you need to choose a hypothesis (remember those?!) or something to test.  It can be something like, ‘I want to wake up easily in the morning’, or ‘I don’t want to wake up in the night’, or even, ‘I want to feel tired and go to bed earlier’. 
  • Now write down or think about all the activities that your family do that may affect your sleep.  Think about all the technology in your house and all of the different lights.   
  • Have a think about what you could replace those activities with for your experiment.  Instead of artificial lights, what about fire?  Fire gives off red and orange light (not blue) so it doesn’t keep us awake.  Or what about experimenting with candles when it gets dark?  Could you switch off all technology after dark?  You decide – it’s your experiment after all! 
  • Finally you have to make a note of something to record to test your hypothesis.  Are you going to record what time everyone went to bed?  Or when people started yawning?  Or give people a scale of 0-5 telling you how awake they felt in the morning?  If you’re really keen you could test them all! 
  • You need to try this for a few nights in a row to see what happens. 

We would LOVE to hear the results of your experiment!!  Please let us know in the comments section below. 

If you want to take this even further you can buy cheap amber coloured goggles on the internet, which block out the blue light.  Remember this is the colour that keeps us awake – so wearing these at night can help stop any of the blue light around you in the house.






Date: 21 June 2016