Sleep is as essential to your well-being as food and air. If you aren't getting enough sleep, horrible things can happen to your brain and body. NBC Learn, in partnership with Centene Corporation, explains why you need sleep, what happens in your brain when you are sleeping and what will happen if you go without sleep.

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MORGAN RADFORD reporting: Hey there guys, I'm Morgan Radford and it's time to get healthy!

Besides air, water and food, do you know what your body must have to survive? That’s sleep. If you don't get a good night's rest, all kinds of bad things can happen. And you can have trouble in class, you can be hungry all the time, you can even break out in pimples. No thanks!

And if you go a really long time without sleep, well let's just say you don't want to do that.

BARRY KOSOFSKY: My name is Barry Kosofsky. If you go without sleep, you die. And in fact you die from lack of sleep faster than you would from lack of food.

RADFORD: All right, that was enough to convince me. In fact, sleep is so important, there are doctors dedicated to helping you get more of it.

HAVIVA VELER: My name is Haviva Veler. You lose your patience. You lose your patience with your friends, you lose your patients with your teacher.

RADFORD: Your brain really needs sleep. In fact, when you're out like a light, your brain has switched on. It gets to work doing all kinds of things. It releases hormones that make you grow.
That's right, if you don't sleep, you actually don't grow. It also cleans itself by washing out waste and locking in what you learn. A student, for example, who gets a full night's rest is much more likely to be able to pay attention in school and make better grades.

KOSOFSKY: So this is the top part of the brain that's doing all the thinking and the memory. And the key event that occurs during sleep is memory consolidation, locking in the important things that happened during your day. So you can imagine if you do too much of the experiencing and not enough of the replenishing, you run out of gas.

RADFORD: So how much sleep do you actually need? Doctors say it depends on the person, but as a general rule, middle and high school students need about eight to ten hours per night.
But studies say many kids are really only getting about seven hours. And that's simply not enough!

RADFORD: So what can you do to make sure you are getting enough sleep? We do have some tips. First, you can turn off those screens. The lights on your phone or on your computer, they tell your brain it’s actually time to wake up. So, make sure that all of your devices are tucked out of sight at least an hour before you put your head on that pillow.

VELER: Try to leave the hour before you go to bed for activities that you can do in dim light.

RADFORD: Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every night. Yes, that means weekends too. But it will actually help teach your brain when it’s time to sleep. Caffeine, it wakes you up. So know what foods have it and try to avoid them. Did you know, for example, that some sodas have as much caffeine as coffee? Also watch out for dark chocolate, energy drinks, and even coffee-flavored foods like frozen yogurt or ice cream.

So what do you do if you follow all of these tips, but still just toss and turn when you get in bed? You can work with a doctor on giving your mind a re-set.

VELER: Stressful things happened through the day. You had an interaction with your friend or you had an exam you didn't do as much as you wanted to. And when you lie in bed sometimes those thoughts come to your mind and there are ways to learn how to throw away those unsettling thoughts and bring in thoughts that are more calming and relaxing.

RADFORD: Paying attention to your sleep will help you be the champion that you already are. In fact, your whole body will be happy that you did.

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Mental Health, Get Healthy NBC News Learn