7 Surprising Things You Probably Don’t Know About Sleep

For starters, catching Zzs is like a dishwasher for your brain.

Arianna Huffington has long been an advocate for the importance of a good night’s sleep (she’s often quoted encouraging people to literally “sleep your way to the top” and famously offers her employees nap rooms). Now, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post has released a new book on the topic, The Sleep Revolution ($16, amazon.com), which takes a close look at how our society dismisses the importance of sleep and offers tips for how people can finally take charge of their own shuteye—sans medication. The book is packed with relatable personal stories and helpful interviews, but also plenty of hard data and science. Here, we've excerpted seven of the most interesting facts we learned from reading Huffington's book.

1

Sleep Disruption Has Real Consequences for Children 

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Photo by amazon.com

“In 2012, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the University of Michigan observed more than eleven thousand British children from infancy to seven years old. They found that those who snored, had sleep apnea, or were mouth breathers—all potential sleep disruptors—at age four were 20 to 60 percent more likely to develop behavioral issues. By age seven, that likelihood jumped to 40 to 100 percent. Hyperactivity was the most common symptom.”

Find more facts to know about kids and sleep here.

2

More Sleep Could = Less Binge Drinking In Teens 

"Not only is too little sleep as bad for students’ grades as too much alcohol, but the two are actually connected. A 2015 study from Idaho State University found that teens with sleep problems were 47 percent more likely to binge-drink than their classmates who slept well. They were also more likely to experience alcohol problems a year later and to drive under the influence. Even five years later, the sleep-deprived high-schoolers were more likely to get behind the wheel while drunk. Each hour of extra sleep in high school is associated with a 10 percent drop in binge drinking—a remarkable statistic given the focus on curbing excessive drinking."

3

Sleep Literally Cleans Your Brain

“One of the most important recent findings is that sleep is essentially like bringing in the overnight cleaning crew to clear the toxic waste proteins that accumulate between brain cells during the day. Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester, has studied the mechanism underlying these functions. ‘It’s like a dishwasher,’ she said. Just as we wouldn’t eat off dirty dishes, why should we settle for going through the day with anything less than the full power and potential of our brains?”



4

And Sleep Might Even Affect Labor

“The phrase ‘eating for two’ is commonplace, but pregnant women should remember they’re also ‘sleeping for two’… Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that women who slept less than six hours a night in their ninth month of pregnancy had longer labors and were 4.5 times more likely to require caesarean deliveries.”

5

Yes, Yawning is Contagious

“Maybe you’re even doing it now (and that’s okay, because even reading about yawning can make you yawn). Another fun fact: yawning starts early. According to Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an expert on yawning, we begin yawning even before we’re born. We think of yawning as a sign of being sleepy, but it’s also a signal for our bodies and brains to wake up, be alert, or come back to the moment—a kind of gentle course correction. And yes, we yawn when we’re bored, but we also yawn when we anticipate something happening.”

6

Your Afternoon Coffee Might Be Messing With Your Zzs

“Most people know not to have coffee after dinner, but in fact caffeine’s power has a longer effect on our bodies than we think. A 2013 study from Wayne State University and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, concluded that when taken even six hours before bed, caffeine could decrease sleep by as much as one hour. ‘The risks of caffeine use in terms of sleep disturbances are underestimated by both the general population and physicians,’ the researchers concluded. In other words, our caffeine cutoff time should begin well before evening."



7

Naps Could Unleash Your Creativity

“A study from Georgetown University Medical Center showed that during a nap the right side of the brain, the side associated with creativity, was highly active, while the left stayed mostly quiet. In fact, Yo-Yo Ma told me he always tries to take a nap before playing a concert. ‘It’s one way to press the reset button, to restart the day,’ he said.”

Here’s everything you need to know about taking a power nap.