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Seven cool facts about sleep

Seven Cool Facts About Sleep 

We are a society full of under-slept individuals. The purpose of sleep is to facilitate an optimal level of waking function, so why are we so consistently short-changing our own daily potential? 

Below is a list of seven facts that may make you rethink what you know about sleep: 

1.) We can, indeed, “pay back” our sleep. Sleep has been shown to work like a bank; if your individual ideal is eight hours, you owe that number of hours to yourself each night. If one night you sleep seven hours, you will “owe” one hour. These hours can accumulate over time, which doesn’t bode well for a lot of us. Fortunately, this “sleep debt” has been shown to have a cap at about 50 hours. 

2.) Post-lunch fatigue can tell us a lot about our sleep debt. Despite popular option, post-lunch fatigue has nothing to do with what we ate and everything to do with how much sleep we got the night before (and/or how much overall sleep debt we are in). 

4.) Sleep deprivation causes us to rely on our emotions to make decisions. Essentially, our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for decision making) will “turn off” when we are overtired. This is a large part of why irritability is a common reaction among sleep-deprived individuals. 

5.) You cannot “store” sleep. Our sleep bank doesn’t allow us to overpay and roll the hours over; payments must be made in full every night for optimal recovery and function. 

6.) Carbohydrate metabolism is impaired with less sleep. In other words, we are unable to utilize stored carbohydrates (our brain and body’s main energy source) as efficiently as possible, which could be one reason we tend to crave carbs when we are tired. 

7.) Melatonin can be a useful tool, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, one side effect for some individuals is not being able to sleep. A natural product that has been shown to trigger the sleep cycle is tart cherry juice. 

Anyone else tired? 

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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