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Sleep & Your Body

What Sleep Does to the Body and Mind

How shut-eye is essential for wellbeing Humans spend a third of their lives asleep, so all that shut-eye must be doing something positive for the body and brain, right? Yes! It absolutely is. Find out, below, about all the various ways that your zzz’s are helping you stay healthy (both mentally and physically) and feel great. Video production in partnership with It Helps You Feel Refreshed Your brain is busy restoring itself while you sleep. While you’re awake, certain neurons in the brain are actively producing a chemical called adenosine, which is a by-product of cell…

Understanding Sleep Cycles: What Happens While You Sleep

Learn what is really going on in your body while you’re getting your zzz’s. Before the 1950’s, scientists used to believe that as people drifted off to sleep, their brains and bodies would go into “shutdown” mode, entering a passive state that allowed them to recover from the previous day. What researchers have since learned: Sleep is a whole lot more complicated, and it’s a much more active state than you might think. In fact, while you’re getting your zzz’s, your brain goes through various patterns of activity. It’s a predictable cycle that includes two distinct parts – NREM, or Non-REM sleep, plus a REM or “Rapid Eye Movement” cycle. Check out what happens in…

How a Lack of Sleep Affects Your Body

Being tired can impact your body in ways you’d never imagine. You know that sleep is good for you. You also know that when you don’t get enough, you feel like a zombie. But there’s more going on when you don’t catch enough zzz’s than simply feeling tired. In fact, the ripple effects from shorting yourself on shut-eye reach almost every system in your body. Stomach: On days following sleepless nights, you feel hungrier than usual and will crave high-fat, high-calorie foods. Nose: Ah-choo! Your immune system goes downhill fast when you’re tired, meaning you’re likelier to catch a cold. Eyes: Being tired does more than cause heavy eyelids. It can also cause you to feel more emotional, meaning tears…

If I Yawn, Does That Mean I Am Tired?

Yawning can be caused by several factors besides sleepiness. A classic symptom of fatigue, yawning can sometimes be a sign that your body is ready for sleep. It’s a common occurrence: Animals yawn, babies yawn, and adults yawn. But a yawn is not necessarily a sign that you are tired—check out these other potential causes. 1. Monkey See, Monkey Do. The act of yawning is contagious. If you see someone yawn or read about yawning, you might do it yourself. This involuntary imitation may be related to the evolutionary history of yawning. A nonverbal cue that says it is time to relax, the trait may have been selected over time because it helps people coordinate their…

Sleep and the Brain: What Happens?

While you call it quits for the day, your mind does some serious work. At bedtime, you shut down your computer, smartphone, and busy schedule—but for your brain, the workday’s just getting started. In fact, your brain remains highly active throughout your sleep so it can perform a host of functions that keep you humming through the day: 1. It Clears Out the Trash. Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain while you sleep. It acts like a vacuum cleaner, whisking away waste products, such as molecular detritus that brain cells make and toxic proteins that can lead to dementia over time. So you wake up with, quite literally, a clean slate. …

How Sleep Affects Memory and Learning

A good night’s sleep is essential for learning new info and remembering it later. When you’re trying to learn new information or study for a test, you might be tempted to stay up late and review the material again and again. Hello, cramming! It’s a popular tactic, but not a smart one. By burning the midnight oil, you’re doing yourself a disservice by sacrificing slumber. Check out all the cognitive benefits that getting a good night’s sleep can bring.  Enhanced Attention: If you wake up feeling well rested, you’ll have greater mental clarity and focus, and you’ll be able to respond faster to questions or stimuli.  Learning Becomes Easier: If you’re well rested, you’ll be able to master…

How Sleep Works

While you’re off in dreamland, your brain and other body parts keep busy. When you watch people sleep, they look peaceful. Their eyes are closed. Their breathing is slow. They make no sounds or movements. But you may be surprised to learn that underneath that calm exterior, the brain and other body parts are hard at work. How You Fall Asleep The simple act of falling asleep starts on the molecular level with something called a neurotransmitter—a chemical that acts on neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to tell your body whether it should be asleep or awake. The neurons, in turn, switch off the signals that help keep you awake. Stages of…

Home Sleep Study Kits: Do They Work?

Get the inside scoop on the pros and cons of trying a home sleep test. If it regularly takes you more than 30 minutes to doze off, or you wake up a lot during the night, or you feel exhausted during the day despite clocking seven to nine hours in bed, then you may have a sleep disorder. Sleep tests can help your doctor pinpoint whether you have a sleep issue by uncovering breathing problems such as sleep apnea—a condition that’s linked to an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Your doctor may want you to take part in a sleep study to try to uncover an underlying…