Sleep Yourself Happy: Get the Rest of Your Life

Wake up to the latest research: a good snooze can make you smarter, calmer, and happier.
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Sleep Secrets

Sleep, like air, is something we completely take for granted -- until we don't get enough of it. And for many American women, that happens a lot. But while skimping on shut-eye may seem like a good way to get a jump start on tomorrow's to-do list, it comes at a high cost: Research shows that shorting yourself on sleep raises your risk for accidents, weight gain, depression, hypertension, diabetes, and lots of other ailments. On top of that, there's evidence that getting sufficient sleep -- at least seven hours a night -- can improve your mood, boost coping skills, and make it easier to solve problems. Check out some of the latest findings on the surprising benefits of sleep.

It Makes You Smarter

Learning apparently doesn't stop once you close your eyes. Research has found that a good night's sleep helps your brain lock in the information that you take in during the day.

In a study at Harvard University, researchers found that people performed better on certain tasks after sleeping. In one experiment volunteers were asked to type a number sequence with their left hand as quickly as possible. They were retested periodically during the day and, after showing some initial improvement, they reached a plateau. "But the next morning their performance improved dramatically," says Robert Stickgold, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Typing the same number sequence, they were 20 percent faster and made up to 50 percent fewer errors." And after a second night's sleep they did even better.

Other experiments have also shown that sleep actually improves memory. In another Harvard study, college students were asked to remember pairs of words after a 12-hour period. One group was tested on the words in the evening; another in the morning. The group that slept recalled more words.

Continued on page 2:  It Helps You Solve All Kinds of Problems


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