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Question Your World: How Helpful is Recovery Sleep?

Life is unpredictable and often shifts our plans around. We catch up on a lot of things, including sleep, but is catching up on lost z's good for you? How helpful is recovery sleep? Find out in this week’s Question Your World Radio Report from the Science Museum of Virginia.

Time is easily one of our most precious resources. The unpredictability of life gives us opportunities to shift things around every now and then. The amount of time we put into things changes around and we have to play catch up. Time with friends, your favorite books, bills, and work outs are a few things we catch up on, but what about sleep? The weekend is often associated with 'recovery sleep' for a lot of hard working people across the planet. Recently some scientists caught up on some interesting sleep related research regarding the impacts of 'recovery sleep' on the brain. Their findings were pretty interesting and shed some new light on the overall impact that sleep has on the human body.

Researchers in Pennsylvania conducted a sleep study for three weeks. On the first week they put the subjects through a regular 8-hour cycle. This is the suggested amount of time we set aside to sleep on a nightly basis. The following week the time was shortened to six hours. They noticed that across the board subjects scored lower on attention tests than when they had 8 hours. In addition to the lowered scores they also noticed a rise in interluken 6, and inflammatory agent in the body. Finally, they were given the chance to sleep 10 hours for the last week to act as 'recovery sleep.' Some of the inflammatory agents went back to lower levels, but the majority of the subjects still tested low on the attention tests.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pond, British researchers conducted a similar sleep related study, but one focused more on the impact of sleep on our genes. The shortened or longer sleep patterns seem to not be too good for the body. In their study they saw that sleeping too much or too little negatively impacts 500 genes in the body. It appears that for both research teams seem to have landed on the same idea, the right amount of sleep goes a long way. 

These studies further support the notion that the recommended amount of sleep is a really good idea for optimal health. So, in a world where we're always catching up, having a good sleep schedule could make for one less thing you have to worry about. For eight hours at least.

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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