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Question Your World: What’s the Deal with the Phrase “Sleep on it?”

You don’t have to be Jerry Seinfeld to ask questions about the sleepier parts of your life. The average human spends nearly a third of their life sleeping! While you’re busy catching z’s, your brain is busy working on other tasks! Everything from healing your body to creating your memory structure happens while you’re off in dream land. Want to know more about sleep - one of the most important parts of your life? Listen to the Science Museum of Virginia’s “Question Your World” Radio report.

So here’s the deal with the phrase “sleep on it...”

If you have to make a decision or need to sort through information, a good night of sleep will do wonders for how you process that information. Sleep is when your body categorizes and indexes all of your thoughts, memories, and learned facts. Now, the remarkable part is, this is also when the brain finds ways to connect the dots

Let’s say you learned a lot about events happening in your life, you know…parties, concerts, square dances, whatever it is that you do. Well when you sleep, your brain is able to index all these things and connect them to pre-existing information such as: Who you need to talk to at that party, if that concert will require you to take time off work to attend, and what kind of clothes you have in your closet that would best work for the square dance! Yee haw!

This is the amazing power of the human brain. Retention and reflection! Now, going without sleep can lead to some scary stuff too. Losing just one hour of sleep has measurable consequences in loss of memory and cognitive abilities. In fact there have been some high profile disasters like Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez that are a direct result of sleep deprivation.

Also, sleep can affect the hormones that control appetite! There’s even a direct link between insufficient sleep and obesity! Proper sleep is vital for a healthy body!

Those are some pretty good reasons why you should really sleep on it…whatever it may be.

For more on Sleep check out these sites:

Dr. William C. Dement - a pioneer in sleep research at Stanford University.

End Your Sleep Deprivation. com is a website created by Stanford University students to educate and empower the public with practical sleep knowledge. 

Why We Sleep from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.   

Theories of Sleep from About.com 

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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