With the new school year about to begin, researchers are warning that getting enough sleep is among the "most powerful predictor[s] of a child's academic performance." But that's not the only conclusion that those who study bed behavior have drawn about sleep in 2010. Here are five more (see our first list here) noteworthy recent findings:
1. Women require more sleep than men
It's been the subject of a thousand domestic arguments: Who needs more rest, men or women? The answer, according to British sleep expert Jim Horne (Sleepfaring: A Journey Through The Science Of Sleep), is that women's brains typically require an extra 20 minutes of sleep each night to "recover" from additional stresses — a reflection of the fact that women generally multitask more than men.
2. Videogamers can control their dreams
If you can't tear your teen (or yourself) away from the Xbox, don't worry: the habit might offer protection against nightmares and mental trauma. Canadian psychologist Jayne Gackenbach says hardcore gamers are more likely to have lucid dreams (those which the dreamer feels he can "control"). Although lucid dreams often take the form of nightmares, gamers are better able to turn bad dreams into more positive experiences. Gackenbach hopes her theories can help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder overcome their symptoms.
3. Too little sleep may shrink your brain
Insomnia may have alarming neurological affects, according to a study recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. Dutch researchers found that chronically sleepless subjects tended to have less gray matter in their left orbitofrontal cortex than those who sleep more soundly — a condition that's also associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. Heavy sleepers have special brain wave patterns that block noise
Ever wonder why some people can sleep through anything, while others can be jolted awake by a falling leaf? Harvard researchers attribute sound sleeping to "brain spindles," bursts of rapid brain activity produced by the thalamus that apparently block the neurological signals which noise triggers. The more spindles your brain produces, reports HealthDay's Melissa Lee Phillips, the more likely you are to sleep heavily. Next step: Learning how to ramp up spindle production.
5. Your sleep position reveals your personality
How you snuggle up (or sprawl) says more about you than you might think, reports Jessica Ashley at Yahoo Shine. British researchers say the six main sleep positions correspond to personality traits. The most common, the fetal position, indicates someone with a "tough exterior" who is, nevertheless, "still sensitive." The rare few who sleep in the "starfish" position are "good listeners, helpful, and are uncomfortable being the center of attention."