These Are Some of the Most Exciting Areas in Sleep Research

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Researchers are constantly mining the sleeping field (no pun intended). One does not have to look far to find studies on how much sleep we need, when we should be sleeping, how we should be sleeping or which countries sleeps best. Even with all this information, there remain many unknowns. I took a look at some of the trends in sleep research, from the prescription drug field to simple changes in our diet, to uncover what are currently the most fascinating discoveries in the world of slumber.

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Stress interferes with our body in many ways, and sleep is no exception. In fact, stress is often the main catalyst for many sleep issues, be it is personal stress, physical stress or a stressful event. New research from a research group led by Mahesh K. Kaushik and Yoshihiro Urade of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS), University of Tsukuba has discovered the potential benefits of octacosano, which is found in sugarcane. According to the University of Tsukbua, “octacosanol reduces stress and restores stress-affected sleep back to normal.” While clinical studies have not been completed, the research performed thus far is looking promising.

You Sleep How You Eat

It should come as no surprise that what you eat directly impacts how you sleep (lest you forget the restless nights post late-night nachos from years past). Recent research shows that increasing your intake of fiber and forgoing the saturated fats and sugar will aid not only how long you sleep, but how quickly you fall asleep. One study in particular monitored the sleep habits of 26 adults for 5 nights. Controlled, high protein, fiber-rich foods were served for the first 4 days, then on day 5 participants were allowed a “free” menu, where they could eat what they wanted. The controlled nights yielded sleep benefits that were twice that of the “free” night, participants fell asleep twice and fast and experienced a more restful night of slumber. It’s yet another reason to ramp up the healthy proteins and fiber (think lentils, legumes, dark leafy greens) daily.

Sleep to Retain New Information

When learning something new, additional rest can help you keep mind sharp. When we sleep, our body sorts through our experiences from the day, retaining what most is more important and shedding information we may no longer need. Sleep allows us to commit things to memory. So instead of pushing through the yawns or cramming late night, do what you can and go to bed early. Allow your efforts to sink in while you rest.

Beauty Sleep

Beauty sleep has become all the rage of late, and for good reason. After Arianna Huffington released her book, The Sleep Revolution, where she, backed by scientific research, touts the benefits of sleep not just for our aesthetics, but for our overall wellbeing, the beauty industry followed suit. Now you can find an array of skincare products, from masks to moisturizers, that are formulated to work while you sleep. Killing two birds as they say, or as I say, a win-win.

Related: Is Beauty Sleep Real?

The research continues to prove sleep’s importance and supports the evidence that it’s not something that can be sacrificed consistently. But we are now seeing how sleep positively and negatively impacts our overall health, confirming it to be a vital component to the wellness equation.

Amanda Gomes

Amanda Carter Gomes is a writer and editor living in Seattle. She spent much of her early career working marketing and as a creative consultant. Most recently Amanda launched and edits The Fold, an online publication for "women of an uncertain age and particular attitude" to fill the gap in content focused on women beyond the millennial age range.

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