5 Startling New Facts About Sleep

As the summer draws to a drowsy end, here’s a bracing roundup of recent scientific findings about sleep

We’re entering the dog days of August, and sleep is on everyone’s minds — whether it’s a contented siesta on a beachfront sun-lounger, or a nap after a sweaty commute from the office. Luckily, the world’s foremost experts in sleep have been hard at work to better understand our favorite nighttime activity. Here are five noteworthy new findings:

1. “Violent sleepers” are at higher risk of dementia

Do you find yourself kicking your partner in bed at night? If so, you might want to get tested by a neurologist, reports AOL Health. People who suffer from sleep behavior disorder, which causes them to violently act out dreams, seem to be more susceptible to neurological illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and dementia. These patients have “about a 50 percent chance” of developing such a condition later in life, says Dr. Charles Cantor of the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Inception-style “dream mastery” exists

It may not allow you to perform balletic fight sequences, but “dream mastery” is not unlike that seen in the summer blockbuster Inception, reports The New York Times. But at the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center, “scripting” your dreams is therapy for nightmares — and carried out during therapy sessions while the sleeper is awake. With these doctors’ help, you’ll be dreaming of Leonardo DiCaprio in no time.

3. Daylight saving time can hurt school grades

Daylight saving time has long been blamed for auto accidents, but it can also cause mood changes, obesity, and poor academic performance, according to researchers at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute. They found that increased natural light during spring represses buildup of the melatonin hormone. The solution? Make your teen go to bed earlier during the spring, says the professor in charge of the study. Easier than it sounds, we’ll wager.

4. New parents miss out on 6 months’ worth of sleep

It won’t be a big surprise to anyone with a toddler, but researchers in the U.K. have determined exactly how much sleep new parents miss out on during the first two years of their child’s life: an astonishing six months’ worth. Many new moms and dads get by on less than four hours a night. There’s a simple fix, though, according to research from Penn State University. Babies tend to respond to “emotional availability,” meaning the children of sensitive parents begin sleeping through the night earlier. Getting angry with your wailing kid, says the study, only makes things worse.

5. It’s official: You need 7 hours of sleep

Sleep researchers have long argued over the optimal duration of sleep for healthy adults, with most balancing somewhere between five and eight. West Virginia University claims to have come up with the “magic number”: seven hours. A study of 30,000 adults found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower among those who claimed to regularly sleep seven hours a night.