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A to Zzz: 26 Things You Didn’t Know About Sleep

Ah, sleep. It’s something that’s essential to us all, but all too often elusive. Even with many leading scientists now dedicating their careers to the study of sleep, it remains a relatively mysterious field. Here are 26 things you may not know about something you do every night.

A is for amygdala: This almond-shaped structure which helps us process emotions becomes increasingly active during REM sleep. (Source)

B is for black and white: Twelve percent of people dream entirely in black and white. (Source)

C is for catnap: The length of the ideal nap is 10 to 20 minutes. (Source)

D is for dysania: Dysania is the name for the extreme fatigue felt by people who have an especially hard time getting out of bed in the morning. (Source)

E is for elderly: As you grow older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. (Source)

F is for five: Within five minutes of waking up, 50 percent of your dream is forgotten. (Source)

G is for growth: Infant growth spurts are tied to increased sleep, with body length influenced by longer sleep. (Source)

H is for hypothalamus: This peanut-sized structure deep inside our brains contains groups of nerve cells that act as control centers affecting both sleep and arousal. (Source)

I is for inertia: Sleep inertia is the period of impaired performance and grogginess experienced after waking. (Source)

J is for juice: Because cherries are naturally rich in melatonin, tart cherry juice may be a safe and effective way to treat insomnia and increase the amount of sleep you get each night. (Source)

K is for kink: If you suffer from neck pain, it may be from sleeping on your stomach; instead, sleep on your side or back. And choose a pillow that conforms to the shape of your neck. (Source)

L is for love: Women in stable relationships fall asleep faster and have less sleep disturbances in the night than single women. (Source)

M is for mystery: While it’s clear that sleep is essential, its biological purpose remains a mystery. (Source)

N is for night terrors: Night terrors are “an abnormal activation of dreams” that can be scarier than regular nightmares; the person affected usually doesn’t remember them and does not wake during them. (Source)

O is for one-third: Humans spend about one-third of our lives—or 26 years—sleeping. We spend an additional seven years trying to get to sleep, meaning we spend 33 years of our life in bed. (Source)

P is for pillow: If you’re a back or side sleeper, doctors recommend sleeping with a pillow to keep your spine in a neutral position. However, if you’re a stomach sleeper, you’re advised to sleep without a pillow to reduce stress on your neck and promote alignment. (Source)

Q is for quiet: While plenty of people are now reliant on white noise machines and sleep apps to drift off at night, others require complete silence. The fact that noise activates the brains of some and drowns out the thought processes of others? It’s more proof that we’re all unique sleepers.

R is for rapid eye movement: REM sleep generally occurs for the first time about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, after which you will drift in and out of periods of REM sleep, with the final lasting up to an hour. (Source)

S is for social media: Researchers have found a link between teenagers with high social media usage and poor sleep patterns. (Source)

T is for time: Eleven days is the longest period on record that a person has gone without sleep. (Source)

U is for unwinding: To signal to your body that it’s time to slow down, take about 30 minutes each night to engage in a consistent pre-sleep routine, such as reading, listening to calm music, stretching or taking a bath. (Source)

V is for vitamins: Some evidence shows that magnesium can have a positive effect on sleep, yet magnesium deficiency is common among adults. (Source)

W is for weight: Overtired people are more prone to weight gain: Researchers have found that when people are starved of sleep, their late-night snacking increases, and they are more likely to indulge in high-carb or high-fat snacks. (Source)

X is for eXtra sleep: After a week of poor sleep, trying to “catch up” on sleep on the weekend may increase your risk of weight gain. (Source)

Y is for yams: One of the most sleep-friendly foods, sweet potatoes provide sleep-promoting complex carbohydrates and muscle-relaxing potassium. (Source)

Z is for Zzz: Z has been shorthand for snoring since it was first used in the Katzenjammer Kids comic strip in 1903. (Source)