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How Building Up “Sleep Credit” Increases Grey Matter Volume And Better Mental Health

In modern society, people often fail to obtain the amount of sleep that experts recommend for good health and performance. Insufficient sleep can lead to degraded cognitive performance and alterations in emotional functioning, truly affecting health and well being.. However, most people also acknowledge that on a regular basis they obtain more sleep than they subjectively perceive they need at a minimum to maintain alertness, higher energy levels, and better work performance, something that you might call “sleep credit”. Few people would contest the notion that getting more sleep is better, but data on both behavioral and neuroanatomical correlates of ‘sleep credit’ are surprisingly limited. A group of scientists however, recently created a study to see if cerebral grey matter volume correlates with habitually sleeping more than a typical night’s sleep, say 6-7 hours. In a sample of 55 healthy adults aged 18-45 years (28 males, 27 females), the study showed that habitual subjective ‘sleep credit’ was correlated positively with increases in grey matter volume within regions of the left medial prefrontal cortex and right orbito-frontal gyrus, two very important “critical thinking” areas of the brain. Increased grey matter volume of the medial prefrontal cortex cluster correlated with greater emotional intelligence and lower scores involving psychopathology, or psychological deficits. The findings supplement with previous evidence of the role of the medial prefrontal cortex in the relationship between sleep and emotional functioning, and suggest that behavior and brain structure improve when you stockpile good sleep. Makes perfect sense, considering that during sleep, your brain is busy reconstructing itself, filtering out toxins and waste products, and developing fresh neural connections and repairing the connections much like a lineman on a telephone pole.

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