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Sleep and Do Better
Date:1/31/2010

ys, "I'll go out for a hamburger." More often, they opt to sleep on it.

In her research, Payne said, she's found that a good night's sleep can lead to better inferential ability. In other words: "You may learn about a concrete relationship between A and B and B and C, but you don't see there might be an A and C connection," she said. "Our evidence suggests that when you sleep, you learn the hierarchy of information, you learn to extract the more sophisticated relationships."

"Sleep is not only important for your ability to remember," she said, "but it also helps you be more creative, find more interesting and distant connections and be more innovative."

As for how to convince us that a good night's sleep is a worthy goal? Payne said her list of pluses usually does it. People are tired of hearing, "Take this pill" or "Try this" to improve memory, she said.

But when they hear that a good night's sleep comes with such substantial benefits, they listen, she said: "Everyone wants to be more creative, more innovative."

Stickgold said that no one has "come up with the right ad campaign yet" to convince people to get enough sleep. Perhaps a good one, he joked, would be this: "If you aren't getting enough sleep, you will become sick, fat and stupid."

In truth, he said, sleep deprivation has been linked with obesity because it disrupts insulin regulation, in turn easing weight gain. And the sleep-and-illness and sleep-and-memory links are well known.

Though the amount of sleep needed does vary, Stickgold has an easy test to decide if you're getting enough. "Watch what happens on the weekend if you don't set an alarm," he said. "If you sleep more than you sleep during the week, you aren't getting enough sleep."

He said that someone he recently spoke with was in a car accident caused by drowsy driving. His suggestion: "Try for one week to sleep for eight hours a night and see if things get bett
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