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Sleep Deprivation: It Changes Your Genes and Gives You Colds

Sleep: Practice makes perfect!

I’ll never forget it.   I was getting ready to leave a friend’s annual birthday brunch.  As I was saying my goodbyes to a woman I’d known for years, a mother of boy/girl twins, we started talking about –what else? — sleep.  “You know,” she confided, “Ferber says sleep in children doesn’t fully consolidate until 8.” My kids were 6-months-old.

Those boy/girl twins are now 6 and to this day I’ve been unable to bring myself to look this up in Ferber.  But from my own experience, Ferber isn’t wrong. It’s not that my sleep deprivation is as intense as it was when my kids were newborns, but it can be pretty bad. New studies show how sleep deprivation and regulation changes gene expression in the brain. For scientists, this means there will be new ways to treat sleep disorders.  From the tired among us I say: Bring it on!

The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, shows how the actual molecules in the region of the brain that mediate things like cognitive and memory functions along with mood are changed by chronic sleep deprivation.  This isn’t exactly a surprise, but it is, weirdly, a relief. With my children and sleep, I can’t exactly count on a good night every night so when I think I’m too tired to think straight, it turns out I really am too tired to think straight!

And in more sleep news, parents sniffling into cold season won’t be surprised to hear that, according to a study at Carnegie Mellon, when you get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, you’re more likely to get a cold from an encounter with a virus than if you had a deep, lovely and long night’s rest.

All of which is to say that someday, my sleep will come.  Until then, I’ll take what I can get.  And you?  How goes the sleeping with your little ones?

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