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Healthy Living

5 Need-To-Know Developments About Sleep This Week

This noise might actually make you sleep better.

In case you were sleeping, we rounded up the latest news and updates about getting a good night sleep from this week’s news cycle. Read on to stay informed on what’s best for your sleep and what’s not.

And let us know in the comments: What did you read and love this week?

1. Power naps are trending on college campuses everywhere

University of Miami, Savannah College of Art and Design, Washington State University, and Wesleyan University are all giving their students a nod -- or the opportunity to nod off that is. Those four schools all installed nap pods (sci-fi-looking sleep chairs) on their campuses, while other schools have joined the trend by creating nap nooks, The New York Times reported. And Wake Forest University has added five luxury recliners in its no-tech-allowed ZieSta Room in the campus’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, according to the article.

Though Kotaro Aoki, a philosophy major at Wesleyan, told The Times he napped on campus five days a week, others voiced concerns encouraging napping actually dissuades students from getting a good night’s sleep to begin with.

“Using naps to try to maintain function in the face of larger sleep deficits is a disaster waiting to occur,” Robert Strickgold, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Sleep and Cognition, told The Times. “Students are not getting enough sleep, and it would be a hundred times better to tackle that problem head-on.”

2. Just 20 more minutes of sleep boosted kids’ grades

The bottom line here is just a little more sleep led to real, measurable improvements when it came to kids’ report card grades in math and English, according to a new study.

A group of researchers implemented a six-week sleep education program in two schools in Canada. After the sleep lessons (which looped in parents, teachers, and school administration to help reinforce the sleep goals), the kids slept 18.2 minutes longer per night on average and fell asleep quicker. And their report card grades in both math and English improved by two percentage points (on a 100-point scale).

The findings are a clear-cut reminder that sleep should not be negotiated and kids should have a consistent bedtime, the study’s author Reut Gruber, director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and associate professor in faculty of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, told The Huffington Post.

3. The science behind whether or not melatonin can cause crazy dreams

HuffPost asked: Do melatonin supplements cause people to have more or weirder dreams than usual?

It might not actually be the melatonin that’s to blame, Rafael Pelayo, professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post.

People typically take melatonin when they have had trouble sleeping, and then when they start sleeping better they have “REM rebound” -- meaning they catch up on their rapid eye movement sleep, which is the phase of sleep where you dream, Pelayo said. “More REM sleep gives you more change to dream.”

Read: Melatonin helps you catch up on REM sleep, and more REM = more dreams.

4. Some noise might actually make you sleep better

Our brains continue to process sounds while we’re asleep and actively hear, which is what can potentially wake us up, Christopher Winter, a neurologist and sleep medicine doctor in Charlottesville, Virginia, told The Huffington Post. White noise, however, works by drowning out the disruptive sounds that might wake us up (think snoring, traffic outside, or your neighbor’s loud music).

“Noise machines do a good job if the individual is not capable of conditioning the sound of their room,” Winter said. White noise gently captivates our attention without requiring any real focus.

5. We’re about to find out a whole lot more about how sleep apnea affects truck drivers

The American Transportation Research Institute -- the American Trucking Association’s transportation-related research arm -- is launching what will be the biggest-ever survey of how sleep apnea affects commercial drivers, Sleep Review reported. A team of sleep apnea experts plan to use the survey findings, as well as other research on sleep disorders and driver fatigue, to write a comprehensive report on the topic.

What’s the big deal about sleep apnea in truck drivers? Sleep apnea affects more than 20 percent of commercial truck drivers, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine; and new findings from the Harvard School of Public Health found that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea were five times as likely to get into preventable crashes as drivers without the condition.

“ATRI’s survey is an opportunity to expand the existing data on this very critical issue,” Tom Weakley, a member of the ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee, told Sleep Review.

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at sarah.digiulio@huffingtonpost.com.