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    Everyone seems to be in dire need of a good night's sleep. Or, at the very least, everyone I've spoken to. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say how exhausted they are and how desperate for a solid night of shut-eye.

    It's no surprise that we all crave sleep so much. It's the one chance each day we have to completely relax and awake at least semi-rejuvenated.

    But did you know how much our bodies and minds actually depend on a good night's sleep? Did you know that a full night's sleep is important to all aspects of your health? It's true.

    Here are the most shocking health benefits of sleep.

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    When our second daughter was born nearly five years after our first, my husband and I were mentally prepared for months of sleep deprivation. Our firstborn had been colicky, and didn’t sleep through the night for nearly a year.

    There was a large age gap for a reason, people.

    One night, when our baby daughter was four weeks old, we both woke in a panic in the wee hours of the morning, having slept through the night. We jumped out of bed to the cradle in the corner, hearts in our throats -- and there she lay, sleeping peacefully. Confused, we looked at each other and one of us said, “Maybe she’s our consolation prize.”

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    You know how everybody has pretty much one position they can fall asleep in, and that's it? Like some people can't nod off unless they're flat on their backs, while other people -- like me --  just plain can't drift away to dreamland staring up at the ceiling. Well, according to the latest research, your sleep position of choice actually says a lot about your personality.

    Which totally makes sense, if you think about it. Sort of like body language -- except even more telling, because while we can attempt to hide our dejected posture or nervous foot-tapping tendencies when we're awake, the sleep state leaves us completely exposed. (Take it from someone who talks in her sleep.)

    So get ready for a little sleepytime self-analysis:

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    So, do you like your neighborhood? I mean really like your neighborhood? Because according to the latest research, NOT liking your neighborhood could be hazardous to your health. Seriously! Researchers discovered that people who like their community (or think it's on the upswing, at least) "report better physical health" than people who don't like their community (or think it's going downhill).

    Chronic pain, obesity, fatigue, diabetes, and sleep disorders were just a few of the specific complaints associated with not liking one's nabe. Makes perfect sense, really. Think of all the reasons why a person wouldn't like their community and you'll see how every issue can be linked to potentially unhealthy behavior ...

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    I love the fall, but I still can't help but get a little bit bummed out this time of year -- as the days grow shorter and we approach the end of daylight savings. I mean, when it's pitch black outside at 7 p.m., it makes me feel like I somehow missed a big chunk of my life. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months ... you can see where this is going. Every year the end of daylight savings time sends me straight into existential crisis mode and/or a vitamin D-deficient slump.

    But guess what? As it turns out, our bodies are actually thrilled when daylight savings finally ends. That's because our circadian clocks are apparently in sync with the Earth's natural rhythms. (And they are NOT fooled by that false daylight-extending schedule created that we're forced to follow for the rest of the year because a long time ago somebody thought it would save on candle wax or coal or something.)

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    Hey. Are you tired? Like, really, really tired? Probably you are. Probably because you had to wake up super early every day this week for work, or maybe you were up all night with the baby, or maybe you had to stay at the office super late. Or maybe because you had to wake up super early every day this week for work AFTER being up all night with the baby and THEN you had to stay at the office super late! Point is, you're probably so tired that the only thing getting you through the day is the dream of being able to sleep in for a few extra hours if you're really lucky this weekend.

    Well, allow me to dash your dreams. Because according to the latest research, not only is it impossible to catch up on lost sleep, the attempt will make you more tired than ever by disrupting the all-important circadian clock. But you know what? I don't care what fancy schmancy sleep scientists say!

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    I'm man enough to admit that I enjoy a good snuggle. There's really nothing like sleeping in late on a Saturday morning, only to be woken up by your kids jumping in your bed, turning on the TV, and curling up next to you as they watch SpongeBob flip Krabby Patties for the umpteenth time.

    Yeah, just hanging in bed, half-sleeping with the kids is great. Sleeping with them through the night, however, not so much. At this point, it's mostly because they'll toss and turn a bit and keep me awake. Or my snoring will wake them, so they'll toss and turn and wake me. And somehow, I always get blamed.

    Apparently, though, men who sleep with their kids get a few points docked off their Man Card. I'm not making a statement here, just pointing out a fact. According to a recent study, fathers who sleep right next to their kids have a lower level of testosterone.

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    Hey, I have a great way to make depressed people feel better -- let's tell them all the reasons why being depressed is all their fault! In fact, let's find scientific proof! Yes, yet another study is out linking depressive symptoms to something depressed people do every day, like brushing their teeth or putting on socks. This time?

    "Animal research" suggests that "exposure to dim lighting at night — such as that generated by a TV screen, computer, or night-light," may lead to abject misery, overall lethargy, malaise of the soul, or whatever else you want to call depression.

    Okay. Fascinating as I find mood disorders in laboratory hamsters who fall asleep watching Chelsea Lately or Conan or Jimmy Fallon, I'm not buying this one. To me, this is clearly a "chicken or egg" issue, and researchers got the order wrong.

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    We all know getting a good night's sleep is super-important, right? Because lack of sleep is linked to all manner of health problems, from obesity to depression to diabetes to breast cancer to leprosy (okay, not really that last one. But I wouldn't be surprised! According to the most recent study, missing a night's sleep is as bad for the immune system as physical stress!). And we all know that snoring definitely messes with getting a good night's sleep, whether you're the one who's snoring or you're "sleeping" next to somebody who's snoring. What we didn't know, until now, was how to make that noisy nighttime problem shut the hell up go away.

    Enter "Jukusui-Kun," the Japanese polar bear shaped robot/pillow designed to help people with sleep apnea stop snoring. Well, of course! (Forehead smack.) Why didn't anybody think of this before? A polar bear! Makes perfect sense. Right?

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    If your first thought upon seeing this glorious photo was Mmmm, donuts! I could eat that whole box! DONUTS! (I know mine was), then you, like me, are probably really, really tired. We've known about the link between sleep deprivation and obesity for a while, but now we know more about why one leads to the other: Junk food is actually more appealing to weary brains. Like, scientifically.

    A recent study scanned the brains of people in two groups -- the first after five nights of sleep for nine hours and the second after five nights of sleep for four hours -- while showing them images of healthy and unhealthy foods. And guess what? The pictures of junk food only activated the brain's "reward centers" in sleep-deprived people. (Which is basically what happened when that donut craving hit you like a freight train a minute ago.)

    Explains a lot, doesn't it? And that's not the only way lack of sleep can apparently screw with your body ...

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