Will a coloring book help you sleep better?

Research suggests coloring may lower stress, aid relaxation, and improve sleep and attention spans. 

Jake May/The Flint Journal/AP
Kindergartner LaMysia Deloney colors in a fire safety-themed coloring book at Brownell STEM Academy in Flint, Mich.

The next time you're stressed, consider picking up a pack of crayons and a coloring book.

Because coloring books aren't just child's play anymore.

It turns out the newest market for coloring books is stressed-out adults looking for some cheap, fun, creative relaxation.

That's according to a series of recent reports that suggest coloring may be beneficial to adults. The practice, research suggests, may lower stress, aid relaxation, boost creativity, even help improve sleep and attention spans.

Which is why a number of coloring books for adults are hitting the market around the world. Color-happy adults can choose from a plethora of coloring books, including ones devoted to geometric-shaped designs called mandalas, others featuring intricately-inked drawings ("Colour Therapy: An Anti-Stress Colouring Book," by Michael O'Mara Books), some humorous ones by comedians (Coloring for Grown-Ups and The Hipster Coloring Book for Adults), even high-end designer coloring books (French fashion house Hermes has one for $160).

The books have become popular in countries in Europe and North America and among professionals who need a creative outlet or a quick way to relax.

It turns out this isn't something new.

"One of the first psychologists to apply coloring as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng in the early 20th century," reports the Huffington Post. "He did this through mandalas: circular designs with concentric shapes...with origin[s] in India."

There is, of course, a reason this trend has taken off more recently – like old-fashioned candies and retro ice cream sodas, it brings adults back to their childhoods, a time in which most of us had less stress.

Science also backs up this trend, according to psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, she told the Huffington Post. 

"The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors," she said. "This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress."

Kicking stress with a pack of crayons and a brand new coloring book? That's a trend we can get behind.

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