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101 Facts About Sleep That Won’t Keep You Up At Night

People spend about a third of their lives asleep, but in spite of spending so much time in the land of nod, many people don’t know that much about sleep. In fact, researchers learn more about sleep almost every day. To brush up on your a-b-zzzz’s, check out these 101 facts about sleeping.

  1. Humans are the only mammals who willingly delay or avoid sleep.
  2. Set by Randy Gardner in 1964, the record for longest time awake is 11 days.
  3. Don’t try that at home! Going without sleep for extended periods can actually lead to death.
  4. After just 72 hours without sleep, people start to experience major cognitive effects including hallucinations.
  5. Driving while drowsy can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.
    Driving While Drowsy
  6. Scientists claim that you can go longer without food than without sleep.
  7. Leonardo Da Vinci embraced a polyphasic sleep schedule where he napped for 20 minutes every four hours.
  8. Logging just under 2 hours of sleep per day, giraffes naturally stay awake longer than any other mammal.
    Giraffes naturally stay awake longer than any other mammal.
  9. Horses, donkeys, elephants, sheep, and cows all need less than four hours of sleep a day.
  10. Cats spend two-thirds of their lives asleep.
  11. Bats sleep 19.9 hours a day, more than almost any other mammal.
  12. Dolphins do unihemispheric sleep. Only half of their brain sleeps. The other half makes sure they don’t drown.
  13. All complex living organisms, including insects, mollusks, fish, and amphibians, need sleep.
  14. Ever see your dog turn circles before settling down? That’s an impulse leftover from the days when dogs had to flatten tall grasses to make their beds.
  15. Emily Bronte used a similar tactic. To deal with insomnia, this “Wuthering Heights” author used to walk circles around her dining table until she fell asleep.
  16. People who avoid sleeping at night are called night owls, a nod to the fact that most owls are nocturnal.
  17. When you start to fall asleep and jerk yourself awake, that’s called a hypnic jerk.
  18. Sleep cycles last 90 minutes.
  19. Each sleep cycle has five stages ranging from light sleep to deep sleep which features rapid eye movement (REM) and lots of dreaming.
    eye movement during REM
  20. Researchers think that eye movement during REM may be related to the visual images you see while you’re dreaming.
  21. Allegedly, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare.
  22. Researchers say that fear isn’t the most common emotion associated with nightmares.
  23. Instead, these dreams tend to be filled with sadness, guilt, and confusion.
  24. Paul McCartney dreamed the melody for “Yesterday”. Upon waking, he played the song on the piano, and then John Lennon helped with the lyrics.
  25. The theory of relativity also started with a dream. Albert Einstein dreamed he was sledding so fast that the stars changed their appearance.
  26. A lot of people have recurring dreams. They often symbolize unresolved issues.
  27. Only about 12% of people dream in black and white. The rest have full-color dreams.
  28. Before the rise of color TV, most people tended to dream in grayscale.
  29. People who are born blind usually have dreams full of emotions, sounds, and smells, rather than visions.
  30. Named after the sleep stage, the band REM choose its name randomly from a dictionary.
  31. About 90 million Americans report sleep disturbances related to snoring.
    Sleep Disturbances
  32. Tired of your partner’s snoring? Well, the grass might not be greener on the other side — divorced, widowed, and separated people have higher rates of insomnia.
  33. But, there are options — one in four married people sleep in separate beds.
  34. Tom Cruise sleeps in a snoratorium, a small bedroom that’s been soundproofed to stop the snores from escaping.
  35. Zzzz’s have been used to represent snoring in cartoons for at least 100 years since 1918.
  36. Archaeologists found a 77,000 year mattress in the Sibudu Cave in South Africa, showing people have almost always liked to sleep in comfort.
  37. Measuring approximately 22 square feet with a thickness of 12 inches, the mattress was likely the sleeping spot for a whole family.
  38. Families (children, parents, grandparents, etc.) slept in beds all together well into the Stone Age.
  39. The co-sleeping trend is returning — from 1993 to 2010, the rate of parents co-sleeping with their babies jumped from 6% to 13%.
    co-sleeping with their babies
  40. About 9,000 years ago, people who lived in caves in current day Texas slept on small beds that were only about six square feet.
  41. These round beds were dug into the ground and covered with woven mats and prickly pear pads. Arguably, these beds were small and round because the sleepers slept curled up in the fetal position to conserve body heat.
  42. According to one study, 41% of British people sleep in the fetal position.
  43. Speaking of womb-like conditions, the first waterbeds were water-filled goat skins, used in Persia in about 3600 BC.
  44. In the 1800s, water beds or hydrostatic beds were used to help patients with bedsores and circulation issues sleep better.
  45. In Medieval times, people often elevated their beds by placing them on platforms, and the beds were so raised that a maid or valet could sleep on a trundle bed under the main bed.
  46. To show off their sleeping spot, the affluent placed their luxurious beds surrounded by curtains near their windows.
  47. Poor people slept on straw mattresses during this era.
    straw mattresses
  48. The phrase “hit the hay” is a remnant from back in the day when people slept on hay.
  49. Up to 1500, people covered their pillows with head sheets. Then, pillow cases came into fashion.
  50. By 1580, rich and poor people throughout England had improved the comfort of their sleeping situations, and the shift inspired clergyman William Harrison to criticize society for the self indulgence of their “feathers and pillows”.
  51. He went on to say that back in his day, men were lucky to buy a bed after seven years of marriage, only sick women used pillows, and servants didn’t have sheets.
  52. From a health perspective, sleep is as important as diet and exercise.
  53. Lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
  54. Exercise can help you sleep, but only if you do it at the right time. Regular exercise contributes to a better night’s sleep, but if you workout right before bed, you’ll have a harder time falling asleep.
    exercise can help you sleep
  55. Spending time in the mountains may sound relaxing, but once you get above 13,200 feet, the reduction in oxygen can disrupt your sleep patterns.
  56. Typically, it takes two or three weeks to fully adjust.
  57. Michael Phelps sleeps in a sleep chamber designed to simulate oxygen levels at 8,000 to 9,000 feet.
  58. He doesn’t just sleep in the chamber because he likes to feel “high”. It boosts his red blood cells and helps increase his endurance.
  59. The phrase “40 winks” first appeared in writing in 1822.
  60. During that time period, people also used to say nine winks. Both refer to a short, refreshing nap.
  61. Naps are known to reduce stress, especially if you stick to a regular afternoon napping schedule.
    afternoon napping
  62. Too busy to nap? Well, Winston Churchill found the time to nap for two hours every day.
  63. Lyndon B. Johnson also napped on the daily but only for half an hour.
  64. Churchill prefaced his nap with a drink. Johnson worked out before napping.
  65. Mariah Carey says she sleeps 15 hours a day, surrounded by 20 humidifiers.
  66. Most humans naturally feel tired at 2:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.
  67. When people sleep soundly, they say that they slept like a log, a baby, or a rock. Maybe they should say they sleep like Mariah Carey.
  68. American pioneers usually didn’t have room to bring beds with them.
  69. They often slept on piles of leaves or right on the floor.
  70. Eventually, they began making shelf beds with poles attached to the walls and shucks or hay on top of the frame.
  71. Then, they started stuffing bags with leaves, and sometimes, they even put feather mattresses on top of these bags.
  72. Now, you can probably guess where the phrase “hitting the sack” comes from.
  73. In many rural parts of Asia and South America, people sleep in hammocks.
    people sleep in hammocks
  74. In lieu of tents, hammocks designed to hold you safely in the trees are becoming popular among many campers around the world.
  75. Charles Dickens always slept north, and he carried a compass to make sure he was pointing the right direction.
  76. Fellow writer Stephen King insists that his pillows face a certain direction before he settles down for the night.
  77. In the story “Sleeping Beauty”, the sleeping princess represents nature, the evil fairy godmother is the winter that puts nature to sleep, and the prince symbolizes springtime.
  78. Hibernation is not the same as sleep. Hibernation is a state of torpor where the body uses about 5% of its usual metabolism.
  79. Called somniloquy, talking in your sleep is a common occurrence that isn’t necessarily linked to an issue, but people who talk while sleeping tend to be more prone to sleep issues.
  80. There are over 84 different sleeping disorders.
  81. Many deaf people sign in their sleep.
  82. Over 8 million Americans regularly engage in nighttime ambulation, also known as sleep walking.
    nighttime ambulation
  83. About 29% of people report that they engaged in sleepwalking at least once in their lives.
  84. Sleepwalking is more common in children than adults.
  85. Some nighttime sleep aids list sleepwalking and other nighttime adventures as a side effect.
  86. Murder while sleepwalking is called homicidal sleepwalking.
  87. In the 1980s, Canadian Ken Parks was acquitted thanks to the homicidal sleepwalking defense after killing his mother in her sleep.
  88. Jennifer from Jupiter, Florida reported that she reprogrammed her phone to Chewbacca sounds, made phone calls about Chewbacca, and even ordered a Chewbacca tutu, all while asleep on Ambien.
  89. New York City resident Jamie said he won $6,000 playing online poker in his sleep.
  90. Your sleeping position may reflect your personality.
  91. Sleeping on your back with arms at your side is the soldier position, and soldier sleepers tend to be reserved.
  92. If you sleep on your back with arms and legs akimbo, that’s the starfish position, and you’re probably a good listener.
  93. The log refers to sleeping on your side with your arms flat, and usually social people adopt this sleeping posture.
    sleeping on your side
  94. If you’re on your side with your arms out, you may be anxious or suspicious about something.
  95. Sleeping on your stomach generally indicates that something is not under control in your life.
  96. When buying a mattress, you should take your sleeping position into account because it can lead you to the most comfortable mattress for your unique sleeping style.
  97. Socks and mittens to match your pajamas? Warm hands and feet help you fall asleep faster.
    socks and mittens
  98. However, your core body temperature drops to facilitate falling asleep.
  99. Counting sleep is too active to help people fall asleep. Thinking of something passive is more helpful.
  100. People in the western world are chronically sleep deprived.
  101. Adequate sleep reduces mood swings, decreases your risk of depression and anxiety, and helps to keep your libido strong. In other words, sleep is great!

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