From doctors to influencers, the world seems obsessed with sleep and how to catch the best Zs in order to feel our healthiest. Natural supplements, medicine, white noise, black-out curtains - there seems to be no shortage of ways to improve your nighttime recharge. But there's much more to this nightly phenomenon than meets the eye, so grab that blanket and get ready for some chilling facts about sleep. But we should warn you: you might have trouble closing your eyes tonight.
A Scary Experiment
Can you imagine going 11 days without sleep? If you wanted to break the record for the longest sleepless stint, you would have to stay awake for over 264 hours. That's because back in 1964, record-breaker Randy Gardner stayed up for 11 whole days or 264 hours. While he earned bragging rights, he did have to endure a few side effects. The record-setter experienced blurred vision, slurred speech, hallucinations, and paranoia.
Gardner also experienced concentration lapses and struggled with his memory. It just goes to show what scary side effects can come if we don't listen to our bodies and catch some Zs.
Apparently, Sleepwalking Can Be Self Care
Ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? In short, part of the theory is that humans need to have their basic needs met (food, shelter, rest) before being able to thrive and fulfill their other needs. And apparently, our sleeping bodies seem to agree with Mr. Maslow: if your needs aren’t getting met you might just find yourself sleepwalking to fulfill them! This happens when you’re overly tired, and the body decides to fill simultaneously competing needs like sleep and hunger at the same time.
Sleepwalking is mostly harmless, but there have been rare cases where sleepwalkers have become violent. Better just to stay out of their way and let them eat their cereal in peace before they head back to bed.
Turns Out Faces in Dreams Are Not Accidental
Did you know that every face you’ve ever dreamed of is a face you’ve seen in real life? It’s true; you’ll never dream about someone you haven’t already seen! While you may have already known this particular tidbit, does it make you feel weird to know your brain is cataloging people? Next time you get a familiar feeling about someone you see in a dream, it might just be that you see them all the time while you’re awake, even if you’ve never consciously noticed them.
What does it mean when you can’t see someone’s face in a dream then? Is it because you’re trying to dream up someone you haven’t met yet?
Exploding Head Syndrome Is Not for the Faint of Heart
Exploding Head Syndrome is a little-known condition that can really rob your night of peace and serenity. It happens when a sudden and incredibly loud noise comes from within your head, waking you up or keeping you from tipping over into unconsciousness. It’s said to affect only 10% of the population, so you’re probably safe, but if you wake up to the sound of bombs going off and you’re not in the middle of a warzone, you may want to see a doctor.
Sufferers have described the loud noise as sounding like a bomb explosion, a thunderclap, or gunshots. It is painless but can leave the person distressed.
A New and Dangerous Meaning to “Wake and Bake”
Not everyone wakes up feeling smarter. Some of us wake up to the smell of something burning and an emergency trip to the E.R! More horror stories to add to the sleepwalker hall of shame include one man’s experience of trying to make some toast. The last thing he remembered before he came to was putting a slice of bread into the toaster oven, only to realize he had substituted the bread for his own hand!
Ouch! That’s worse than pricking your finger on a spinning wheel! We do not recommend it.
Our Sleeping Bodies Can Outsmart Us
Are we smarter when we’re unconscious, or do we just have access to the information we’ve stored a little deeper in the junk drawer? Maybe both! Someone sharing their story described that their whole life, they'd been yelling and having conversations in their sleep. One night their dad asked them what the quadratic formula was, and apparently, they stated it correctly. While they may have surprised their dad, according to science, sleep can definitely improve our memory.
Now you have an excuse to take nap breaks while you’re studying! It’s worth a try, although, apparently, some things will only be accessible while you catch those Zs.
Adult Bed Wetting Is More Common (and Creepy) Than You Think
You have to pee! The urge wakes you from your slumber, and so you swing yourself from the bed and head towards your bathroom. Still misty from sleep, you lumber in to relieve yourself only to experience a strange sensation of warmth surrounding your body. Whoosh! Pssst. Now you’re really awake and rather disturbed to find out that you’ve wet the bed. Scientists call an experience like this a “false awakening.” You think you’ve gotten up, but it’s just another dream!
Next time you wake up and feel half asleep, make sure to do a pinch test before popping any squats to go potty! Especially if you wake up somewhere beautiful like a nice encouraging river with a lovely wooshing sound.
Those Recurring Nightmares Have a Cause
Pew, Pew, Pew! The sound of a blaster firing off somewhere near your head causes you to leap from cover and start sprinting. You’re running as fast as you can, but you know they’re right behind you. The feeling of impending doom is all too familiar as you begin to realize you’ve been here before. Up ahead is the usual dead end, and, yup, that’s when you wake up, right on cue.
Negative recurring dreams are often the result of unresolved issues coming back to haunt us. If you stop to analyze why a particular dream keeps repeating itself, you might find it’s your brain’s way of waking you up to an impending problem or motivating you to get your butt in gear.
Sleep Paralysis or Paranormal Activity?
Anyone familiar with the experience of sleep paralysis could tell you it’s a rather spooky feeling. You wake up in the middle of the night, but your body is not your own. You can’t move. You can’t speak. It’s almost as if someone is sitting on your chest or holding you down. Sleep paralysis, as this condition is called, has several medical explanations, but many believe it could be paranormal, which is how the phenomenon garnered the nickname Night Hag Syndrome.
Scientists have an explanation for the experience, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less scary! There are people out there that continue to believe that it’s Lilith, the mystical evil demon of the night, paying you a visit.
Muscle Memory Makes It Into Your Dreams - And It's Not a Good Thing
Tossing and turning is one thing, but can you imagine carefully dismantling grandfather clocks in your sleep or sleepwalking over to your bookshelf and grabbing a novel? How tired would you be in the morning if your body kept playing out the activities you repeat all day? These unwanted behaviors that occur during sleep are called parasomnias. They can be as small as opening your eyes while asleep or, at the very extreme end, driving a car while sleeping.
What happens in our brains during such episodes is still something of a mystery. Not much research has been done, largely because gathering data is very difficult.
The Dangers of Nocturnal Eating Syndrome
What happens when sleepwalking takes sleep snacking to the next level? Nocturnal eating syndrome might seem harmless, but some people raid their kitchens multiple times per night or wind up cooking full meals! It’s not harmless midnight munchies if you slumber into your kitchen to make bacon, eggs, and pancakes, then forget to turn off the stove! This sort of sleepwalking can be dangerous and has the unwanted side effect of excess weight gain.
Those suffering from this disorder wake up with no recollection of the night before and are forced to follow their literal trail of breadcrumbs to find out.
What Those Flying Dreams Really Mean
One of the coolest dreaming experiences you can have is the flying dream. While most people might just appreciate it for the magical experience that it is, it actually has a deeper meaning. Having a flying dream is often your subconscious way of trying to escape from the pressures and expectations of everyday life. While in flight, you find freedom from the oppressive ground! If you find yourself in one of these amazing dreams, remember to take some active time out to recharge yourself in real life.
Frequent sleeping flyers speak of different techniques they use to take flight. Some dreamers like to stay low to the ground, while others claim they have to jump a few times to achieve flight.
Kicking or Punching in Your Sleep? Might Wanna Get That Checked
While it might seem funny to watch someone acting out their dreams physically while they sleep, like running or kicking, this phenomenon is actually a REM sleep disorder, and it might be a serious health indicator. This experience can be caused by exposure to toxins. Neurologists have found that cigarette smokers and farmers who regularly sprayed pesticides were way more likely to kick or punch in their sleep. Yikes! If you notice this condition in a loved one, it's advised that you seek medical help for them.
If you’re waking up exhausted and find any scratches or bruises on your body, you might be duking it out in your sleep without ever knowing! Hopefully, no one was there to catch the punches!
A New Way to Ruin Your Relationships
Some of us may have experienced the unfortunate side effects of the “drunk texting” phenomenon, but what about “sleep texting?” One woman with parasomnia shares her experience of having entire texting conversations while asleep. Sometimes she winds up texting with people she would never normally talk to, but her most unfortunate sleep-texting incident was the time she broke up with her boyfriend during a bad dream! Poor guy. Hope he's okay.
Thankfully she was able to sort things out with him, but maybe she should reconsider keeping her phone nearby the next time she decides to hit the hay!
What Nightmares Indicate About Your Physical Health
Heart disease, depression, drug withdrawal, and cancer have all been linked to a rise in nightmares! Our body and mind are intrinsically linked, so it makes sense that if our body is in distress, our mind is experiencing some level of that distress as well. That distress leaks its way into the subconscious mind with malaise and discomfort, churning up agitated thoughts and feelings that can conjure nightmares. We literally can never catch a break!
If you’re having frequent nightmares, don’t jump to the cancer conclusion just yet, though; put the Web M.D. down and speak with your doctor. Stress and anxiety are way more likely nightmare inducers than cancer.
The Sleepwalking Fashionista
You may have heard that your mind is more open and creative when you’re feeling tired, but does the real genius happen when we fall asleep? One Woman can personally attest to this experience. She indicated that she's never aware of when she sleepwalks, though her biggest indicator is waking up in a fabulous outfit. What's crazy is that it always works! She's created amazing outfits out of things she consciously would never have put together when awake!
It’s a good thing she didn’t go on a sleep shopping spree, but with the rise of online shopping, it’s never been easier for sleepwalkers to wind up with a credit card bill they don’t remember racking up.
Taking Your Breath Away - Literally
Another scary thing that could be happening in your sleep without you knowing is Sleep Apnea. You might not notice it, but your partner could spot the signs. The condition is usually accompanied by very loud snoring followed by stretches of breathlessness for up to 30 seconds! It occurs when throat muscles collapse and stop people from breathing. Factors such as being elderly, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diabetes all can contribute to being at risk for this condition!
The scariest part is not realizing that it’s happening. The result is that sufferers get very little deep sleep which is the important stage necessary for restoration and rejuvenation.
The Half-Open Portal
You’re on the misty edges of unconsciousness when suddenly you see the nightmare coming, a spooky premonition. You’re not even fully asleep yet, but you're already creepily dreaming. This is known by the psychological community as hypnagogia. It happens while entering the hypnagogic state, that place where reality melts away. If you happen to feel a nightmarish sensation overcome you during this phase, you’re probably just having a rough transition. Remember that next time; you're okay!
The hypnagogic state opens up all sorts of really out there occurrences, ranging from hallucination to lucid dreaming to out-of-body experiences. Maybe a reason to stay up a little longer and avoid entering the portal?
Catch Your Zs... Or Else!
Are there consequences to pushing yourself to the limits of your sleepless capacity? Well, consider that some of the biggest catastrophes can often be traced back to sleep deprivation. To name a few, the Challenger space shuttle explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and even the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl have been tied to errors caused by a lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can significantly impair decision-making, reaction time, and motor function!
While the worst thing that might happen to you would be nodding off at the office after a late night with friends, we can all be grateful you're not the one working at a nuclear plant or piloting a spaceship. All the same, get some sleep!
The Meaning Behind Falling Dreams
The notorious falling dream is all about a lack of control in your waking life. You might feel that you are dangerously standing at the edge of the unknown, in the midst of freefall, or experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. Your subconscious mind translates that feeling into a freefall, but the freefall might not be all bad. Sometimes we need to surrender to the unknown and leap to solve whatever issue has been plaguing us.
You never know what might be at the bottom of your next dreamscape base jump. The feeling of falling might make you feel helpless, but have courage!
Your Dreams Are a Movie Set
We are all amateur cinematographers! Did you know that parts of the dreaming process are like shooting a film? During the REM stage of sleep, certain movements of the eyes are following the movements within your dream. Your eyes are the camera as your imagination becomes a director. So, next time you wake up from an amazingly vivid dream, you should marvel at your own ability to set the scene and follow the action.
Hopefully, the sort of movie your mind's eye films for you next is full of heartwarming, feel-good vibes, but if you find yourself having a nightmare try yelling "cut!" until the camera stops rolling.
Why You Should Keep a Dream Journal
Dreams fade insanely fast! If you want to remember an especially interesting dream, it’s a good idea to write it down as quickly as possible. Dreaming exists in the same part of the brain as wandering thoughts, meaning your nighttime adventures might wander away before you know it. Creating the habit of journaling each dream when you wake up will allow you to strengthen your connection to your subconscious and retain details more readily.
Becoming more in tune with your subconscious in this way can also open the door to Lucid dreaming, a type of dream in which you become aware that you’re asleep and gain control of the adventure.
Fake It Till You Make It Is Real for Sleep
They say it works to boost your mood if you fake a smile until you feel happy, but can the same principle be applied to help boost your energy? According to science, yes, it can! Just thinking you slept well, even if you didn't, has demonstrated to improve performance throughout the day. This is a really neat example of the power our minds have over how we perceive our reality! A little bit of placebo magic may be involved, but hey, whatever works, right?
Are you going to wake up tired? Yes! Are you going to acknowledge it? No! Sit up, stretch it out, stay positive and try not to obsess over the dark circles under your eyes. You got this! The placebo effect can only carry you so far, though, so make sure to get some quality rest in when you can. Just don't sweat the days when the best of sleep eludes you and see if it helps improve your overall experience that day.
Dreaming of Dragons or Drudgery
We are very rarely dreamless, but not every dream is a blockbuster. Scientists have found a link between the type of dreaming we experience and the state of sleep we may be in. For instance, when we are in a state of light, non-REM sleep, our dreams are more likely to be mundane, involving real-world tasks or obsessions. It's only when we enter the deeper parts of our consciousness during an actual REM phase of sleep that things tend to turn peculiar. In this deep state of sleep, our consciousness exists in a world of imagination and visual metaphor. REM is the stage of sleep where real dreaming happens!
If your dreams are mostly boring, don't automatically assume you have no imagination. Instead, ask yourself what factors might be affecting your ability to enter into the deeper stages of sleep.
Ignoring Bed Time
Did you know humans are the only mammals known to willingly and consciously delay sleep? It's an ability that comes in handy when we need to meet a deadline or have something important that needs our attention, but it's also detrimental. It's common to feel like so much of our day was spent on other people and things, and now that there’s time to yourself at the end of the day, it's hard to give it up and go to bed.
Think of how cranky and stubborn babies can be when they refuse to rest. As adults, we know they’d feel so much better if they just took that nap.
How do heavy sleepers do it? Most noise, from the sound of cars outside to your family moving about the house, can affect your sleep. Irregular bursts of sound disrupt your heart rate and blood pressure waking you from sleep! Being sensitive to noise and waking suddenly in the wrong stage of sleep can often result in you waking before a sleep cycle has finished. The side effect of this is a groggy, foggy feeling that can persist for hours!
White noise, however, can help you rest. It works by creating a consistent background hum or frequency that can help to drown out any irregular or loud noises that might startle you.
Falling Half-Asleep Is A Real Thing
Random fact, but for whales and dolphins, it's a real thing! For humans, it's merely an expression, but in the animal kingdom, it's an adapted trait for survival. Both whales and dolphins literally fall half-asleep. Their brain hemispheres take turns sleeping so they can continue surfacing to breathe. It’s kind of an important skill to have when you’re a mammal living underwater, but not necessary for a human who gets all the oxygen they need even while unconscious.
If humans adapted the ability to stay half awake, the proverbial “sleep with one eye open” comes to mind. That way, no one could steal your covers!
Snack Your Way to a Good Night's Sleep?
This next one might not be well advised, but it is an interesting fact. Did you know carbohydrates and proteins have the ability to induce drowsiness? Snacks with a combination of both are the best before bed, but the scientist giving this advice most likely meant healthy balanced options, not fast food. It's also helpful to know if you’re trying to stave off the sleepies, so you know what food to avoid.
Junk food before bed? Probably not the best idea, but it does explain why certain foods make you want to take a nap.
Beep. Beep. Beep. BEEP. Your alarm clock blares, and now you’re up. Easy peasy! But Imagine living during the era of the “knocker uppers,” a very real and legitimate profession that was once dedicated to getting your but out of bed. These human alarm clocks were called "knocker uppers," and they’d use long poles, pea shooters, or even soft hammers to tap the windows of workers in industrial Britain. A few even existed well into the 1970s.
Thank goodness for modern inventions! Those poor human alarm clocks probably weren’t appreciated the way they deserved, especially if they woke you up cranky.
Set the Mood for Sleep
In the same way we set the mood for a romantic date, making the surroundings just right and picking out the perfect music, we ought to be setting the stage for a good night's sleep. As many of us already know, light can have a powerful effect on our circadian rhythm. The infamous blue light of your computer or phone screen, viewed before bed, may make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep once you finally crash out. Try utilizing blue light blocking lenses if you're going to be doing work late or changing the display settings on your devices. There are automatic timers you can set to make sure you're cutting your exposure to blue light even if you forget!
It also helps to make your bedroom a comfy, cozy retreat that gets you in the mood to snuggle down and get some rest. Whatever works for you!
Do a Sleep Self Checkup
Are you tired before the day is even up? According to experts, feeling drowsy before the evening indicates a lack of sleep. Even mundane activities shouldn't make you feel tired. If they do, it's a hint that you may be experiencing some sleep deprivation. Check in with yourself the same way you’d check in to ensure your body is getting enough water. You're already dehydrated by the time you’re thirsty, and sleep is much the same!
It could take you a little while to bounce back after doing some sleep schedule self-care, but it's much better to get a handle on it before the sleep deprivation starts to stack.
King of the Snooze
Cats may have a lesson for us, unlike humans, who often try to squeeze every ounce of activity into as many hours as they can stay awake. Did you know cats spend about 70% of their life sleeping? That's nearly 16 hours a day! In a fight for the title "King of the Snooze," cats would be ranked pretty high only to be out napped by koalas, bats, and opossums, but cats are definitely the cutest, so they must be doing something right.
Next time you feel guilty sleeping in, take a note from your furry companion, who seems completely content to laze about. You need those 12 to 16 hours to keep your adorability levels at peak.
Reboot, Recharge, Repair
We are humans, not robots, but our brains and bodies still need to power down to function at our best. You probably knew that already, but were you aware of just how badly lack of sleep can affect your system? Consistently getting less than six hours of sleep a night can even shorten your lifespan. Your body needs rest to do anything at its best, and sleep is essentially our body's built-in repair program.
If you’re not worried about lack of sleep shaving time off your biological clock, you should know that sleep deprivation also causes weight gain and insulin spikes, making it harder to lose fat.
Sleep Is for the Weak
That's right, you heard us! Sleep is for the weak! Or is it? The word "sleep" comes from a word for weakness. It shares a link with the Proto-European word "sleb," which means "to be weak." This same root also connects to the word "slack." How is that supposed to make us feel? Are we slackers for needing a midday nap or weaklings for heading to bed early? It begs the question, why Proto-Europeans, why?
Just a reminder that we don't all need to be strong. If sticking to your bedtime allows you to conquer your day with vim and vigor, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Who were those Proto-Europeans anyways, and who said they get to make all the word origin rules?
Sleep When You're Dead
Have you ever heard someone indignantly exclaim that they'll sleep when they're dead? Next time you do, you can share an interesting fact! Sleep and Death are actually twins, according to greek mythology. In the stories of ancient Greece, Thanatos was the god of death, while Hypnos was the god of sleep. Sidebar: Thanatos was considered the stronger of the two. His duty of carrying all those mortal souls into the underworld definitely would've built up those arms!
Are they twins, or are they cousins? There have been varied opinions about sleep's relationship to death. Nas said, "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death."