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There is something strangely enigmatic about sleep. Just think about it for a second. We all do it every night (or should, at least), we actually spend around a third of our lives asleep, and yet because we are asleep when we sleep it remains somewhat of a mystery. For most of us, it is an afterthought at best. But just think, if you spent roughly a third of your day doing anything else you would spend a lot more time focusing on it. However because you are not aware while you sleep, there is this huge block of your life that you do not spend a lot of time thinking about precisely because you do not think when you are doing it.
Let’s spend some time thinking about sleep
The thing is that it is actually incredibly fascinating when you examine it. Just because we are not conscious during the process does not mean that we should not be interested in this ubiquitous phenomena. There are loads of interesting facts about sleep that range from what happens when we sleep to what happens when we dream.
1. What happens when you sleep: There are three key things that happen while you sleep. These processes are seen as the most important, though there are more. They are that your brain recharges, that your cells repair themselves and that your body releases a range of vital hormones into your blood stream. Each of these on their own is critical, but together they make sleep one of the most important things that you can do for your health and wellbeing.
2. We need different amounts of sleep depending on how old we are: Babies need the most, obviously. They require about 16 hours a day. Then kids who are 3-9 need about 10-12 hours, then that drops to about 9-10 hours for a 10-13 year old. Teenagers jump back up to 10-11 hours a night and then when you are an adult you need about 6.5-.8 hours a night. The belief that as you get older, like 65 plus, that you need less sleep is not true. It just becomes harder to sleep, but you still need the same amount as any other adult.
3. Adults do not all need the same amount of sleep: Speaking of sleep amounts, not all adults require the same amount. While the majority of us need between 6.5-8 hours each night, some people can survive and thrive on far less. People like Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Edison and Barack Obama are all famous for not needing much sleep, all boasting that they only need about 4 hours! However, if this does not come naturally to you then you will struggle to replicate it.
4. Men and women dream about the sexes in different amounts: This one sounds quite strange, and it is. Men actually dream about men far more often than they do about women, which is weird when you think about how often men are supposed to think about women. Researchers have found that men dream about other men 70 per cent of the time, with women making up only 30 per cent of men’s dreams. Women, on the other hand, dream about both sexes equally.
5. We can’t invent new faces in our dreams: While we are not sure how the researchers found this one out, apparently people are only able to dream about faces that they have seen in their lives, they cannot make new ones up. Even if you do not remember seeing the face in your dream, you will have.
6. You can commit crimes in your sleep: As scary as that sounds, there are people who have committed some terrible crimes in their sleep. Generally they have something called parasomnia, where they move around and act like they are awake even when they are asleep. People have committed murder, rape and many other heinous crimes while they have been asleep.
7. Not everyone dreams in colour: This is one that seems crazy, but apparently around 12 per cent of people dream in black and white. The number used to be much higher but since colour TV more and more people have been dreaming in colour.
8. If you don’t think you dream, you probably do: Almost everyone dreams. While some people say that they do not experiments have shown that they enter the REM dream state just like everyone else. In fact, the only people who have been shown not to dream at all are those who have very serious personality disorders. Further reading please
9. The way you sleep may reveal more about you than you think: We all have a favourite sleep position, some like to lie on their backs, others curl up into the foetal position and others lie on their stomachs. Researchers have found that the position that you sleep in may be linked to your personality type, with a whole range of different personality indicators linked to these differing positions. Foetal sleepers are gruff but have warm and open hearts, people who lie on their sides in a straight position are social butterflies, people who sleep on their sides but curled up are seen as open but are actually suspicious, people who sleep on their backs with arms by their sides are reserved, people who sleep on their stomachs are extroverts and those who sleep on their backs with arms and legs akimbo are good listeners.
10. Not all couples sleep in the same bed: The number of married couples who sleep in separate beds is bigger than you may think, with a whopping 1 in 4 couples choosing to live their married lives without sharing a bed. However, studies have shown that the closer a couple sleep together the stronger their relationship is, even the difference between 20 cm and 5 cm being recognisable and statistically significant.
11. Blue light can help keep you awake: Many militaries have been hunting for a way to keep their soldiers awake longer and have found that using blue light works really well. With a special visor that shines it in their eyes, soldiers can stay awake for up to 36 hours without feeling tired. The reason that blue light works is that it replicates the colour of the bright sky on a sunny day, which helps our body clock.
12. Humans don’t sleep as much as other animals, but more than some others: Koalas sleep a whopping 22 hours of each day, and some bats sleep 20. While humans are somewhere in the middle, with around 8 hours a day, there are other animals that sleep far less, with giraffes taking the cake at a minimal 1.9 hours a day (all done in 5-10 micro sleep sessions). Dolphins are even more interesting, only half of their brain sleeps at any one time. The reason for this is that they need to stay partially awake so that they do not drown.
13. Lack of sleep kills faster than lack of food: You may think that food is right up there as a vital component of wellbeing but you will actually die quicker if you are deprived of sleep. While most people will starve in two weeks, most will die if they have not slept in 10 days. The record is 11 days, though this person went on to suffer a number of serious long term consequences.
14. Blind people still have visual dreams: People who are blind but could see when they were born still dream visually, but those who were born blind do not, they have dreams that involve all their other senses but there are no visuals.
15. Animals dream too: While some scientists still debate this, anyone who has owned a dog will tell you that animals dream as well. There are many videos of dogs online that show them running, barking and all other manner of things while they are asleep.
16. The higher the altitude, the greater your sleep disruption: Generally, sleep disturbance becomes greater at altitudes of 2000 metres or more. The disturbance is thought to be caused by diminished oxygen levels and accompanying changes in respiration. Most people adjust to new altitudes in approximately two to three weeks.
17. Sleep and weight are connected: Bad news for dieters who do not sleep well. Researchers have found that sleep and weight are connected, or more correctly sleep and appetite. When you sleep two appetite regulating hormones in your blood are balanced out. If you do not get enough sleep at night then they are out of balance and you will be hungrier.
18. And finally....Your brain gets washed at night: When you sleep your brain contracts and this makes it the best time for your body to rinse out the toxins that build up during the day. They think that people with Alzheimer’s and other neurological problems may have had sleeping problems that have contributed to their disease.
As you have read there are some fascinating facts about sleep. We hope that you found the 18 facts above as interesting as we do.
If you enjoyed this article you might also find the below of interest:
Do successful people sleep less?
Why do we dream?
What happens to our brain when we sleep?
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