15 Eye-Opening Facts About Sleep and Dreams

facts about sleep

We spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep. Sleep is pretty universal among complex organisms; most animals, fish, insects and birds need sleep. Here are 15 unusual facts about sleep that won’t keep you up at night.

1. The strangers in your dreams, aren’t necessarily strangers.

The brain can’t create people, so you can only dream about faces you have already seen. We see the faces of real people that we have seen during our lifetime, even if we don’t remember.

2. Humans can survive longer without food than without sleep.

A person can survive up to 60 days without eating, but people can only live 11 days without sleeping.

3. Thousands of Americans suffer from a condition known as Somniphobia – the fear of falling asleep.

Between 10 and 15 minutes to fall asleep is the average; if it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep at night, it means that you are sleep deprived.

4. Parents of newborns lose about 6 months worth of sleep in the first 2 years of their child’s life.

A new baby results in anywhere from 400 to 750 hours of lost sleep for parents in the first year. Yet, newborns sleep on average 15-16 hours in a 24 hour period…just not in a row.

5. Too little sleep (or too much) can increase your risk of dying prematurely.

An unusually short (less than four hours) nightly sleep duration or unusually long (more than nine or 10 hours) means you have a higher-than-average risk of premature death.

6. That sudden jerk of the legs or entire body right before you fall asleep  has a name – it’s called a hypnic jerk (also known as a hypnagogic).

7. Repeating a simple word like ‘the’ at irregular intervals can help you fall asleep.

It’s a cognitive technique known as a blocking strategy. The goal is to stop the mind from racing. Repeated the word ‘the’ creates awareness and blocks other thoughts from coming into your head.

8. We usually spend more than two hours each night dreaming. We dream at least four to six times a night.

Unfortunately, negative emotions are more common than positive emotions in our dreams. Anxiety is the most common emotion experienced in dreams.

9. 50% of a dream is forgotten within 5 minutes of waking up; within 10 minutes, 90% of it is forgotten.

10. One in every six fatal car accidents results from a fatigued driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there were 83,000 drowsy-driving related crashes between 2005 and 2009. An estimated 1 in 25 drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days.

New Jersey is the only state to outlaw a specific type of driving while sleepy.‘Maggie’s Law’ was passed in 2003 states that a sleep-deprived driver qualifies as a reckless driver who can be convicted of vehicular homicide. It’s named in honor of a 20-year-old college student, Maggie McDonnell, who was killed when a driver — who admitted he hadn’t slept for 30 hours and had been using drugs — crossed three lanes of traffic and struck her car head-on in 1997.

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week in November helps raise awareness about the dangers of drowsy driving.

11. At around 2:00 AM and 2:00 PM, humans just naturally feel tired.

12. Humans sleep on average around three hours less than other primates.

For example chimps, squirrel monkeys, and baboons (and teenagers) sleep for 10 hours.

13. A cooler room will help you sleep.

In order to fall asleep, our body temperature has to drop slightly. If you are too warm, it could keep you from sleeping. Artificial heat sources (like electric blankets) may negatively affect a person’s quality of sleep. Cool your room down to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for the best quality sleep.

14. Man is the only mammal that willingly delays sleep.

We are also the only mammal that plans naps.

15. Going 24 hours straight without sleep is equivalent to being drunk.

Studies have found that the impact of a night without sleep on your brain’s ability to focus puts you at the equivalent of a .1% blood alcohol content level. For drivers 21 years or older, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% is considered drunk driving.

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