We love things that are odd, things that are mysterious, sometimes bizarre and things that simply defy explanations. But although there usually is an explanation, we still love hearing the mythological side of it. The Loch Ness Monster. Yetis. Dragons.
These strange mysteries may be interesting, but do you know the strange facts about an integral part of our lives, say sleep?
Now, define sleep and explain the exact reason why we sleep. Can’t answer it? Don’t worry, experts and scientists today are still in the dark when it comes to the exact reason why we sleep. It has always been understood that sleeping is a way to re-energize the body after staying awake, working and doing activities in the day.
Think about this: by the time you die, you will have spent a third of your life asleep.
Fact 1 You sleep few minutes less during the full moon.
No, you don’t have werewolf blood in you. In a study, subjects slept in complete darkness with no windows. During the full moon, these people had 25 minutes less sleep compared to ordinary days. This has opened up gates linking the body’s biological clock to the lunar cycle.
The above study is led by Michael Smith, a doctoral student from the University of Gothenburg, and is published in the journal, Current Biology. Although there’s more strange facts to come, you now have a palpable explanation as to why you might get vivid and weird dreams during a full moon and wake up cheated of precious minutes or hours of sleep.
Fact 2 Not Enough or Too Much Sleep = Early Death?
Sleep is related to your longevity of life but it doesn’t mean you spend all your waking hours trying to snap in some more sleep just to live longer. And also, oversleeping might do you harm than good. Lesson? Everything in moderation is safest.
In an analysis of 16 studies done by the team of Professor Francesco Cappuccio from the University of Warwick, people who sleep less than 6 hours a night may have 12% more likelihood of dying prematurely in a period of 25 years. The analysis, a review of 16 studies from all over the world, was published in the journal, Sleep.
Fact 3 Sleepwalking has Evolved
Regular sleepwalking activities include going downstairs, getting out of the house or eating food from the refrigerator. However, due to the evolution of human behaviour, this phenomenon has changed significantly in some cases.
Sleepwalking has been proven to now include texting somebody while asleep or emailing someone without going through the normal waking up period. This and the old sleepwalking habits are likely to be caused by stress and exhaustion.
Fact 4 Counting Sheep Doesn’t Work
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford, it was found that those who imagined and counted sheep slept later than those who imagined ‘calmer’ things. The study has been conducted on subjects that are insomniacs.
Although it’s probably the oldest and most repeated sleep-related advice we’ve heard, times have changed. So, if sheep can’t put you to sleep, maybe images of happy Quokkas will help?
Fact 5 Less Sleep = Weight Gain
You sleep less and put on the pounds. Unfair isn’t it? Well, the fact is, lack of sleep can make you gain roughly 2 pounds or .9 kilograms in less than a week. The reason? Sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons for food cravings of high calorie junk foods. Those who are deprived of sleep have less ability to stop the impulse. These findings were true to the study of Matthew P. Walker, psychology and neuroscience professor from the University of California.
Fact 6 Some Blind People Experience Sleep Troubles
Blind people’s sense of night and day (or their circadian rhythms), are impaired since they see no light. They have no perception of night and day, thus some may suffer sleep disorders. This can happen to roughly half of the blind population.
Fact 7 Sleep Length of Animals Can Vary
Giraffes sleep for 1.9 hours, elephants for 3.5 hours, goats for 5.3 hours, brown bats for 19 hours, humans for 8 hours, and dogs for 10.1 hours (on average). You don’t want to be a snail; it can sleep for three years (you’ll be waking up to the launch of iPhone 10 by then and Madonna will still look exactly the same.)
This fact is just an excuse for me to put this adorable gif in here. You’re very welcome.
Fact 8 Record for Longest Time With No Sleep is 11 Days
But this doesn’t mean anyone can last that long. The 11 days without sleep was achieved by Randy Gardner and was an experiment that was scientifically documented. However there have been some reported instances of longer periods without sleep; someone who participated in a Rocking Chair Marathon lasted 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. Sleep deprivation this long may result in hallucinations, blurred vision, slurred speech, memory and concentration lapses and paranoia. Also, see this news piece; a man dies after going for 11 days without sleep due to a soccer-watching marathon.
Fact 9 Humans Are the Only Mammals That Don’t Keep Half of the Brain Awake During Sleep
A perfect example of this is dolphins. To be able to sleep and stay alive, half of their brain is asleep while the remaining half performs necessary processes like resurfacing to breathe. Humans cannot do that, although most of our species seem to function with half a brain even when awake… Ha, kidding.
Fact 10 Sleep Deprived People Are Often Over-Optimistic
Optimism is one characteristic needed to succeed in life. However, lack of sleep and too much optimism is a deadly combination. Why? Sleep deprived people are said to have more sensitivity to positive rewards, but they have no inclination of negative consequences.
A great example? Going shopping after a sleepless night and instantly snapping up that new iPhone in the iStore. The positive reward is you have a new phone. The negative consequence is that tomorrow you’ll be realizing that you’re $700 in credit card debt. Way to go, sleep!
Fact11 Night Work Heightens Your Chances of Cancer
Night shifts disrupt normal sleeping patterns. This leads to the classification of this sleep disruption as an IARC 2A Carcinogen.
In a study Conducted by Dr. Li Li, M.D., Ph.D., University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, regular sleep deprivation may increase one’s risk of aggressive breast cancer.
Fact 12 You Can’t Sneeze When You’re Asleep
This is because during sleep, there is less airflow to stir up particles that irritate the nose. This also relates to the fact that we can’t sleep with half our brain working.
Fact 13 You Can Sleep At Work in Japan and You Won’t Get Sacked
In Japan, sleeping at work is perfectly acceptable. It is viewed as exhaustion from working hard.
Um, is there any job openings in Japan?
Fact 14 There is a Disease Called Fatal Familia Insomnia.
This is a brain disease which is caused by the mutation of the PrPC protein. This can start with insomnia and worsen until patients die. This is genetically inherited. Sleeping pills, barbiturate and even induced coma cannot cure it.
Fact 15 You Only Dream of People You Have Already Seen
So next time you think you’ve met your prince charming in your dreams, don’t put it to the power of fate. Chances are you’ve met him already.
Fact 16 You Can Reset Your Biological Clock
Do this by shining a bright light at the back of your knees. The study is conducted by Dr. Scott Campbell and Dr. Patricia Murphy of the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Cornell University Medical College in White Plains.
So there you go. Some strange things about sleep that you might not have known are real.
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