We tend to spend about a third of our life sleeping (or 25 years), but despite spending so much time doing it, it's still pretty mysterious in a lot of ways. Different people need different amounts of sleep than the next person, and also at different points in time. People can survive for up to two months without eating, but only 11 days without sleep. We can't really skip sleep or trick ourselves into thinking that it's been handled, and yet so many of us have trouble sleeping even when we desperately need it. And then our productivity suffers big time.
We certainly don't know everything there is to know about sleep, but here are some weird facts about it that you probably didn't know.
13 Your Relationship Status Might Affect Your Sleep
There are a few different ways that relationships can affect your sleep. Some studies have found that people who are divorced, widowed, or separated report having more insomnia than the rest of the people out there. But then again, there are totally happy coupled up people who have a really hard time getting a restful night's sleep with someone else in the bed next to them. More married couples than ever are choosing to sleep apart, simply because they sleep better in their own beds and therefore will be happier in their relationship and in general. Whatever floats your boat.
12 Not Sleeping Enough Makes You More Hungry
Skipping sleep doesn't just make you tired, it can also make you gain weight. When we are lacking sleep, the body starts to release more of the hormone ghrelin, which is responsible for making us feel hungry. At the same time, the levels of the hunger controlling hormone leptin fall. If you've ever felt like you had a hole in your stomach after a particularly bad night's sleep, this is exactly why. One study found that people who sleep less than six a hours a day were 30 percent more likely to become obese than people who slept seven to nine hours.
11 "Social Jet Lag" Is A Thing
Anything you do to disrupt your sleep schedule can cause problems, even if it's just a normal weekend in town. We tend to stay up later and sleep in later on the weekends than we do during the week, which would be fine if our bodies could adjust, but they can't. When you wake up Monday morning feeling particularly groggy, you can blame it on sleeping in on Sunday and throwing things out of whack. Studies have actually found that you're better off setting your alarm for your weekday wakeup time and then taking a nap later in the day, as opposed to sleeping in.
10 Humans Are The Only Mammal That Delay Sleep
Humans are the only animals that actually choose not to sleep when we're tired, other animals just go to sleep when they feel the urge. Imagine that! We actually do a ton of sleep delay...by skipping afternoon naps when we're groggy at work and also staying up later than we should be because we have more important (or more interesting) things to do. When you think about it, that's actually a weird reminder that we are just animals. Guess we live a pretty complicated life in comparison to a lot of the other animals out there.
9 Insomnia Is Not Defined By The Loss Of Sleep
You can lose plenty of sleep in a night and be facing insomnia...because insomnia is actually defined by how it affects you the following day. People who suffer from insomnia can feel groggy, disoriented, get headaches, and have trouble concentrating. It's stressful to say the least, and more common than you might think. At least one in three people experience at least mild levels of insomnia on a regular basis. Sometimes this grows out of having poor sleep habits, and it can of course get exacerbated by stress of any kind, emotional or physical.
8 Not Sleeping Can Make You Act Drunk
When you don't sleep for 16 hours straight your performance starts to decline, and so much so that it's comparable to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. The legal limit of BAC is .08. This is one really good reason why you shouldn't be driving when you're exhausted. Reaction times go down, which makes it much harder to deal with unexpected things on the road, and falling asleep while driving is totally possible. Some car rental agreements actually ask people to sign a waiver that they won't drive on less than six hours of sleep.
7 People Used To Get Up In The Night On Purpose
In the 17th century, sleeping was basically done in two separate shifts. People would wake up sometime in the middle of the night and totally get up. During this awake time they would socialize, have sex, read, or pray, and then just go back to sleep until the morning. We can assume that this is partly because people probably went to bed earlier than they do now, because it's not like they were going to be binge watching Netflix and keep themselves up late or anything. Once the sun went down that was sort of it.
6 Exercising Affects Sleep In Different Ways
Working out is a healthy, pretty much mandatory habit, and doing it consistently can make you sleep better overall. But if you workout too close to your bedtime or too intensely, you can actually fire the body up too much and keep yourself awake at night. Some studies have found that people with chronic insomnia can improve the quality of their sleep with a single exercise session of moderate intensity cardio. These findings have not held up when the people were doing strength training, so you probably have the treadmill or something to really make a difference.
5 If You Can't Sleep, You Can Probably Blame Your Phone
The access to cell phones and being constantly connected to the Internet is one of the biggest sleep disturbances we have these days. Smart phones and tablets emit light that confuses the body and messes with your natural melatonin production. That coupled with the fact that many of us reflexively reach for our phones if we wake up in the night to check the time or even check emails. Many of us use our phones as alarms clocks, so it's not like we're going to shut them off or something, but it can be helpful to put them on the other side of the room while we sleep so we don't have the option of scrolling in bed.
4 Some Companies Let Their Employees Nap
The stats don't lie, taking midday power naps can increase productivity immensely, so some companies are not only cool with their employees catching some shut eye on the job, but they make it convenient to do so. Google, Nike, and Zappos are all companies who have created spaces for their employees to nap or meditate when their energy is lagging, and they're smart for it. Some reports estimate that lack of sleep costs the United States $63 billion a year in lost productivity. Yikes.
3 Not Everyone Dreams In Color
What the what? Only about 75 percent of people dream in color when they're snoozing, and before color TV existed only 15 percent of people did. The real world in color wasn't enough to inspire the brain, we had to watch it play out on TV before we caught on? Interesting. But even more strange, researchers think that before TV existed at all people all used to dream in color. Not sure what this means except that our minds are clearly shaped by our environments in unexpected ways.
2 Everyone Dreams About the Same Things
Our dreams can vary significantly person to person, but there are some commonalities between them that make us all seem pretty similar. Since we tend to have similar dreams (such as dreaming that our teeth are falling out or showing up somewhere naked), dream interpretation has been around since the ancient Mesopotamian culture. Of course modern psychology has its own ideas as well, but people have been trying to figure out what their dreams mean since pretty much the beginning of time. Not that we really know all that much, but we try.
1 You're Sort Of Paralyzed When You Sleep
We do move during the night, but when we're in a REM state of sleep, the neurotransmitters that stimulate our motor neurons gets suppressed. This is likely because we dream in our REM state, and if we could move freely, we would be acting our dreams in entirety which of course could cause some pretty strange (and dangerous) scenarios. Some people in fact have this problem, which is called REM Behavior Disorder. Probably won't be wanting to share the bed with any of them.