Five Strange Facts on the Subject of Sleep
A recent #SleepFactFriday post reported that people who don’t get enough sleep are likely to have bigger appetites. That got us thinking: What other interesting and/or useful revelations about sleep are out there waiting to be discovered? We did some digging and here are a few that piqued our interest:
REM sleep is weird. Your heart speeds up. Your breathing is fast and irregular. Your eyes dart in all directions (you probably knew that part). But without Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, you won’t feel truly rested. This is also the deepest of the sleep phases, when your most vivid dreams occur and when anomalies like sleepwalking are most likely to take place.
“Hypnic Jerks” is not a new indie band. Maybe this has happened to you: You’re lying in bed, gradually drifting off to sleep when all of a sudden, WHAM. Your body snaps violently to attention. You may even have the sensation that you’re falling. Believe it or not, this involuntary spasm happens to most people. Sleep researchers don’t know what causes it, but they have helpfully given it a name. It’s called a “hypnic jerk.” Also known as a “sleep start,” it may be related to a relaxing of the muscles which your brain misinterprets as a sudden fall. So no, you’re not possessed.
Deaf people sign in their sleep. Talking in your sleep isn’t unusual—studies show that three quarters of the population report they or someone they know does it. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, to learn that many people whose primary language is ASL or some variant have been witnessed signing in their sleep. No word on whether their monologues are as odd and random as everyone else’s.
Older people don’t need less sleep. Another myth busted: According to the National Sleep Foundation, our sleep patterns may change as we age—for example, older people may wake more frequently in the night—but our need for sleep does not vary over time, remaining relatively constant throughout our lives.
Sleepy is like drunk. An Australian sleep research site reports that after a mere seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness you’ll experience a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of 0.05%. For reference, that level of alcohol in your blood is enough to get you charged with drunk driving in many countries (and drunk cycling if you’re in Belgium).
If you’re as fascinated by the subject of sleep as we are, you’ll find more nuggets of wisdom on
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