Did you know that you could tell a lot about how your brain works just by learning about sleep?
These sleep facts show an interesting connection between sleep and how our brains work. They can help us understand some behaviors and why we feel certain ways, and how this affects our sleep and general health.
We are learning a lot about sleep lately - more in the last 25 years than in all human history. Take a look at these interesting sleep facts and see how they might change how you view your sleep patterns. Our hope is that you will come to a decision to make a positive change to improve your sleep and quality of life.
Interesting Sleep Facts about Dreaming
- People who are born blind dream about sensations and emotions, as opposed to the sighted who not only see in their dreams, but recall the visual imagery as a dominant factor. This shows that our experiences dominate our dreamscapes. Sighted people rarely recall the sensations of touch, smell, and taste, for instance, while these senses dominate the dreams of the blind, who rely on them more.
- One of the more interesting sleep facts is that fear is not the main emotion connected with nightmares. Researchers have found that sadness, guilt and confusion are the emotions that most often cause these disturbing dreams. We find them terrifying, therefore relating them to the emotion of fear, but they are not really about fear itself.
- We usually forget about half of what we’ve dreamed within 5 minutes of waking up, and most of it within 10 minutes. According to psychologist Sigmund Freud, this is because dreams are how our repressed thoughts come out, and we quickly tuck them back away once we regain consciousness. Although this would make a more interesting sleep fact, today, researchers believe that it’s probably simply because the brain is used more actively once we wake up, so it leaves dreams behind. Whatever the case, dreams are recognized as representations of thoughts and emotions. What you dream about is therefore closely linked to what concerns you, and this directly affects how you feel and think.
- Television has a significant impact on our dreams. Apart from content, 85% of people dreamed in black and white before colour television was invented. Now, only 12% of people continue to dream entirely in black and white, and older people - who have experienced black and white television - dream in black and white more than younger people do. It seems our brains do not distinguish between this viewing experience and what we see in real life.
Interesting Sleep Facts about Movement
- The deaf are known to use sign language in their sleep. Somniloquy, or sleep talking, is also common, although it is considered a type of parasomnia, or abnormal sleep behavior. From what we know of sleep, certain functions such as speech are supposed to be put on hold. It is therefore quite interesting that it should happen so often and be considered harmless.
Other types of parasomnia which involve unnatural movements during sleep are more interesting sleep facts. They can be very dangerous, such as sleepwalking. About 15% of people walk in their sleep, and some often do different activities unconsciously, such as driving. Others have even committed murder in their sleep. This brings us to wonder even more about the connection between the unconscious and conscious mind as Freud described it in his theory of the id, ego and superego. This also begs the question of whether or not it’s dangerous to wake a parasomniac. The answer is, no - you can generally wake a sleepwalker without endangering them.
- Hypnagogic or hypnic jerks are another rather common experience, though not yet thoroughly explained. It refers to a whole-body muscle contractions that happen as someone feels a sensation of falling when they are transitioning from quiet wakefulness or light sleep to REM sleep.
Some scientists believe that this interesting sleep fact is simply a part of the transition, happening when nerves react abnormally during the process. Others believe that it is connected with the gag reflex, a primal preservation instinct that keeps us from danger when our muscles relax, i.e. we are likely to fall out of our tree. Still others believe that it warns us of danger when our breathing and heart rate have slowed far below normal levels while falling asleep.
Hypnic jerks are overall considered healthy, although they can register vertex sharp waves on an electroencephalogram (EEG) - signalling sleep disruption - and tachypnea and tachycardia - abnormally rapid breathing and heart rate - on a sleep study test called a Polysomnography (PSG). They are certainly not healthy if they happen often, are intense, and disrupt sleep, causing insomnia.
If you experience hypnic jerks, you may be suffering from anxiety, consume too much caffeine, or exercise close to bedtime. We recommend avoiding substances that are known to disrupt sleep and applying destressing techniques like a bedtime routine and sleeping on pillows designed for muscle relaxation and beds that aid spinal alignment.
- Regular exercise helps us sleep better. Sporadic exercise or increased physical activity before bed time, however, can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get enough deep sleep to feel rested and be healthy over the long run.