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Fun Facts about Sleep

Check out this list of fun facts you probably didn’t know about sleep. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Sleep is something we all think we know something about. After all, it is not only something we all have in common, it’s something we do at least once every day. But, for fun, we wanted to share 18 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about sleep.

  1. The record for the longest period of time without sleep stands at 264.4 hours and was set by a high school student in 1964.
  2. Most parents lose between 400 and 750 hours of sleep in each child’s first year.
  3. Only a doctor or medical professional can tell if someone is actually awake or asleep because we are capable of taking short cat naps with our eyes open and without losing our balance.
  4. If it takes you less than 5 minutes to fall asleep at night, you are sleep deprived.  On average, it takes people between 10 and 15 minutes to fall asleep.  If you are falling asleep faster than that it means you are overtired.
  5. Doctors didn’t discover REM (rapid eye movement) sleep until the 1950’s and this discovery was a leap forward in sleep science.
  6. Although there are several stages of sleep, we do not progress through them in order while asleep.  Most people will initially move from stage 1 to stage 4 in order the first time, they will then jump back and forth between them.
  7. Newborn babies spend amount 65% of their sleep in REM.
  8. Although scientists used to believe that we only dreamt while in REM, new research indicates that we may actually be dreaming the entire time we are asleep.
  9. The dreams we experience during REM are very different than the ones we experience during non-REM sleep.
  10. We have no conclusive evidence as to whether animals dream or not.
  11. If an elephant is sleeping standing up, they are experiencing non-REM sleep.  Elephants lie down during REM.
  12. Some sleeping pills and sleep aids suppress REM sleep which can be unhealthy over a period of time.
  13. No one yet knows why we dream or what purpose dreams serve but there are several hypotheses.  The theories claim we dream to help our memory, to sort through and store experiences, to “clean out” the unneeded information in our brains, among other things.
  14. British researchers have developed a pair of glasses that can essentially reset a person’s body clock by projecting a ring of bright light that mimics the sunrise into the eye.  The spectacles have been used with soldiers and can allow someone to go without sleep for as long as 36 hours, assumedly without experiencing functional deficits.
  15. You only have to be awake for 17 straight hours to begin experiencing the symptoms of sleep deprivation.  This includes functional deficits similar to those experienced by people with a blood alcohol level of .05%.
  16. Noises at night, especially those in the first and last hours of sleep can disrupt the function of your immune system, even if they don’t cause you to wake up.
  17. Light exposure, even just to the glowing numbers on an alarm clock can cause sleep disturbance even if it doesn’t wake you up.
  18. You may find it very difficult to fall asleep if the temperature of your room is too high.  In order to fall asleep, our body temperature has to decrease slightly and if the room is too warm it can keep this from happening and keep us from sleeping.