Every day, all over the world, people tuck themselves into beds and drift off into dreamland. Yet how much do we really know about sleep?
Sleep is as important to people as breathing and eating. Even though some people sleep during the day and others at night, our instincts have made it pretty clear that at some point everyone has to rest. In fact, sleep is just about the best rest you can come by, which is why it’s so crucial to our survival. Yet even though we sleep every day, people don’t really know that much about sleep. So we thought we would compile 20 amazing facts about sleep, that we bet you didn’t know.
1. We don’t really know why we sleep.
Does this surprise you? Amazingly, although we spend 7-8 hours a night (if we’re lucky) sleeping off our problems, science still isn’t sure exactly why. Sure, we need to rest, and some studies have shown that memory and learning improve substantially after getting some shut-eye, but the jury is still out on why it’s so beneficial for our minds and bodies.
2. You will die from sleep deprivation before starvation.
People can survive weeks, in some cases months, without food, but we cannot survive without sleep. Experiments conducted with rats showed that, when kept constantly awake, rats reached death or a near-death like state between 11 and 32 days. Clearly, it’s not healthy to go without sleep, and chronic sleep deprivation could have serious health implications as well as hamper your day-to-day life. Chronic sleep deprivation has been found to affect performance, memory, mood and even appetite. So if you want to live longer, get enough sleep!
3. You can learn while you sleep.
We’ve all stayed up the night before an exam to do some late-night cramming, but we might have been going about it the wrong way. It turns out that only about 20% of the potential brain function is on the go between 10pm and midnight, explaining why it’s so hard to stay on track. However a 2010 study found that a quick nap can work wonders on our brain’s ability. The study, done by Harvard University, showed that students that slept and dreamt for 90 minutes before being given a puzzle scored much higher than their peers. Scientists believe that dreaming has a positive effect on memory recall and concentration, giving you a great reason to hit the sack early tonight.
4. 12% of people dream entirely in black and white.
For once it seems that the ageist jokers have had it right: the colour of your dreams may be related to the era in which you were born. Childhood exposure to black-and-white television seems to be a common thread in a study published in 2008 that uncovered around 12% of the general population dream in only black and white. Interestingly, people surveyed who were 25 years and under reported they almost never dreamt in black and white, while those over 55 dreamt in black and white about a quarter of the time.
5. Humans will spend a third of their lives sleeping.
Now, although this number differs from person to person, on average people spent 8 hours a day sleeping, which is a third of their day. Over their life, it’s also a third meaning that by the time you reach 75 you’ve been sleeping for 25 years. Just in case you were wondering that’s 9,125 days or 219,000 hours of blissful dreaming.