Are you aware that you can learn a lot about how your brain works just by knowing more about sleep?
The sleep facts below reveal an intriguing connection between sleep and how our brains operate. They can help us understand some of the things we do and why we feel certain ways sometimes, and how this impacts our sleep and health in general.
In the last 25 years, we have learned more about sleep than we have at any time in the past. Read through these intriguing sleep facts and see how they might change what you think about your sleep patterns. We hope that by sharing them, you will choose to make a positive change to improve your sleep and quality of life.
Intriguing Sleep Facts about Dreaming
- People who are born without sight dream about sensations and emotions. Those born with sight of course see in their dreams, but more intriguing, most of what they recall is visual imagery. This shows that our experiences are major factors in what forms our dreamscapes. The sighted rarely point to the sensations of touch, smell, and taste, for example, which are the senses that dominate the dreams of the blind, most likely because they rely on these senses more.
- One of the more intriguing sleep facts is that contrary to popular belief, fear is not the main emotion connected with nightmares. Researchers have discovered that sadness, guilt and confusion are what most often cause these disturbing dreams. We find nightmares terrifying, therefore relating them to fear, but they are not really connected to the emotion of fear itself.
- People will normally forget about half of what they have dreamed throughout the night within 5 minutes of waking up. After 10 minutes, people will be unable to recall most of it. Psychologist Sigmund Freud postulated that this is because dreams are how our repressed thoughts come out. We therefore wish to quickly forget them again once we regain consciousness. This would make a more intriguing sleep fact. Today, however, researchers believe that the reason behind our forgetfulness is likely the simple fact that the brain is being used more once we wake up, and leaves dreams behind to make room for our activities. Whichever the case may be, dreams are recognized as representations of emotions and thoughts. What we dream about is therefore directly related to what concerns us, and this affects how we think and feel.
- Television has a notable impact on dreams, apart from the obvious content. Before colour television was invented, 85% of people dreamed in black and white. Now, only 12% of people dream entirely in black and white. Intriguingly, those who have experienced black and white television – mostly older people – dream in black and white more than younger people do. This indicates that our brains do not distinguish between this viewing experience and what we see in real life.
Intriguing Sleep Facts about Movement
- Those who have impaired hearing are known to use sign language in their sleep. Somniloquy, or sleep talking, is also quite common. Sleep talking is considered harmless, although it is classified as a type of parasomnia, which is abnormal sleep behavior. When we are asleep, certain functions such as speech are supposed to be put on hold. Sleep is a time of rest when the brain is less focused on conscious activity. It is therefore quite intriguing that signing and sleep talking should happen so often.
Other types of parasomnia that involve unnatural movements during sleep are even more intriguing sleep facts. Some can be very dangerous, such as sleepwalking, which affects about 15% of people. Some people do different activities unconsciously, such as driving, while others have even committed murder in their sleep. This brings us to wonder even more about how the unconscious and conscious mind are connected, much like Freud described 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.
- Hypnic jerks are another rather common experience that are considered healthy. They are characterized by whole-body muscle contractions that give us that sensation of falling when we are transitioning from quiet wakefulness or light sleep to REM sleep.
Hypnic jerks have not yet been thoroughly explained, but some scientists believe that this intriguing sleep fact is simply a part of that sleep transition, and that they happen when our nerves react abnormally during the process. Others believe that the reaction is related to the gag reflex, which is a primal preservation instinct that keeps us from danger. Hypnic jerks, then, would happen when our brains sense that our muscles relaxing could be dangerous – in other words, we are likely to fall out of our tree. Still others believe that it warns us of dangerously slow breathing and heart rates as we fall asleep.
Although hypnic jerks are overall considered healthy, tachypnea and tachycardia – abnormally rapid breathing and heart rate – have shown on a sleep study test called a Polysomnography (PSG). Vertex sharp waves have also been recorded on electroencephalograms (EEGs) during the contractions, which signals sleep disruption. They are certainly not healthy if they happen often, are intense, and disrupt sleep, causing insomnia.
If you are experiencing hypnic jerks to a degree that it is worrying you, worry might be the basic problem. Consuming too much caffeine and doing physical activity too close to bedtime can also cause them. To reduce their intensity and frequency, avoid substances that are known to disrupt sleep and start adopting de-stressing habits such as a bedtime routine and sleeping on pillows designed for muscle relaxation and beds that aid spinal alignment.
- Regular exercise aids sleep. Sporadic exercise, however, can make it harder to get to sleep, stay asleep, and sleep deeply enough for long enough. This can make us feel tired, impair performance, and damage our health over the long run.