Health and Fitness

16 Surprising Facts About Sleep You Didn’t Know

Learn interesting things about sleep

We all know that sleep is essential for our bodies to function properly. However, there are many sleeping-related facts that most people are not aware of. Here are some surprising things you might have not heard of when it comes to shuteye.

We go through four stages of sleep

For starters, you should know that we go through four stages of sleeping. This classification was updated in 2007, as before it was thought that there were actually five stages. Today, it’s known that we go through three non-REM and one REM (rapid eye movement) stages of sleep. The first stage normally lasts from one to five minutes and it’s when our bodies haven’t fully relaxed and we’re still dozing off. If we’re not disturbed during the first phase, we enter stage two. Here, our breathing and heart rate slow down, muscles relax, and body temperature drops. Eye movements stop and brain waves show a new activity during this 10- to 60-minute long stage. Stage three is deep sleep when our pulse, breathing, and muscle tone decrease. It’s believed that this stage is essential for restorative sleep that allows our bodies to recover and grow. This stage lasts anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. The last stage is REM sleep, when our brain activity picks up. While dreams can happen in non-REM stages too, they most often happen in stage four. On average, we enter the REM stage once we’ve been sleeping for some 90 minutes and the stage itself can last from 10 minutes to an hour. It’s also important that you understand that we can go through these stages four or five times per night.

Sleeping on our back is the best for our health

We all have a favorite sleeping position but some have shown to be better for our wellbeing. Research shows that women sleep in the fetal position more than men while Gen Xers and Millennials tend to prefer the position where arms and legs are outstretched. The log position – sleeping on the side with both arms down – is the least popular. The healthiest, however, is sleeping on your back as it allows your back, neck, and spine to be in a neutral position while resting.

Each age group has a recommended amount of sleep

In addition to the position, how long we sleep also matters. It’s important to know that there is a recommended amount of sleep for each age group. For example, newborns to three months old need from 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day. Infants and toddlers are recommended somewhere between 11 and 15 hours. Preschoolers are generally okay with ten to thirteen hours a day while 6-13-year-olds need 9 to 11 hours. As we get older, we need a few hours less so teenagers can sleep for 8 to 10 hours while adults up to 65 can function properly for seven to nine hours. Older adults need around seven or eight hours per day. However, it can all further depend on the individual.

Women sleep more than men

Studies also found that women need more sleep than men. According to Jim Horne, women require 20 minutes more as their brains work harder. As they tend to multitask more than men, they need more time to recover.

The people of the Netherlands get the most sleep

A 2016 study reported the trends across the globe in terms of how much sleep people get. It found that people from the Netherlands sleep the most and get eight hours and five minutes of shuteye per day. New Zealanders and French people followed while residents of Japan and Singapore were not getting the “recommended” eight hours. Moreover, it showed that 35% of adults from the US get less than seven hours a night.

Parents can lose six months of sleep during the first two years of their baby’s life

If you’re a parent, you’re surely familiar with how much sleep you can lose when there’s a newborn around. However, did you know that you might have lost as much as six months of sleep during your little one’s first two years? Furthermore, each child in the household increases a mom’s risk of not getting enough sleep by a whopping 46%.

It takes about seven minutes for an average person to fall asleep

In case you toss and turn every night struggling to fall asleep, your sleeping environment might not suit you or you might be dealing with a sleeping disorder. This is due to research that shows that it takes an average person about seven minutes to fall asleep. On the other hand, if it takes you less than five minutes, you are probably sleep deprived. Fortunately, there are many small things you can do to improve your quality of sleep.

The optimal sleeping temperature is 65 °F or 18.3 °C

One aspect of your sleeping environment that you could adjust is the temperature of your room. As the optimal temperature for sleep is 65 °F or 18.3 °C, set your thermostat accordingly or look for a mattress topper made of materials such as bamboo that will help you regulate your body temperature naturally. Moreover, infants need the room to be a few degrees warmer. However, keep in mind that you don’t want the nursery to be too warm to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

Looking at screens before bed can affect sleep quality

Besides the bedroom temperature, looking at screens that emit blue light can also affect your sleep. It’s best to limit your smartphone and computer usage before bed. Steer clear of electronics at least a few hours prior to turning in for the night.

Weighted blankets can help improve sleep

Another adjustment you can try is adding a weighted blanket to your bed. Research shows that sleeping under a weighted blanket can help individuals that suffer from anxiety and insomnia and improve their sleep. If you suffer from sleep apnea, asthma, or claustrophobia, this might be unsuitable for you.

What you eat and drink before bed also matters

Furthermore, if you drink alcohol or something that contains caffeine before bed, you could also have some trouble sleeping. What is more, foods that you also want to avoid include tomatoes and acidic foods, greasy and spicy foods, and foods that are high in fiber such as dried fruits? Almonds, kiwi, and low-fat yogurt parfait are all great alternatives for a snack before bed.

The most common sleeping disorder is insomnia

On the other hand, if you’re struggling to fall asleep, you might be dealing with one of 84 recognized sleep/wake disorders. Insomnia is the most common sleeping disorder that can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, family history, diet, exercise, and sleeping arrangements. Moreover, sleepwalking and snoring are nothing unusual and can be treated.

A lack of sleep can cause weight gain

We are well aware of some side effects of not getting enough sleep, such as being drowsy, tired, and less productive. However, did you know that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain? One reason for that is the fact that we actually burn calories while sleeping. Then, getting enough rest also regulates ghrelin and leptin – hormones that can increase and decrease our appetite, which means that we tend to eat more if we don’t sleep enough.

NASA claims that the perfect nap lasts for 26 minutes

Research has proven that naps can reduce stress, boost memory, and improve performance. While naps are more accepted in some countries than in others, you might have not adopted this habit yet. For instance, 65% of Canadians say they never nap but napping in Japan and China is culturally accepted and encouraged. If you’re considering adding this practice to your everyday routine, keep in mind that NASA says that sleeping for 26 minutes can improve your alertness and performance, so don’t make your naps too long.

Eleven days is the longest a person has gone without sleep

On average, people can survive two weeks without water and 60 days without eating. However, we can only go ten days without sleep. The current record for a human going without sleep is 264.4 hours, i.e. 11 days and 25 minutes. This record was set by a 17-year-old Randy Gardner in 1964. Such sleep deprivations experiments are no longer conducted as researchers are afraid of the effects it could have on the participants’ health. 

Some animal facts

Lastly, you might be interested in learning more about some other species. For example, giraffes need only 1.9 hours of sleep per day. Interestingly, a brown bat needs almost 20 hours of sleep a day. Elephants go into REM sleep every three to four days while they only need about three hours of sleep. Tigers need just as much sleep as infants – about 16 hours a day. However, the sleepiest animal – the koala – spends 18 to 22 hours of the day snoozing. Finally, while we spend a third of our lives asleep, cats spend two-thirds of their life sleeping.

As you can see, there are many interesting things about sleep that you surely didn’t know about. What surprised you the most?

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button