10 Interesting Facts about Sleeping

1. Why do our bodies twitch before we fall asleep?

According to failedsuccess.com, nearly 70% of people have a “hypnagogic myoclonic twitch” as they fall asleep. This “hypnic jerk” is most likely the result of your brain misinterpreting the relaxation of your muscles as they prepare for sleep. Your brain, thinking your body is falling down, instructs your muscles to jerk yourself up.

2. If you can’t sleep, what’s better: counting sheep or getting out of bed and being productive?

Both SelfhelpMagazine and apollolight.com recommend getting out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you stay in bed and do non-sleeping activities (e.g. watch TV, read a book), you can subconsciously train yourself to not be able to sleep in your bedroom. SelfhelpMagazine even advises not to count sheep, as counting stimulates your brain.

3. Why do we yawn?

There is no definitive explanation for why we yawn. The closest we can get to an answer is what med students are taught, which is that we yawn due to low levels of oxygen in our lungs. When the air sacs in our lungs don’t get fresh air, they stiffen the lungs by collapsing a bit, which signals the brain to instruct the body to sigh or yawn in order to receive more air in the lungs. (source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3076713/)

4. Why do animals walk in a circle before they lie down?

Certain animals (dogs, for example) walk in circles (or create “dog crop circles,” as coined by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) before lying down because this behavior was hard-wired into them. It’s a natural behavior their ancestors did in order to flatten down grass to make for a comfy bed.

5. Is there any effect of eating before you go to bed?

MSN Health studied what happens if you eat right before bedtime. The couple who ate a few hours before they went to bed slept fine, whereas the couple who ate before they went to sleep reported “tossing and turning all night.” The poor sleep was attributed to your body digesting food when it should be winding down in preparation for sleeping, which results in reflux. Conversely, going to bed on an empty stomach will also result in disruptive sleep (specifically, missing the “deep sleep” stage that allows your body to rest and repair). The best thing to do is to have a light snack before going to bed, which will provide fuel for your body as it rests for the night.

6. How many dust mites are there in beds? Are they harmful?

Environment, Health, and Safety Online has the inside scoop about dust mites. 100,000 to upwards of 10 million mites can live in your mattress. They sustain off dead skin cells, making beds a veritable smorgasbord for these microscopic critters. Some people are allergic to a protein found in dust mites’ droppings (meaning they get itchy eyes, their asthma flares up, etc), but otherwise dust mites pose no harm or health risk.

7. Why do we have dreams about falling?

According to dreamdoctor.com, falling dreams are typically the result of our sense of balance shifting from lying down in the real world to being mobile in our dreams. Falling dreams can be especially common when you’re drifting off to sleep, since at this time your body is adjusting to the new sense of balance.

8. Can blind people see in their dreams?

Both ScienceIQ.com and About.com agree that the simple answer is no. If you weren’t born blind, then you can have visual dreams, as these images can derive from memory; however, people who are born blind will have auditory dreams that are coupled with the feeling of emotion and movement, whereas people who are legally blind will be able to see whatever they can distinguish when they’re awake.

9. Do deaf people hear in their dreams?

Discovery Online posts that deaf people can establish an auditory inner voice because of the brain’s ability to develop phonological representations, though these “sounds” may be different than what noises actually sound like. When asked about their dreams, deaf undergrad students at Gallaudet University responded that sometimes they sign and sometimes they speak, although their speech seems to be transmitted mentally rather than through actual speech.

10. Why do kids wet the bed?

Children wet the bed not because of emotional problems or faulty kidneys, but simply because their bladders are still too small to hold the amount of urine their bodies make overnight. Furthermore, the U of M Health System adds that a lot of children are heavy sleepers, so they may not yet be able to wake up when it’s time to go to the bathroom.

Posted in Sleep and Health | 31 Comments

31 Responses to “10 Interesting Facts about Sleeping”

  1. Hornswaggled says:

    The twitching just when you fall asleep was the most fascinating. I always wondered what caused that.

  2. fatmonkee says:

    Yeah, that twitching thing was awesome. I swore I was the only one who did that. I would sometimes fall asleep in class and would jerk up and make a fool of myself.

  3. nequam says:

    I don’t buy the answer to No. 7. Rather, I believe the explanation to No. 1 accounts also for the occurrence of falling dreams. Compare the two different explanations for essentially the same sensation:

    No. 1: “Your brain, thinking your body is falling down [as you fall asleep], instructs your muscles to jerk yourself up.”

    No. 7: “Falling dreams can be especially common when you’re drifting off to sleep, since at this time your body is adjusting to the new sense of balance.”

  4. Adam says:

    Fascinating, many times i’ve had those ‘falling dreams’, never really got around to finding out if they were common or what caused them… What about ‘Lucid Dreaming’?

  5. Tim says:

    Very interesting, especially the twitching. I had no idea that it was so common.

  6. Jeff says:

    The bit about blind people not seeing in their dreams is fascinating.

  7. j3ckyl says:

    You missed one, Your brain is far more active asleep than it is watching TV.

  8. Mary says:

    This is actually your body thinking that it is dying. A natural response is to jerk to kick start your heart. It is called a Myoclonic jerk.

  9. Mary says:

    Mary, you are talking out of your arse, the OP is correct.

  10. hnt84 says:

    for nuber 3, there is a theory that we yawn to signal to other humans when we are tired, it is a social reaction that is hard wired in to human behavior. This theory also explains why yawning is contagious as it signals to others that its time to go to sleep.

    also when snakes look like there yawning, they are actually reajusting there 3 jaw bones preparing to eat a large meal, just as an interesting fact!

  11. Corey says:

    Studies have been done on the effects of yawning, and lack of oxygen, while plausible, probably isn’t the main reason. Subjects put in a room filled with pure oxygen seemed to have the same yawning tendencies as they normally would.

  12. Tab says:

    I’ve notice that the twitching happens to me when I am very tired.

    According to Faqs.org Mary is correct.

  13. Bedding Advisor says:

    I often twitch before falling asleep and that’s exactly what it feels like, like I’m trying to stop myself from falling. I had often wondered why it occurred – makes perfect sense.

  14. Grae says:

    The bit about the blind isn’t quite right. If you’re legally blind, you will see what you were once capable of seeing — that is, if you suddenly have your eyes out, you will still be able to see perfectly well in your dreams so long as the occipital lobe of the brain (oversimplification) is functional.

  15. Sherley says:

    I love the article. Keep at it, I will be following this site for further advice.

  16. tj says:

    I read a research report that found yawning is mainly a matter of cooling the brain. It was not lack of oxygen, but temperature. http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/12/15/yawn-brain-head.html

  17. Borellus says:

    Interesting, that twitching thing mentioned happens to me a lot.

  18. Ashent says:

    Nice list, but I was looking forward to something about DMT production and its effect on the subconscious.

  19. I am a smelly man says:

    I have quite large pet fish (Cichlids) and they do actually yawn – they do not have lungs so explain that Einsteins! Google it if you don’t believe me and you can also find video online of various tired fishies. Furthermore, when I see my fish yawn I have caught myself yawning in sympathy, budgies yawn also BTW – Have I identified the missing link?

  20. DWINDLE says:

    I suffer from “exploding head syndrome” (look it up) where I sometimes hear very realistic explosions or gun shots right next to me as I am drifting off to sleep. Seems to be anxiety related, as whatever I was thinking about is instantly forgotten.

  21. Sleeping is for lazy bastards.

    Lazy bastards such as me.

    I am legally blind when I am not wearing my glasses or contacts. You know what I see when I dream?


  22. DarkfireSG says:

    I had never even heard of people twitching as they fell asleep before.

  23. Devon says:

    Whenever I twitch before I sleep, it consists of 3 increasingly violent twitches, and after the 3rd I am sound asleep, or so I have been told

  24. jason says:

    Don’t forget body temperature! There are studies that prove a cooler room (approximately 68 degrees farenheit) aids in staying asleep and falling asleep. Our tendency is to bundle up before bed but in truth, we would probably sleep better with fewer or covers or more lightweight fabrics.

  25. I never hat the leg twitching until after I had a stroke at age 49. Even though I am mostly recovered my leg with twitch many nights even some mornings when I am waking up. I have lost hours and hours of sleep from this.

    Sometimes it is so bad, I have considered having the leg amputated so I can get some sleep.

    I doubt that the explanation given here applies to my condition.

  26. Linda says:

    5. Is there any effect of eating before you go to bed?

    When I was in China, they had a saying that if you walk 100 steps after every meal you will live to be 99. This is because the stomach cannot move the food that is ingested, it only digests it. The walking helps settle the food, thus eating right before bed will not help the food settle.

    So walk 100 steps before bed…

  27. Full Size says:

    I have always wondered about twitching before falling asleep. Very interesting facts. Thanks for posting.

  28. Alan says:

    Fascinating. I’ve always wondered about the twitch as well. I agree with the comments about eating too. In particular, don’t eat any rich foods before going to bed unless you want to toss and turn all night!


  29. energy monitoring says:

    I twitch, or “fall”, a lot before I fall asleep. Good to know I’m not a freak.

  30. Myfav says:

    I found item #3 about yawning very interesting because I yawn a lot, even when I am not tired. I always wondered why, and now I know that I don;t have enough oxygen to my lungs at times.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Number 10 is partially incorrect. The external sphincters at the base of the bladder to the urethra are smooth muscle but we learn to control these sphyncters to hold in urine. Babies are not able to do this with urinary or anal sphyncters thus needing nappies. As they grow older, children learn to control the muscles but during sleep, the ability takes longer to learn to control.

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