Sleep Facts, Myths, and Statistics

Find out if what you know about sleep is fact or fiction.

By Loren Bullock

There are many myths about sleep circling around, and while some of them are harmless old wive’s tales that are handed down through generations, others can be dangerous.

There is a lot of false information about sleep out there. Gaining clarity about how sleep works and whether or not the sleep myths you know are true can be time consuming. So, we did the work for you. We’ve compiled over 50 sleep facts and sleep statistics. Plus, we busted some sleep myths with the facts that dispel them.

Sleep Facts and Sleep Statistics by Category

Sleep and Nutrition

  • Lack of sleep makes you hungrier because leptin levels fall, meaning you may experience more cravings and overeat, ultimately causing you to gain weight
  • You can burn more calories in your sleep by turning down the thermostat or doing physical activities before bed. 
  • Eating heavy meals close to bedtime interferes with the body’s process of winding down for sleep. 
  • When you lose quality sleep, your metabolism drops by 30%.

Sleep Disorders

Dreams

  • Everybody dreams; sometimes you just don’t remember you dreams.
  • Today, 12% of people dream in black & white. This is generational, because these numbers were reversed before color TV was invented. 
  • You dream about faces and places you’ve already seen whether or not you remember; you cannot make up faces or locations in your sleep. 
  • Waking up without an alarm clock can help with dream recall. 
  • Some people are capable of lucid dreaming – being aware you’re dreaming and controlling what happens. Anyone can learn how to lucid dream.
  • There is evidence that blind people experience visual imagery in their dreams. 
  • The three most common emotions felt during dreams are anger, sadness, and fear. 

Parents and Sleep

Students and Sleep

  • Up to 60% of college students suffer from poor sleep quality. 
  • Sleep loss can hurt academic performance just as much as binge-drinking or drug use. 
  • Students with sleep deprivation have lower GPAs. 
  • Children tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer when they go to bed before 9 p.m. 
  • Teens need more sleep than adults: almost 9 hours. 

Gender and Sleep

  • Women need more sleep than men. 
  • Women sleep longer, but men sleep better
  • Men are at twice the risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea than women. 
  • Men fall asleep later and wake up later. 

Sleep Deprivation

  • There are multiple theories behind why we sleep – scientists still aren’t sure!
  • You’ll die of sleep deprivation before food deprivation. You can go 2 weeks without food, but only 10 days without sleep.
  • Insufficient sleep can result in the same lack of reaction time, focus, and perception as being intoxicated.
  • The average person falls asleep in 7 minutes, any less than 5 means you’re sleep deprived. 
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to psychosis. 
  • You can be awake for 17 hours before you start experiencing sleep deprivation symptoms.

Read More: Sleep Deprivation Statistics

Sleep and Productivity

  • The body and its biological clock never adjust to a shift work sleep schedule
  • Sleepiness peaks at 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. 
  • Sleeping in on the weekends can make up for not getting enough sleep during the week. 
  • Poor sleep is causing 23-45% of the population to lose more than two weeks worth of productivity every year. 

Humans, Animals, and Sleep

  • Humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep. 
  • Humans can sleep with their eyes open
  • Up to 100 sea otters sleep together in an otter raft to stop each other from drifting away. 
  • Dolphins only shut down half their brains during sleep, so they can swim to the surface and keep from drowning. 
  • Dogs sleep between 12-14 hours a day.

Read More: Sleep in the Animal Kingdom


Fun Facts About Sleep

You can’t sneeze while asleep.

Though we should be more prone to sneezing as we lie horizontal (our mucous membranes are more sensitive and swollen), we can’t sneeze while we sleep. There isn’t enough movement for dust particles to irritate our sinuses, and if there is, the neurotransmitters that initiate the sneeze are shut down during REM sleep. If your body really gets the urge to sneeze, it’ll wake you up first.

Humans are the only mammals that willingly put off sleep.

That’s because sleep is one of our most primal urges as mammals. If you’re feeling drowsy, it’s because your body needs rest. All other mammals give in to this urge because it allows them to function and survive in the wild.

Blindness inhibits circadian rhythm.

People who are totally blind often do not fall asleep at “normal times” because our bodies’ natural body clock, known as the circadian rhythm, relies on light reception. When the sun goes down and it gets dark, our bodies release melatonin, the sleep hormone. And when the sun comes up, and light gets in, it restricts the melatonin output. Totally blind people don’t have this light/dark reception, therefore, they fall asleep when their body tells them to, not based on the sun.

You only spend about 25% of the night in REM sleep.

You probably know that REM sleep is the sleep stage where people dream. And though it feels like we dreamt all night long, REM is a very small portion of the time you spend unconscious. In fact, REM sleep only occurs every 90 minutes throughout the night. The rest is spent in NREM sleep, the other four stages of sleep.

90 million Americans report snoring to be the primary cause of sleep disruption.

Studies show that these adults think of their own snoring, or the snoring of their partner, simply as an unavoidable nuisance and road block to a good night’s sleep. Actually, chronic snoring can be a sign of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea. If you or your sleep partner is suffering from chronic snoring, visit your doctor or a sleep clinic.

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Sleep Myths Debunked

 

Sleep Myths Sleep Facts
If you die in your dreams, you will die in reality.  Dying in your sleep is most closely tied to heart and brain health. 
The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a night. 
You can learn new information while you sleep.  This phenomenon known as hypnopaedia is a myth, but sleeping does help you process new memories so it is tied to learning.
Count sheep to fall asleep easier. Tactics such as counting sheep are more distracting than helpful when trying to fall asleep. 
Turning up the radio helps keep you awake while driving. The safest way to handle drowsy driving is to pull over for a quick nap, or prevent it altogether with a good night’s sleep
Snoring isn’t harmful. Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea or other breathing issues. Consult your doctor if you snore incessantly. 
Exercising before bed helps you fall asleep easier. Exercising right before bed inhibits melatonin production, making it harder to sleep.
People can train themselves to operate effectively on less sleep. One of the biggest causes of drowsiness among Americans is self-imposed sleep deprivation
Mothers lose the most sleep with a newborn baby. A newborn affects men’s sleep more than women’s. 
Some people don’t dream. Everyone dreams even if you don’t remember your dreams. 
Your mind rests during sleep. Brains are active throughout the night, using more oxygen than when awake. 
You only yawn because you are tired or bored. Yawning gives your brain extra oxygen and keeps it cool. If you yawn randomly throughout the day, your brain is just taking what it needs. 
With enough effort, you can force yourself to fall asleep. We can’t make ourselves fall asleep; we can only create favorable sleep conditions. 
Couples who sleep in separate beds are having relationship issues. Getting a sleep divorce can help each person get a better night of sleep, especially couples with different work schedules. 
Nappers get the most sleep. Nappers sleep less than non-nappers overall. 
Staying up late to study will help you pass. Getting more sleep will help with recall of the test material. 
Insomnia means trouble falling asleep. Insomnia is not only characterized by difficulty falling asleep, but frequently waking up throughout the night, excessive tiredness, and waking up without feeling refreshed. 
Drinking alcohol before bed helps you fall asleep. Alcohol reduces your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, thus disturbing your body’s natural sleep cycle.
Don’t wake a sleepwalker. The best thing you can do is guide them back to bed, and if you wake them up, they are unlikely to remember. 
You eat 8 spiders a year in your sleep. When you sleep with your mouth open, you’re probably snoring, effectively scaring away any spiders. 
Hitting the snooze button gives you more time to rest. The snooze button disrupts your sleep and sleep cycle
Watching TV helps you relax before bed. TVs emit blue light that keeps you awake. Try to avoid this before bed. 

 

Sleep Surveys

Dive into more sleep facts and trends by checking out our proprietary sleep surveys and reading about the latest findings from sleep research.


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