From the moment we drift off until we wake, plus any dreaming in-between, there’s a whole lot we still don’t know about sleep. Over the past few decades, scientific studies have given us a little more insight into why we sleep the way we do, and how our sleeping habits compare to those of other animals.
However, there’s still a lot to be learned about sleep, from dreaming to snoring and restless leg syndrome. And when we do learn things, sleep can be a pretty weird business. Don’t believe us? Here are some super weird facts about sleep to bamboozle your brain!
We hope thinking about them doesn’t stop you sleeping at night...
Dreaming in black and white is a thing
What do your dreams look like? Are you an active participant or do you often see your own dreams as a spectator, like watching a movie? Do you ever experience lucid dreaming and have a say in what happens? Believe it or not, media can play a really important part in shaping how we see while we sleep.
One scientific study revealed that 12 percent of people dream in black and white. Not that strange, huh? Well, the same study also concluded that those who dreamt in black and white largely did so because they’d grown up watching black and white TV. That’s a pretty big deal in terms of showing the impact of what we see on how our imagination works. On a similar note, people who have been blind from birth often describe experiencing dreams based on emotions and sound.
1 in 4 couples sleep in separate beds
If you’re part of a couple, how do you like to sleep? Do you snuggle up for a cuddle then drift apart through the night? Apparently, up to one in four American couples actually shun sharing beds altogether. It’s now possible with products like mattresses and electric blankets to create your ideal sleeping conditions on your side of the bed. Many couples prioritise sleep over bed-sharing and choose to do their own thing come bedtime. Unsurprisingly, complaints about a partner’s snoring were a common explanation of why such arrangements were set up.
Men sleep better than women
Surveys show that one third of men claim to sleep well on a nightly basis, with women having twice as many sleepless nights as men. Experts believe that biological factors play a big part in our sleep. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle affect body temperature and energy levels, meaning it is much harder for women's bodies to be in the optimum condition for regulated sleep.
On average, people have five separate dreams per night. Even if you can’t recall a single dream you’ve had over many years of sleep, you will actually have been dreaming just as much as anyone else. When we remember a dream, around half of it is forgotten the instant we wake up. We lose around 90% of what we remember a few minutes later. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that our dreams often seem a tad disjointed.
Many animals sleep with half their brain
Thought to be largely a defence mechanism, many animals only allow half of their brain to fall asleep. Dogs and cats, for example, often sleep with their ears still pricked up, and can bounce into action the moment they are woken.
A similar thing can be experienced by humans when sleeping in a new setting. An unknown place can give us a subconscious fear, and people often experience poor sleep until they feel comfortable in a new place. This is likely to be a throwback to our ancestors’ days of sleeping outside, with danger all around. To this day, a better night’s sleep is experienced by people if they are in a familiar environment.