70 Strange and Fascinating Facts About Sleep


70 Strange and Fascinating Facts About Sleep to Read Before You Sleep

How much do you really know about sleep and sleeping? For something that plays such a critical role in our lives, and it’s incredible how little we know about it. You’d think the research behind something we spend years of our lives doing would be pretty well-established by now, but it’s not. Sleep is incredibly mysterious and essential to your health and well-being – so much so that we’re researching, analyzing, and tracking it as if sleep is an entirely new discovery. Each year we learn new things about sleep, why we do it, and how it affects us. In fact, our knowledge of sleep has advanced more in the past 30 years than ever, but there’s still much more to learn.

We’re still, to this day, not 100% sure why we sleep. But let’s dive into the facts we do know. We hope that our list of sleep facts provides you with some fun and useful new information about sleep. We promise you’ll learn something new.

Sleep Basics

  1. Scientists still have not discovered why we sleep entirely. Researchers have been able to measure brain waves and find out a little bit about what is going on in our brains, but they still don’t know why sleep is necessary for humans.
  2. The latest research recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night for healthy adults. However, it has been discovered that some individuals can function normally, without experiencing sleepiness or drowsiness, on as few as five or six hours of sleep, while others need ten hours of sleep for function normally.
  3. 30% of American adults sleep less than 7 hours per night.
  4. Adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis are more likely to have diabetes, asthma, or cancer.
  5. Sleeping in two segments was normal in the 17th century. People would get up in the middle of the night for an hour or two and read, pray, be intimate, or socialize with others.
  6. Tiredness peaks twice a day, at 2 am and 2 pm. That’s why you’re less alert after lunch.
  7. Research shows you’ll sleep better during a new moon and worse during a full moon, although the reasons are unclear.
  8. Humans can sleep with their eyes open. Only a physician can truly tell if someone is awake or asleep.
  9. When you move to a higher altitude (13,200 feet or more), it’s likely you will experience sleep disruptions for a while. In fact, higher the altitude, the more significant the sleep disruption. Research suggests that this is caused by lower oxygen levels and changes in your respiration. The good news is that you will probably adjust to the new altitude in a couple
  10. ‘Morning people’ are more likely to be successful in their careers
  11. Finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning is a real condition called dysania. It may signal a nutritional deficiency, depression or other problems.
  12. Have trouble waking up on Monday mornings? Blame ‘social jet lag” from your altered weekend sleep schedule.
  13. Humans are the only mammals that sleep that will delay it willingly.
  14. The perfect nap, according to NASA, lasts for 26 minutes.

Sleep Disorders

  1. There are 84 recognized sleep/wake disorders organized into 8 categories in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD).
  2. Over 70 million Americans (22%) suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. Of those, over 60% have a chronic sleep disorder.
  3. It’s thought that up to 15% of the population are sleepwalkers.
  4. Snoring is a common problem for both men and women. In fact, about 40% of men and 24% of women are habitual snorers. Are you one of them? Find out if it’s related to a more significant problem – get a home sleep test!
  5. If you have a partner that snores, you’re losing an average of one hour of sleep per night and being woken up about 20 times!
  6. Research shows that shift work puts people at an increased risk for a variety of chronic illnesses including cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases. The body human never fully adjusts to the altered schedule shift work requires.
  7. Sleep disruption caused by working nights is even classified as a potential cause of cancer by the World Health Organization.
  8. Patients with erectile dysfunction (ED) are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
  9. Somniphobia is the fear of falling asleep.


  1. Insomnia is defined by the daily drowsiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and other problems it causes not by the amount of sleep lost.
  2. Stress, physical or mental illness, living or sleeping arrangements, family history, shift work, diet and exercise habits can all cause insomnia.
  3. Taking sleeping pills for insomnia that occurs as a normal part of grieving can disrupt this natural process.

Sleep Deprivation

  1. The average person can survive 2 weeks without H2O but only 10 days without sleep
  2. The record for longest period without sleep according to Guinness World Records is 449 hours (18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes). They no longer track it for fear that participants will suffer ill effects.
  3. Stress or anxiety causes more than half of Americans to lose sleep.
  4. Lack of sleep can affect your memory as sleep triggers changes in the brain that solidifies memories.
  5. When you don’t sleep, you’re likely to be hungrier as levels of leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone, decrease.
  6. A little sleep loss is enough to dampen your immunity. This makes you more susceptible to colds, the flu, and viruses.
  7. Each year, sleep-related errors and accidents cost U.S. businesses an estimated $56 billion, cause nearly 25,000 deaths, and result in 2.5 million disabling injuries.
  8. 85% of police officers, 80% of regional pilots, and 48% of air-traffic controllers fall asleep while working according to research.
  9. 41% of medical workers admit they have made fatigue-related mistakes.
  10. 20% of pilots have admitted to making a serious error due to sleepiness.
  11. Staying awake for 16 hours straight has the same impact on your performance as a blood alcohol level of .05% (nearly the legal limit for a DUI).
  12. Some car rental contracts make you promise not to drive on fewer than 6 hours of sleep.
  13. There are 100,000 auto crashes caused by drowsy drivers annually
  14. 7% of Americans have admitted to nodding off while driving, according to one study.
  15. Three of the most significant world disasters were caused to some extent by sleep deprivation including the 1989 Exxon oil spill, The Challenger space shuttle disaster, and the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.
  16. You will die more quickly from sleep deprivation than food deprivation.
  17. Pain tolerance is reduced by sleep deprivation.
  18. Staying up all night to study can reduce your capacity for learning and remembering new facts by 40%.
  19. Statistics show that you’re less likely to have a traffic accident on the day that daylight savings time ends due to the extra hour of sleep.

Getting to Sleep

  1. You can expect it to take 10 to 15 minutes for you to fall asleep at night. If you fall asleep virtually as soon as your head hits the pillow (or in less than 5 minutes), it’s likely that you are sleep-deprived.
  2. Scientists have determined that counting sheep is ineffective for putting oneself to sleep. It seems to be too dull; imagining a calming landscape generally works much better.
  3. 1 in 4 married couples sleep in separate beds
  4. 8% of Americans sleep naked
  5. One of our biggest sleep distractions is 24-hour Internet access.
  6. While regular exercise early in the day usually improves your sleep, sporadic or evening exercise can keep you up at night.
  7. Being too hot can keep you awake. Your body temperature needs to decrease slightly for you to fall asleep. If it’s too hot in your room, it can prevent you from sleeping.
  8. Drinking coffee before bed delays your internal body clock by 40 minutes.
  9. Watching TV or using your phone, tablet, or laptop in the two hours before bed can affect your sleep. These devices emit blue light which tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime.

While You’re Sleeping

  1. You can lose over a pound of weight while you sleep from exhaling and calories burned.
  2. It’s impossible to sneeze while sleeping.
  3. Your brain selectively filters out noises that might wake you up as you sleep – specifically those that don’t suggest you’re in danger.
  4. Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake.
  5. There are five stages of sleep, but you do not move through them in order while asleep. Typically, you move through them in order the first time; then you move back and forth between select groups of them.
  6. Light exposure, even just to the glowing numbers on an alarm clock can cause sleep disturbance even if it doesn’t wake you up.
  7. Most people burn more calories while they sleep than they do watching television.


  1. Today, only 12% of people dream in black and white – the rest of us dream in color. Before color television, just 15 percent of people dreamed in color.
  2. You can only dream about faces you have already seen.
  3. Humans spend an average of 6 years of their life dreaming.
  4. If you are snoring, you are not dreaming
  5. People dream up to 3 to 4 times more than they usually would when suffering from depression.
  6. Men have dreams about other men 70% of the time. Women dream about men and women equally.
  7. Your ability to remember your dreams vanishes quickly. You forget 50% within 5 minutes of waking up and forget 90% within another 5 minutes.
  8. The latest research indicates we may be dreaming the entire time we are asleep, not just during REM as scientists used to believe. However, they note that the dreams experienced during REM are substantially different than those experienced during non-REM sleep.
  9. Almost everything we know about sleep was discovered in the last 30 years.

As you can see, sleep is as essential as eating and breathing, yet we struggle to make time for it given our over-packed schedules. We’re constantly under pressure to fit more work in, and with the online world at our fingertips 24/7, it’s become harder to get a quality 7 to 9-hour block of sleep each night. The warnings are loud and clear that sleep deprivation can have a disastrous effect on our health. As you reflect on your need to balance the role of being an employee with that of being a parent, life partner, friend, adult child, and whatever other roles you play, it becomes clear that it’s time to start giving some thought to your sleeping habits sooner than later. Quality sleep helps you perform better at work, maintain a healthy weight, and even decrease your chances of getting cancer.

The more you learn about sleep, the more quality sleep you can get

Did you find yourself surprised by some of these facts? Are you planning on changing anything about your sleep habits based on these facts? While it’s unlikely that we will ever know everything there is to know about sleep, it does help to keep the learning so we can work on improving the quality of our sleep so we can live a healthier, better life. If you’re among the 70 million Americans not sleeping well, it’s time to get to the bottom of your sleep problems. It starts by getting a Sleep Profile to gain insights into your sleep problems.