Sleep has always been fascinating to humans. It represents us at our most vulnerable, and it’s as close to a death-like state as most people get, short of the real thing.
Until recently, sleep was poorly understood, and even today, there is a lot that science doesn’t understand (or can’t agree on) about the purpose and mechanisms of sleep and dreams. From bizarre beliefs about what happens when you sleep to scary studies performed in the pursuit of knowledge, there is seemingly no limit to human curiosity when it comes to trying to make sense of sleep. We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting sleep trivia, which you can ponder as you drift off to dreamland or bust out to impress your friends.
- In 350 BCE, Aristotle theorized that sleep was a time of physical renewal.
- The standard “eight hours of sleep” was recommended as early as 1180 by Moses Maimonides.
- Sigmund Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams founded the field of psychoanalysis.
- The different stages of sleep were discovered in 1924 by Hans Berger.
- French philosopher Rene Descartes posited that the pineal gland produced “spirits” which kept us awake; sleep was a result of not producing these spirits.
- A 1927 invention called the “Psycho-Phone” purposed to teach people while they slept.
- In ancient Egyptian and Greek societies, it was believed that some people received messages from the gods via dreams; the Oracle at Delphi is one such example.
- Hypnos, Greek god of sleep, was the brother of Thantos, god of death, reflecting the belief that sleep was similar to death.
- The Mara, from which the word “nightmare” is derived, was an evil spirit of Germanic folklore who brought terrible dreams to those it visited.
- The iconic Native American dreamcatchers are from the beliefs of the Ojibwe tribe from the Lake Superior region.
- Sleep paralysis–the sensation of being suddenly awake yet unable to move or speak–has been attributed to monsters and demons by numerous cultures throughout history.
- Russian and Slavic mothers sometimes placed knives in infants’ cradles to protect them from Nocnitsa, a terrifying night creature.
- The Sandman story, based on various folk beliefs, was written by author Hans Christian Andersen.
- Armadillos have been dubbed “the sleepiest animal on earth,” snoozing more than 20 hours per day.
- Conversely, giraffes get by on less than two hours of sleep each day.
- In the 1950s, the CIA project dubbed MKULTRA used sleep deprivation along with hallucinogens and other methods in an attempt to perfect mind control.
- Snoring is the leading cause of sleep disruption, affecting some 90 million US adults.
- Sleep deprivation is linked with obesity, in part because inadequate sleep causes cravings for fatty or sugary foods to increase by nearly 50 percent.
- Around 12 percent of people dream in black and white; that figure was much higher before the advent of color television.
- The longest anyone has gone without sleep is 11 days, a record which nearly killed California student Randy Gardner in 1964.
- There’s a name for the sensation of falling and then jolting yourself awake: hypnic jerks.
There you have it: enough random, snooze-related info to host your own sleep-themed trivia night. What are your favorite fun facts about sleep? Share in the comments!