BY LISSA COFFEY
Sleep trivia you never knew that you never knew: a collection of interesting tidbits to share with shoppers
Editor’s note: Savvy mattress retailers want to do everything they can to help their customers sleep better, including offering them sound advice and tips. Feel free to share this great guidance from Better Sleep Council spokeswoman Lissa Coffey with your shoppers (with credit given, of course). The BSC is the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
Sleep. It’s something we all do—every day of our lives. With all that sleeping experience, we might think we know a lot about sleep, but here are some facts that may surprise you. Take note: This information may come in handy if you’re ever a contestant on “Jeopardy!”
- The word “sleep” has been traced to the proto-Indo-European base word “sleb,” meaning “to be weak.”
- Most of what we know about sleep science has been discovered in just the past 25 years.
Watch this Better Sleep Council sleep trivia video:
Everybody (complex) does it
- The need for sleep is a characteristic of complex living beings, including insects, mollusks, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals.
- Among mammals, the giraffe sleeps the least amount, less than two hours a day, in five- to 10-minute intervals. The koala sleeps the most, as many as 22 hours a day. Cats sleep an average of 12 hours a day and dogs sleep about 10 ½ hours a day—and that’s in addition to their regular nighttime sleep.
- The dolphin’s brain is unique in that it sleeps in shifts. This is called “unihemispheric” sleep—when one hemisphere of the brain is awake while the other hemisphere sleeps. Because of this, dolphins can sleep underwater without drowning. Like humans, dolphins spend about one-third of their lives asleep.
- A “catnap” is a short bout of sleep, usually not in bed. People can take catnaps with their eyes open and not even know it.
Dream a little dream
- Humans typically have four to six dreams per night, lasting a combined total of more than two hours. This adds up to about six years of dreaming over a lifetime.
- Upon waking, half of a dream typically is forgotten in the first five minutes. After 10 minutes, we have forgotten 90% of it. Some 42% of people say they have had a dream about something that later happened.
- Some 12% of people dream only in black and white.
Necessary but often elusive
- There are at least 84 identified sleep-wake disorders.
- More than 70 million people in the United States suffer from a sleep disorder. Of those, more than 60% have a chronic sleep disorder.
- People can survive longer without food (about eight weeks) than without sleep (roughly eight to 11 days).
- Modern society has such a high prevalence of sleep deprivation that what now is considered “normal” actually is abnormal sleepiness.
- Sleep deprivation, when applied systematically, is said to be the most effective form of torture. One reason is that sleep deprivation causes the body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.
- Author Charles Dickens suffered from insomnia. He believed that he could fall asleep faster in the middle of a bed facing north.
- Somnambulism is the scientific word for sleepwalking. Even though they can talk, walk and even eat while asleep, most sleepwalkers don’t remember much about their experiences.
- When one partner snores, he or she wakes the nonsnoring partner 20 times a night on average, with a total sleep loss of about one hour per night.
- Snoring usually worsens after drinking alcohol. Alcohol has a depressant effect on the tongue and throat muscles, narrowing the upper airway space.
- Brains are more active during sleep than while watching television. You also burn more calories sleeping than you do watching TV.
- William Shakespeare often wrote about sleep in his plays. Consider this passage from “The Tempest”: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Scholars believe he gave clear descriptions of insomnia because he suffered from the disorder.
- The saying “good night, sleep tight” came about when mattresses were set upon ropes woven through a bed frame. When the ropes started sagging, they were tightened with a bed key.
- The phrase “hit the sack” dates back to the 19th century when homes were one big room used for all activities. At the end of the day, families would clean up after dinner and make up a bed by putting hay in a sack.
- One of the largest beds ever constructed was the Great Bed of Ware built in 1596 in Great Britain. It measured 11 feet by 11 feet and was said to sleep 12 comfortably. Guinness World Records says the largest bed ever built (though probably never actually slept on) was more than 86 feet long and more than 53 feet wide. It was constructed by the Commissie Zomerfeesten St. Gregorius Hertme in 2011 in Hertme, Netherlands.
- Waterbeds became all the rage in the 1970s, but they actually date back to the 19th century when they were available in hospitals. The water eliminated pressure points so they could be used to support patients with bone fractures, bedsores or paralysis.
- Today, we have more choices than ever in mattress constructions, styles and sizes. If you’re not getting either the quality or quantity of sleep you need to feel great and be productive, check out the many options available. Like Goldilocks, you’re sure to find a bed that is “just right” for you!
Sources: “What You Never Knew About Beds, Bedrooms & Pajamas” by Patricia Lauber; “Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams” by Paul Martin; Online Etymology Dictionary; and “Encyclopedia of Sleep and Sleep Disorders” by Michael Thorpy and Jan Yager.
Lissa Coffey is a relationship expert, author and broadcast journalist. She writes for eight websites, including CoffeyTalk.com, WhatsYourDosha.com and the Better Sleep Council’s site, BetterSleep.org. A BSC spokeswoman, she stars in several videos that offer sleep and mattress-shopping tips for consumers.