Too Much Sleep Can Actually Be Bad for You and Other Weird Sleep Facts

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There's a lot scientists don't understand about our sleep. Like, why do we need sleep in the first place? Why do we dream? And when we do dream, what do our dreams mean? Some researchers' questions have been answered. But for the most part, they're still in the dark.

If you're someone who struggles with falling and staying asleep, you're not alone. Millions of people don't get the sleep they need for one reason or another, whether it's a symptom of anxiety or because they're simply too busy to get enough rest. And there are more consequences to sleep deprivation than just feeling tired. Not getting enough sleep can actually affect your mental and physical health in all kinds of unexpected ways. Some scientists say that the sleep you get each night is just as important to your health as your diet or your propensity for exercise.

There are routines you can practice before bed that might help you get your rest. For instance, turning off screens or meditating can earn you some more zzzs. But don't get too many. Did you know too much sleep can actually be bad for you? There's a lot about your sleep that you probably didn't know. These weird sleep facts are so interesting, we promise they won't put you to sleep.

Too much sleep can actually be bad for you

Not getting enough sleep can have some pretty awful side effects - but so can sleeping too much. According to Web MD, the physical side effects of oversleeping range from mere headaches to premature death. Studies show oversleeping can also lead to diabetes, back pain, depression, and heart disease. Talk about a rude awakening...

Some people dream entirely in black and white

Do your vivid dreams play in vivid color? Studies show that for 12 percent of people, they do not. While children and younger individuals in the study were able to recall a chromatic image of their dreams, study participants over 55 years old in 2008 were more likely to report dreams in grayscale. The suspected culprit? Television. Those who were alive before color TV was invented were more likely to have black and white dreams.

The moon affects your sleep cycle

Instead of thanking your lucky stars you were able to fall asleep so quickly, you might want to thank the moon. Apparently, the alignment of the moon with the sun does more than change the appearance of it in the sky. It can also affect your sleep cycle. One study showed that children actually slept for longer during phases of the full moon. Conversely, another study suggested that the full moon causes a decrease in sleep efficiency and prevents people from sleeping as deeply. How exactly the moon affects your slumber is still pretty hazy - but it certainly has an impact.

Being sleep deprived affects your brain like being drunk

You knew driving while under the influence of alcohol was bad. But what about driving while sleep-deprived? Studies show that the impairment you experience from too little sleep isn't actually all that difference from how you feel after a couple drinks. It substantially slows down your brain activity and reaction time. Yikes.

Snoring keeps people awake at night

According to the Sleep Foundation, snoring is the number one cause of sleep disruption in the United States, jolting awake 90 million adults each year. Thirty-seven million Americans experience this regularly. For some people, snoring can actually signal some serious health problems. But for most people, snoring is totally normal and no reason to be alarmed.

Not getting enough sleep makes you hungrier

There are two hormones that work together to regulate your appetite - ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin lets your brain know that you're hungry and leptin notifies you when you're full. Studies have linked smaller amounts of sleep to an increase in ghrelin and a decrease in leptin - probably making people feel hungrier and eat more on days when they're sleep-deprived.

Humans can survive longer without food than without sleep

It's near impossible to die of sleep deprivation. Before it becomes fatal, sleep deprivation causes other alarming effects such as delirium, memory loss, hallucinations, and extreme mental suffering. After a certain point, your body will fall asleep automatically in order to survive. But were you to be forcefully kept awake for days on end, it could actually kill you faster than starvation would. While a person can survive more than three weeks without access to food (Gandhi once reportedly went without food for 21 days), the longest reported survival without sleep was just 11 days.

Lightbulbs have changed human sleeping patterns

Before artificial light made staying up late so easy, being a night owl was much less common. In fact, people used to sleep for approximately one and a half more hours than people do in the modern day. However, some researchers found that people didn't used to sleep all the way through the night. Instead, people would sleep in two intervals - they would fall asleep for around four hours, then wake up for an hour or two before falling back asleep for a second four-hour session. Once lightbulbs became popular, however, people began staying up later and sleeping all the way through the night.

Placebo sleep is a thing

Regardless of how long you actually slept, even thinking you got enough sleep can help you function better. According to a 2014 study, people who are told they got a better night's sleep experienced better cognitive functioning. So if you're sleep-deprived, just convince yourself you're not. If you're tired enough, you just might believe it. Thanks, placebo effect!

Eating certain foods before bed can help you remember your dreams

Memories of your dreams evaporate fast - like, within seconds of waking up. But if you want to have a sharper memory of what ran through your sleeping subconscious, certain foods can help you remember. Foods with one specific nutrient have been correlated with more vivid memories of dreams.

Some foods could actually give you nightmares

Do you love to snack before bed? Unless you want your snacks to haunt your dreams, you might want to pay attention to what you eat. Certain foods, such as ice cream and other dairy products, have been correlated with bizarre or disturbing dreams in some studies.

Humans spend a third of their lives asleep

This only sounds like a small amount - especially when you compare it to cats or other animals that spend more than half of their lives unconscious. But the real amount of time Americans spend asleep is less than a third of their lifespans. Think about it - this math isn't hard to do. If you sleep for eight hours a night and there are 24 hours in a day, that's one third of every day spent asleep. Who do you know that actually sleeps a consistent eight hours?

The position you sleep in can affect your digestion

Some people believe your preferred sleeping position can reveal truths about your personality, mental health, and even the state of your romantic relationships - but the science on that is somewhat shaky. What researchers have uncovered is that the way you sleep could affect the quality of your digestion. Sleeping on your side is thought to enforce a more comfortable positioning of a valve in your intestine and the gastric juices in your esophagus. The latter theory is supported by studies that show a lowered incidence of heartburn in those who sleep on their side. Some results even show that sleeping on your left side is even more beneficial than sleeping on your right.

You can take a nap with your eyes open without even knowing it

It's called a "microsleep" and it could be happening to you right now! Microsleeps only last up to 30 seconds and your eyes remain open. These temporary episodes usually occur when a person hasn't slept enough the night before and is unusually tired. While these temporary lapses in consciousness are usually benign, they can actually become dangerous if you're driving or operating machinery.

Pain is harder to tolerate if you're sleep-deprived

Life just gets harder if you haven't gotten enough sleep. Even your physical perception of pain gets worse. Studies show that identical levels of pain are perceived as more severe if a person hasn't gotten enough rest. But that's not the only physical effect of sleep deprivation. There are other scary things that happen to your body when you're sleep-deprived.
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