Sleep Facts

88 (Surprising) Sleep Facts: Scary, Important, Interesting, Fun!

Contents

As humans we spend an average of 25 years sleeping, that’s a third of our lives.

However we’re simply not getting enough, which is why we’ve compiled the most shocking and interesting sleep facts.

Discover who sleeps the least, who sleeps the most, how to get more sleep, plus some fun facts just to make you smile.

General Sleep Facts

  • Research shows that adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night to function effectively throughout the day, however a lot of Americans are getting much less.[1]
35% of US adults get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night

This is in stark contrast to the people of the Netherlands, who sleep on average 8 hours 5 minutes per day, the best country for sleep in the developed world.[2]

It’s worth mentioning that some people can survive on much less. In fact 1% to 3% of the population are known as ‘short sleepers’ who need less than six hours a night.[3]

2. Humans are the only mammals that delay sleep.

Humans are the only mammals that delay sleep

3. Donald Trump claims to be a ‘short sleeper’, needing less than six hours sleep a night.

Donald Trump claims to be a short sleeper, needing less than six hours sleep a night

4. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.

The average person falls asleep in seven minutes

5. If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, it’s likely that you’re sleep deprived.

If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, it’s likely that you’re sleep deprived

Others take much longer to fall asleep, in fact thousands of Americans suffer from a condition known as Somniphobia, which is a fear of falling asleep.[4]

6. 25% of Americans report insufficient sleep at least 15 out of every 30 days.

25% of Americans report insufficient sleep at least 15 out of every 30 days

7. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder

8. 37 million Americans snore regularly.

37 million Americans snore regularly

Who’s Getting the Most Sleep?

Americans in general aren’t getting enough sleep, however take a closer look and you can see who seems to be getting the most sleep and who is getting the least.

1. Women sleep more than men.

Women sleep more than men
  • The reason for this is women are more likely to multitask, meaning their brains work harder and therefore take longer to recover.[5]
  • Despite this, it’s worth mentioning that women are significantly more likely to suffer with insomnia.[6]

Young people of high school age need 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night, this is due to the brain power they need for learning and also to fuel their changing bodies.[7]

During the teenage years the sleep-wake cycle changes, so the melatonin release that induces sleep happens later in the evening, creating a highly energetic teen in the evening and a less-than-enthusiastic person in the morning.[8]

Research does show however that they’re not getting the sleep they need.

2. Two thirds of US high school students get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights.

Two thirds of US high school students get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights

3. Female US high school students get less sleep than their male counterparts.

Female US high school students get less sleep than their male counterparts

Parents are another group of people not getting the sleep they need!

4. Parents of newborn babies lose 6 months worth of sleep in the first 2 years of their child’s life.

Parents of newborn babies lose 6 months worth of sleep in the first 2 years of their child’s life

5. Each child in a mother’s household increases her risk of getting insufficient sleep by 46%.

Each child in a mother’s household increases her risk of getting insufficient sleep by 46%

6. Mothers who breastfeed and co-sleep get more sleep in a 24 hour period than those that don’t.

Mothers who breastfeed and co-sleep get more sleep than those that don’t

7. Research shows that having a newborn baby impacts men’s sleep more than women’s.

Having a newborn baby impacts men’s sleep more than women’s

The study followed a number of couples in the first few months of their child’s life to see how the parents’ sleep was impacted.

As many previous studies only looked at the impact on mothers, this study also focused on fathers.

Participants wore wrist trackers to see how they slept throughout the night. Though women woke more frequently in the night, men overall had less sleep.

Babies however are getting plenty of sleep, which is where the expression ‘sleep like a baby comes from’, unfortunately not always during the night.

8. Newborn babies sleep on average 15-16 hours in a 24 hour period.

Newborn babies sleep on average 15-16 hours in a 24 hour period

Your career can also have an impact on how much you sleep.

9. Are you a creative person? Research shows you’ll sleep more but not as well.

Creative people sleep more but less well

10. Shift workers who work nights lose more sleep than those who work during the day.

Night shift workers lose more sleep than those who work during the day

11. Those who fly regularly for work could be more at risk of sleep deprivation. Flying at high altitudes leads to disturbed sleep due to the lack of oxygen.

Those who fly regularly for work could be more at risk of sleep deprivation

FUN FACT:

“Fancy a career as a ‘knocker-up’?”

Before alarm clocks were invented, factories employed people to knock on the bedroom windows of their workers with a long stick, to ensure they arrived at work on time.[9]

Importance of Sleep Facts

Everyone knows that sleep is important, however some of the facts around the importance of sleep are quite shocking.

  • Mental health and wellbeing is an area that is significantly impacted by a lack of sleep.

1. 42% of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety.

42% of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety

2. Three quarters of those who suffer from depression also suffer from a lack of sleep.

Three quarters of those who suffer from depression also suffer from a lack of sleep

3. Getting less than 7 hours sleep each night can make you angry, sad and stressed.

Getting less than 7 hours sleep each night can make you angry, sad and stressed

4. One sleepless night affects your brain in the same way as being drunk.

One sleepless night affects your brain in the same way as being drunk

5. Lack of sleep can affect your memory as sleep triggers changes in the brain that solidifies memories.

Lack of sleep can affect your memory as sleep triggers changes in the brain that solidifies memories

6. Research shows a lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

Research shows a lack of sleep can cause weight gain

Not only that, but when you’re asleep you can actually burn calories, so sleep is so important if you want to maintain a healthy weight.

7. ‘Morning people’ are more likely to be successful in their careers.

Morning people are more likely to be successful in their careers

8. Adults who sleep for less than 7 hours a night are more likely to report suffering from asthma, cancer and diabetes.

Adults who sleep for less than 7 hours a night are more likely to report suffering from asthma, cancer and diabetes

9. People who sleep less than 7 hours each night are 12% more likely to die prematurely.

People who sleep less than 7 hours each night are 12% more likely to die prematurely

However too much sleep can increase your chances of an early death.[10]

Did you know?

You can survive for up to 74 days without eating, but people can only live 11 days without sleeping.[11]

Lack of sleep has also been found to have a serious impact if you’re behind the wheel, with many scary and worrying facts relating to drowsy driving.

10. More than 1,500 deaths a year in America are caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.

More than 1,500 deaths a year in America are caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel

11. An estimated 1 in 25 drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days.

An estimated 1 in 25 drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days
Did you know?

In New Jersey they have a law known as ‘Maggie’s Law’, which makes it illegal to drive after being awake for 24 hours.[12]

As well as a good night’s sleep, you might want to take a nap now and then! In fact napping at work has been shown to improve productivity.[13]

Did you know?

More and more companies in Japan are encouraging their staff to sleep on the job as they believe it improves productivity.[14]

12. The perfect nap, according to NASA, lasts for 26 minutes.

Sleep Stages Facts

  • During the night we go through five different sleep stages.

The first four stages are non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, when your body starts to relax and prepare to rest.

Stages 3 and 4 of NREM are thought to be the deepest stages of sleep when your body begins to restore itself.

The 5th stage of sleep is rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, when the brain is active and you most commonly dream.

REM sleep is thought to occur every 90 minutes during your slumber.[15]

1. You spend roughly 75% of the night in NREM sleep.

You spend roughly 75% of the night in NREM sleep

2. When you’re in REM sleep your brain is almost as active as when you are awake.

When you’re in REM sleep your brain is almost as active as when you are awake

3. During REM sleep, chemicals in your brain paralyze your muscles to stop you acting out your dreams.

During REM sleep, chemicals in your brain paralyze your muscles to stop you acting out your dreams

4. Got a problem? Sleep on it! REM sleep is proven to help creative problem solving.

Got a problem? Sleep on it! REM sleep is proven to help creative problem solving

5. Newborn babies spend twice as much time in REM sleep than adults do.

Newborn babies spend twice as much time in REM sleep than adults do

However the muscles of newborn babies don’t become paralyzed in the way they do for adults, as that part of the brain is not yet fully developed.

This is why babies often twitch and make sudden erratic movements in their sleep.

Better Sleep Facts

So a lot of us aren’t getting the sleep we need, luckily there are a number of different things that can impact your sleep that you can avoid.

1. Using your phone or a tablet before bed can affect your sleep.

Using your phone or a tablet before bed can affect your sleep

Any light before bed isn’t good for getting off to sleep, however the blue light emitted by technology is twice as bad!

  • Secretion of melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone, is impacted by light and by blue light in particular.

2. Drinking coffee before bed delays your internal body clock by 40 minutes.

Drinking coffee before bed delays your internal body clock by 40 minutes

MYTH:

“You can catch up on your sleep.”

Research shows that though a good night’s sleep can improve daily performance, if you are chronically fatigued you’ll feel it most in the afternoon and evening as your body runs out of energy.[16]

3. People who procrastinate are more likely to have problems with sleep.

People who procrastinate are more likely to have problems with sleep

4. Those who suffer from back pain have worse sleep.

Those who suffer from back pain sleep poorly

Luckily there are a number of different things you can try to help you improve your sleep.

5. Sleeping under a weighted blanket can improve your sleep and has even been proven to help those who suffer from insomnia and anxiety.

Sleeping under a weighted blanket can improve your sleep and has even been proven to help those who suffer from insomnia and anxiety

6. Believing you’ve slept well, even if you haven’t, is believed to improve performance.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that telling participants that they’d had a good night’s sleep, even if they hadn’t, made them perform better in tests.

Believing you’ve slept well, even if you haven’t, is believed to improve performance

7. Cool your room down to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for the best quality sleep.

Cool your room down to between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for the best quality sleep

8. Having a regular massage is shown to improve sleep.

Having a regular massage is shown to improve sleep

There are many different styles of massage that you can experiment with.

Plus you’ll find a range of massage tools on the market, including those specifically for neck and back pain. You could even treat yourself to a massage chair!

9. Regular physical exercise can help you sleep better.

Regular physical exercise can help you sleep better

10. 30 minutes of exercise each day correlates with 14 extra minutes of sleep per night.

30 minutes of exercise each day correlates with 14 extra minutes of sleep per night

11. Yoga is proven to help you improve sleep.

Yoga is proven to help you improve sleep

Yoga Nidra is a technique that invites you, usually at the end of your yoga routine, to relax every part of your body and cool it down to encourage a deep and relaxing sleep.

It’s no wonder yoga is growing in popularity.

In fact, there are a number of poses proven to help you fall asleep faster — could be worth a try!

12. Meditation has been shown to improve sleep.

Meditation has been shown to improve sleep
  • Researchers at Harvard University found that mindfulness meditation provoked a relaxation response in participants leading to better sleep.[17]

Like yoga, meditation is becoming a popular practice.

Not surprising when you consider just how many health benefits it offers for both body and mind.

13. Wearing a sleep mask can improve your sleep quality.

Wearing a sleep mask can improve your sleep quality

There’s even evidence that shutting out the light at night can help you fall asleep quicker, reduce symptoms of depression and improve your skin.

14. Almonds are the perfect bedtime snack as they contain sleep-inducing nutrients.

Almonds are the perfect bedtime snack as they contain sleep-inducing nutrients

Bananas, cherries and kiwis are other foods that can help you sleep.

Be sure to avoid chocolate, broccoli and steak before bed, as they can have the opposite effect!

Sleeping Position Facts

Americans certainly have favourite positions when it comes to sleep, however certain positions have shown to be better for your overall health.

1. 47% of Americans sleep in the foetal position.

47% of Americans sleep in the foetal position

2. Women are more likely to sleep in the foetal position.

Women are more likely to sleep in the foetal position
The log position is the least popular sleep position (sleeping on your side with both arms down)

4. Gen Xers and Millennials are more likely to sleep in Freefall position (arms and legs outstretched).

Gen Xers and Millennials are more likely to sleep in Freefall position (arms and legs outstretched)

Andrew Bang of the Cleveland Clinic reported that “the body likes variety” when it comes to sleep, so will commonly move from one position to another.

However if you’re wondering which sleep position is healthiest, the consensus seems to be that on your back is best for your overall health.

5. Sleeping on your back is the best position for your health as it allows your back, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position.

Sleeping on your back is the best position for your health
Did you know?

The wealthiest Egyptians slept with uncomfortable neck supports rather than pillows to save their elaborate hairstyles.[18]

  • During pregnancy women are advised to sleep on their side rather than on their back, as the latest research shows that the risk of stillbirth is doubled if a pregnant women sleeps on her back in the third trimester.[19]

6. If all pregnant women in the UK slept on their side in the third trimester, around 130 babies’ lives would be saved each year.

If all pregnant women in the UK slept on their side in the third trimester, around 130 babies’ lives would be saved each year

Sleep Talking Facts

Ever been woken by your partner or child chattering in their sleep?

Discover more about this strange sleep phenomena with our sleep talking facts:

1. 66% of people have experienced episodes of sleep talking.

66% of people have experienced episodes of sleep talking

Despite this high number, it’s not thought to be something that occurs frequently, even with the chattiest sleepers!

2. Men and children are more likely to be sleep talkers.

Men and children are more likely to be sleep talkers

3. Sleep talkers normally speak for no more than 30 seconds per episode.

Sleep talkers normally speak for no more than 30 seconds per episode
If your parents talk in their sleep, you might too, as experts believe there is a genetic link

Sleep Apnea Facts

Sleep apnea, when your breathing stops and starts as you sleep, is a common sleep problem.

Learn more about the scale of the condition by reading our sleep apnea facts:

1. 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea

2. Experts predict 80% of those with sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

Experts predict 80% of those with sleep apnea are undiagnosed

That’s because symptoms of the condition are not always visibly problematic, so many people tend to ignore them.

However if left untreated it can lead to a number of health problems including heart failure, diabetes and hypertension.

3. 38,000 people in the US die each year from heart disease with sleep apnea as a complicating factor.

38,000 people in the US die each year from heart disease with sleep apnea as a complicating factor

4. Men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea as women.

Men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea as women

Sleep Paralysis Facts

Sleep paralysis can be scary for those suffering — facts about the condition can be pretty scary too.

Read on to find out more…

1. Four in every 10 people may experience sleep paralysis at some time.

Four in every 10 people may experience sleep paralysis at some time

2. The average age sleep paralysis first occurs is between 14 and 17 years old.

The average age sleep paralysis first occurs is between 14 and 17 years old

3. 75% of incidents of sleep paralysis involve hallucinations that are different from typical dreams.

75% of incidents of sleep paralysis involve hallucinations that are different from typical dreams

Dream Facts

Of course one of the other benefits of sleep are dreams, well if they are good ones!

There are a number of scientific facts about dreams and how they can be impacted by a range of different health conditions.

1. When suffering from depression you dream up to 3 to 4 times more than you normally would.

When suffering from depression you dream up to 3 to 4 times more than you normally would
Did you know?

Research shows that those raised with a black and white television are more likely to dream in black and white.[20]

Vivid dreams or nightmares can also be an early warning sign of a number of different conditions including heart problems and migraines.[21]

2. Violent dreams can be the sign of a brain disorder including dementia.

Violent dreams can be the sign of a brain disorder including dementia

3. Women are found to have more nightmares than men and also have more emotional dreams.

Women are found to have more nightmares than men and also have more emotional dreams
Did you know?

Those who go blind later in life can still see visually in their dreams.[22]

Sleep World Records

There are some incredible sleep records that just have to be seen to be believed.

1. Think you’re sleep deprived? The record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days.

Think you’re sleep deprived? The record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days
  • There is currently no record for the person sleeping for the longest length of time, as it’s too difficult to prove.

Also there are a number of conditions that can cause people to sleep for long lengths of time such as when people are in a coma and Kleine-Levin Syndrome, so it would be hard to determine.

Did you know?

The largest pajama party on record included over 2000 participants.[23]

Fun Sleep Facts

There are so many fun and completely cool and random facts about sleep too!

1. Dutch researchers found that sleeping with your socks on can increase your ability to reach an orgasm.

Researchers found that sleeping with your socks on can increase your ability to reach an orgasm

2. One in three adults sleep naked.

Sleeping naked is actually great for your health.

It can prevent diseases, reduce stress and even boost your self-esteem!

One in three adults sleep naked
Did you know?

The letter Z is used to symbolize sleep as comic artists needed a way to depict that a character was sleeping in a sketch. ‘Zzzzz’ was meant to indicate the sound made when asleep.[24]

3. Some deaf people do sign language in their sleep.

Some deaf people do sign language in their sleep

MYTH:

“Eating cheese gives you nightmares.”

There is no scientific proof that backs up the idea that cheese gives you nightmares. However some research does show that different types of cheese can give you different types of dreams.[25]

Did you know?

You can’t sneeze when sleeping.

That’s right it’s impossible to sneeze when sleeping as we don’t breath in enough air to stimulate a sneeze.[26]

4. 40% of Americans always sleep on the same side of the bed.

40% of Americans always sleep on the same side of the bed
Did you know?

It’s illegal to lie down and fall asleep wearing your shoes in North Dakota.[27]

5. Trees go to sleep at night by relaxing their branches and perk them up in the morning.

Trees go to sleep at night by relaxing their branches and perk them up in the morning
Did you know?

In 1849 David Atchison became President of the United States for just one day and he spent the majority of it fast asleep in bed.[28]

6. Relaxing classical music has been proven to help you fall to sleep.

Relaxing classical music has been proven to help you fall to sleep

Some sleep facts are a bit worrying…

7. In a recent study, 50% of UK pilots surveyed admitted to having fallen asleep while flying a passenger plane.

In a recent study, 50% of UK pilots surveyed admitted to having fallen asleep while flying a passenger plane

8. There are more car accidents on the Monday after the spring DST clock change, due to sleep deprivation.

There are more car accidents on the Monday after the spring DST clock change, due to sleep deprivation

9. Sleeping next to someone you love can help you fall asleep faster.

Sleeping next to someone you love can help you fall asleep faster

You’re also more likely to experience restorative sleep which is vital for your brain health.

10. Reciting an affirmation before bed relieves stress and puts you in a better headspace for sleep.

Reciting an affirmation before bed relieves stress and puts you in a better headspace for sleep

There are many different sleep mantras you can use, such as “I choose to sleep well” and “Sleep comes easily to me”.

It’s easy to start practicing, just recite the affirmation before bed and your brain will do the rest!

Fun Animal Sleep Facts

We might not be getting as much sleep as we should, however our friends in the animal world are doing much better.

Koalas can sleep 18-20 hours every day[29] and cats sleep for 70% of their lives[30], however snails are one of the sleepiest animals.

1. Snails can sleep for three years.

Snails can sleep for three years

2. Giraffes can get by on an average of 30 minutes of sleep a night.

Giraffes can get by on an average of 30 minutes of sleep a night

Scary Facts about Sleep

We’ve all fallen into a deep sleep where we wake up dazed and confused — but what else is happening as you rest?

Prepare yourself for some scary facts about sleep:

1. ‘Homicidal somnambulism’ is when a murder is committed while sleepwalking. It has been used as a successful defense in a number of cases.

Homicidal somnambulism is when a murder is committed while sleepwalking. It has been used as a successful defense in a number of cases

2. Some people report experiencing ‘precognitive dreams’ which include knowledge of the future.

Some people report experiencing ‘precognitive dreams’ which include knowledge of the future

3. Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a sleep disorder where you hear an explosive crashing sound in your head that isn’t real.

Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a sleep disorder where you hear an explosive crashing sound in your head that isn’t real
Some people suffer from a sleep-related eating disorder, where they prepare and eat food while sleeping. They have little or no memory of doing so in the morning

5. Though essential for our health, scientists don’t actually know for sure why we sleep.

Though essential for our health, scientists don’t actually know for sure why we sleep

Now you know everything you need to about the importance of sleep, it’s time to start learning how you can get more.

Read here about the 23 things that are scientifically proven to help you sleep better tonight!

Laura Smith

Author

Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

Specialist health & wellbeing writer, passionate about discovering new technologies & sharing the latest research.

References

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