Sleep is something that we all have in common but have you ever wondered what happens when you fall asleep each night? Do we just drift off into the darkness where we wait till the morning, or do we move into a whole other world filled with hope, fear and the strangest logic you can imagine. The truth about what happens in our mind once we are asleep may never be fully understood but for now here are 4 strange facts about sleep.
1 – First and Second Sleep
For years doctors have advised that we need to get at least eight hours of good quality sleep every night. This may come as a surprise but eight hours of constant sleep goes totally against what is natural for us humans.
According to historians long before the industrial age people slept in two parts. First we would fall asleep as soon as the sun went down and sleep for a few hours. We would then wake up around midnight or 1 a.m. and busy ourselves with a light snack, maybe a chat and a campfire song, then a quick love making session before falling back to sleep for the remainder of the night.
Roger Ekirch, a historian at Virginia Tech, suggests that this two-part sleep system is more natural to us than the eight hour sleep system we use today. He even suggests that many sleep related problems may occur from our insistence that we stay in bed for eight hours at a time.
If this theory is correct then it would explain why so many people naturally wake up at least once a night. Bare this in mind the next time you are struggling with your sleeping patterns.
2 – Fatal Familial Insomnia
We all have the occasional night when, despite feeling so tired we struggle to stand up, we are simply unable to fall asleep. Believe it or not there are people who are unfortunate to have a disease which makes it impossible for them to fall asleep. While this disease is a very rare heritable condition it is 100% fatal. The disease is caused by malfunctioning brain proteins and sufferers have brains that resemble the brains of people suffering from Creutz-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease.
The next time you struggle to get yourself to sleep you will no doubt now worry that you are a sufferer of fatal familial insomnia but rest easy knowing that there is a 99.99999% chance that you do not have it. According to research it has been documented that only 28 families worldwide suffer from this with five of those families being from the United States.
3 – Demon on Your Chest
Sleep paralysis is actually more common than most people realise with some 40% of us experiencing it at least once. What happens here is a person’s REM sleep is disrupted leaving the person feeling trapped and unable to move. This experience is nothing short of terrifying but according to sleep experts it is not dangerous in any way.
Different cultures from around the world have all made attempts to explain this phenomenon in their own way. Many cultures claim that demons are pinning down the sleeping person which is where medieval demons such as succubus or incubus originate from .
Our human brain needs to try and explain the unexplainable, this is part of our nature – and if it has to blame an evil supernatural force to feel better then surely there is no harm in that.
4 – Hypnic Jerk
Nothing is more annoying than that moment you are drifting off into the most peaceful sleep you have ever known and you are suddenly jolted back to consciousness with a bizarre form of muscle spasm. People who experience this state that they are quickly awoken with a sensation of falling from a great height.
What has just happened here is you have experienced what is known as a hypnic jerk. According to scientists who have researched the subject at least 70% of the world’s population suffer from these.