For something so commonplace, it’s a wonder how we don’t know more about the very bodily mechanism that recharges us on a daily basis and keeps us healthy. Without our regular sleep habits, our bodies can become intensely out of balance – and yet scientists are still struggling to understand exactly how our brains use sleep to rejuvenate and repair our many bodily systems. Understanding some of the oddities about sleep, however, can teach us a bit more about how to obtain healthier shut-eye and get our bodies feeling stronger and more fit than ever before.

10 Strange Facts About Sleep
Sleep – Courtesy of Shutterstock

1.  Sleep Is Truly Healthier in the Dark

Our circadian rhythms need darkness in order to have our body balanced: some hormonal processes are triggered by darkness and occur on daily cycles – and deviating from your typical sleeping pattern can throw your body off. For a healthier sleeping environment, try making a larger contrast between light and dark – turn off your computer monitor and TV, shut your blinds, and even wear an eye mask in order to experience the darkness triggers your body will need.

2.  We Are Becoming More Insomniac Over Time

Sleep aids and sleeping pill prescriptions are shooting through the roof. In the year 2000, about 16 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled in the United States. Only four years later, that number doubled in count, and the amount of sleeping pill prescriptions has only continued to rise since.

3.  Dreams Occur More Often – But Are Far Shorter – Than You May Think

Many of us claim to not have dreams – especially on those nights where we felt we slept through the whole evening without pause. However, the fact is that we all dream during our sleep cycles, but our brains don’t remember all of our moments of slumber. Though we have these dreams every three to four hours, they occur in short bursts – some dreams lasting only two minutes long. It seems surprising, since some of our dreams seem to have plots lasting hours, taking us through a dream world! In fact, our minds dream in “rapid motion” – so it only takes a few seconds to get through a few hours worth of dream scenes.

4.  Better Quality Sleep, Not Extra Hours, Increases Life Expectancy

This one shocks many, but scientists have underscored its importance: quality is better than quantity when it comes to sleep. Studies have shown that getting between six and seven hours of sleep is more beneficial to the body than sleep for longer periods – in fact, those with sleeping patterns lasting eight hours or more had a shorter life expectancy.

5.  How We Fall Asleep Counts, Too

Our bodies should not fall asleep the minute our heads hit the pillow. Ideally, our bodies should drift off to healthy sleep about ten minutes after we climb into bed. If you fall asleep in less than five minutes, you should speak to your doctor – it is a sign of critical levels of sleep deprivation.

6.  Myth Busting: We Don’t Sleep Like Logs!

Though you may not remember it, we wake up about six times a night on average. So much for sleeping through the whole night “like a log” – our bodies need to have room to move during sleep, and we wake up between our cycles for brief periods of time.

7.  Dreaming in Technicolor: Colorful Sensory Perception During Slumber

Today approximately 1 out of every 8 people dream in black and white – everyone else dreams in the full spectrum of color. Though doctors can’t exactly explain why, this is a statistic that has changed drastically in the last century: before the invention of color television, 3 out of every 4 people reported dreaming in black and white.

8.  Keeping Your Mattress Clean: A Must

Our sleep is deeply affected by the dust and microscopic critters that roam around on our mattresses. One strange fact is that a bedbug can live at least one year in a mattress without ever having to feed on human blood. Continually check and clean your mattress, and have a doctor check the bug bites on your body to be sure that you aren’t at risk for a bed bug infestation!

9.  Dreams Don’t Predict the Future

One extremely strange fact about sleep is that our dreams are mixed-and-matched collages of our past experiences. These moments are not predictions of the future, but are fantastic ways for your body to process the experiences it has had throughout the day, and organize the information it has learned so that you are prepared for future mental development when you wake up.

10. Mattresses Don’t Last Forever

Mattresses are not designed to last forever. After all, their lifespan is only about 7 years long. Be sure to flip and rotate your mattress once every year or two, and consider shopping for new bedroom equipment from mattress sale to find a good mattress that fits your needs without having to pay top retail prices.