Sleep, an essential and often enjoyed part of our daily routine, still remains a realm of mysteries and unexpected occurrences. We might spend a third of our lives in this state, yet there are so many fascinating facets of sleep that remain unexplored by many. Here’s a dive into seven such interesting factlets:
1. The Extreme Reality TV Test: The British TV series “Shattered” put ten contestants to the test by challenging them to stay awake for seven straight days. The side effects of sleep deprivation took a toll, making contestants irritable and irrational. In a bizarre twist, one contestant even believed he had become the Prime Minister of Australia. The winner managed to stay awake for a staggering 178 hours.
2. Primates vs. Humans: Of all primates, humans spend the least amount of time sleeping. Yet, the sleep we do get is deep and restorative. This is possibly because we sleep on the ground, eliminating the risk of falling from trees, and have established protective measures against predators. These conditions allow us to indulge in deeper, more rejuvenating sleep without needing longer hours.
3. The Desperate Quest for Sleep: One man’s battle with fatal familial insomnia, a condition rendering a person biologically unable to sleep, saw him trying everything from vitamin therapy to anesthesia in a desperate bid for rest. These interventions managed to prolong his life by a year.
4. Medieval Sleep Patterns: Our ancestors in the medieval era had a peculiar sleep pattern. They would enjoy a 4 to 5-hour sleep, be awake and active for a couple of hours, and then drift back to sleep for another 3 to 4 hours. This segmented sleep is believed to have evolved to allow humans to tend to fires, ensuring warmth and safety throughout the night.
5. Drugs and Dreamland: Both alcohol and marijuana have profound effects on our REM sleep, the phase associated with vivid dreams. Chronic alcohol consumption diminishes REM sleep. However, upon withdrawal, there’s a surge in REM sleep leading to intense dreaming. Similarly, marijuana suppresses REM sleep, but cessation can trigger a burst of vivid dreams.
6. Guardian Half: An intriguing phenomenon happens when we sleep in unfamiliar settings. In such scenarios, only one half of our brain delves deep into rest, while the other remains vigilant, as if standing guard.
7. The Sleep-Deprived Worker: A consistent lack of sleep can drastically affect one’s performance, cognitive abilities, and judgment. In fact, if you’re routinely coming to work sleep-deprived, you’re functioning at a level comparable to being intoxicated.