Science has taught us a lot about sleep and why our bodies need it. But despite advances in our understanding of the brain, sleep remains one of the last great mysteries of human biology.
Instead of trying to answer the impossible questions, we're going to explore the weird side of sleep and the phenomenon that science is still debating.
Feeling of falling
Nearly everyone has experienced it at least once. The sensation of falling that jolts you awake just are you are about to drift off. Sometimes experienced as freefalling or simply tripping over a curb. Both equally terrifying!
The scientific name for these uninvited muscle twitches is hypnic jerks or sleep starts. Nobody knows what causes them, but one theory suggests that the brain misinterprets our relaxed muscles and jumps to the conclusion that we must be falling.
What we do know is that despite being scary, the phenomenon is harmless.
Exploding Head Syndrome
Not quite as dramatic as it sounds but still scary and very strange, Exploding Head Syndrome is a type of parasomnia. Sufferers report waking up having heart a deafening explosion or flash of light, as though their head is exploding.
Thankfully, EHS is not dangerous or painful, but it can cause people to lose out on sleep. There is debate as to the cause, but it is thought that EHS is a type of hypnic jerk, similar to the more common feeling of falling.
Someone having a night terror might scream, shout, and thrash their limbs in panic. Even scarier for parents and partners, the sufferer will often have their eyes open but be unaware of your presence.
Common in children and less common in adults, night terrors differ from nightmares in that the person stays asleep throughout the episode and usually doesn't remember anything in the morning.
Causes are thought to be anything from stress and fever to anxiety and certain medication. If you happen to witness a night terror, the best thing you can do is to wait until they calm down, ensuring they're not going to cause themselves any harm. Though distressing, night terrors rarely have long-lasting psychological effects on children or adults.
While sleepwalking and sleep talking are somewhat common, our true capabilities while asleep are still largely unknown. People have been known to do all sorts of things while sleeping. From cooking and eating to showering and even driving.
The latest phenomenon to add to this list is that of sleep texting. As though we needed any more evidence of our smartphone addictions, some people report picking up their phone and sending elaborate and often nonsensical text messages during the night.
Aside from provoking a good laugh, the fact that sleep texting has become an automatic behaviour suggests that even our unconscious mind has adapted to our appetite for technology.
Perhaps the weirdest and least understood aspect of sleep is dreaming. But we're not talking about just any dreaming, we're talking about lucid dreaming.
If you haven't heard of it before, lucid dreaming is a type of dream where the dreamer is aware of their dreaming, and can, therefore, control parts of the dream.
For the lucky few who can lucid dream, they're free to fly to the moon, swim across the ocean or live out their fantasies by merely dreaming them up.
It's not known exactly why some people are more able to lucid dream than others, but Matthew Walker, sleep expert and professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkley says:
"It seems to be only around 20 to 30% of the population are actually natural lucid dreamers. So, perhaps if it was so beneficial mother nature would have had all of us being capable of lucid dreaming. And the fact that we’re not perhaps means that it's not necessarily beneficial. But we actually don’t know."
A whole lot more than selling beds
Our resident sleep specialist Carl has spent more than 40 years educating people on the importance of sleep.
It’s his belief that people who get the recommended 8 hours of sleep live longer and happier lives. It’s why we won’t rest until you do.
References: The Business Insider