Mental Floss’ “Misconceptions About Sleep” Video Shows Everything You Think You Know About Sleep is Wrong

We already know that waking a sleepwalker isn’t as much of a problem as most of us think it is — but how many other misconceptions about sleep might be screwing with our zzz’s? Plenty, according to Mental Floss’ latest video for their “Misconceptions” web series. In fact, forget everything you think you know about sleep; it’s probably wrong. But hey, knowing we’re wrong about something is an important step towards fixing it, so it’s not all bad; it might lead to all of us getting better, more restful sleep, which ultimately can only be a good thing. Hoorah!

Host Elliot Morgan (who, alas, is not John Green — but then again, few people are, so I can’t really hold that against him) walks us through 10 commonly believed myths about sleep, explaining as he goes why each one is wrong and what the real deal is. Some of these little tidbits might not be super surprising to you; each one is still worth a look, though, just in case you need a reminder. Here are a few of my favorites in six pictures — scroll down to watch the whole video. Oh, and don’t forget to check up on whether or not you’re sleep deprived while you’re at it; you might be badly in sleep-debt and not even know it, which can lead to some pretty horrifying side effects.

On your marks… get set… snooze!

1. How Much Sleep You Need Over Time

First off, everyone has their own sleep requirements; what you need might not be the same as what your roommate needs, which might not be what your significant other needs, which might not be what your cubicle mate needs, and so on. Generally, adults should get about seven to eight hours a night — but even though the precise number of hours might change, it shouldn’t gradually be getting less as you grow older. Older people just don’t require less sleep than younger adults.

2. When Dreams Happen

It’s possible to dream during any of the four stages of sleep. Also, we apparently spend roughly two hours dreaming every night. Man, I wish I could remember all those crazy mind adventures…

3. Concerning Those Imaginary Sheep

A 2002 study from Oxford University divided up a bunch of insomniacs into several different groups. Guess which groups got the least amount of sleep? Yep: The ones that were asked to count sheep and the ones that were given no instructions whatsoever. The ones who fell asleep the quickest were told to picture a relaxing place, so consider that your “how to overcome insomnia” tip of the day.

4. Does Sleep Rest Your Brain?

Nope — in fact, research shows that your brain is often just as active when you’re asleep as it is when you’re awake. REM sleep can even enhance your creativity, helping you solve problems in the process. Your body, however, does rest while you’re sleeping; that’s why you always feel like you need to sleep for a million years whenever you’re sick. It’s telling you it needs to repair itself.

5. Dying in Dreams versus Dying in Real Life

Although SUNDS — Sudden UNexplained Death Syndrome — does actually exist, it’s not the same thing as dreaming that you die, then actually dying in real life. Sorry, Freddy Krueger. You lose this round.

6. How Best to Combat Sleeplessness

Experts say that if you’re still tossing in turning after 20 minutes, you should get up and go do something relaxing, like reading. I think I need to find an alternative activity, though; if I’m left to my own devices and I start reading, I’ll just keep turning pages until the sun comes up. Anyone have any other ideas of what those of us in my particular boat could do instead?

Watch the full video below:

Mental Floss on YouTube

Images: RelaxingMusic/Flickr; Mental Floss/YouTube (6)