Sleeping and dreaming: What do you know about the way we spend so much of our lives? Maybe a lot less than you thought. Here are some great insights from The Secret Life of Sleep, Kat Duff's engaging book.

The Way We Used to Sleep

1. "Throughout most of history, people slept in groups and woke frequently to tend to fires, babies, and animals or to keep watch while the others slept…Good sleep, as we have come to call it, has rarely been assumed or expected."

2. "…up until the Industrial Age, most Europeans experienced two spans of sleep per night, with an hour of quiet wakefulness in between. It is unlikely that anyone, adult or child, expected to sleep through the night."

3. "Communal sleep was also the standard before the modern era…Babies slept with adults, and virtually everyone shared a bed with someone else…Travelers, even if they were strangers, often shared a bed."

4. Insomnia "did not become prevalent, or a matter of public concern, until the end of the nineteenth century, when industrialization was in full swing."

5. "…even when people worked more than fifty hours a week during deplorable conditions at the beginning of the twentieth century, they still slept a good nine hours a night…"

6. In the beginning of the twentieth century, parents' relationship with each other as a couple was considered especially important and the United States Children's Bureau declared that "a baby was never to inconvenience the adult." Until the practice was outlawed, "some parents went so far as to sedate their babies with opiates to keep them from crying at night."

Sleepless in the U.S.

7. "…two-thirds of Americans report that they do not get enough sleep during weeknights…"

8. "…approximately 90 percent of teens in the United States do not get enough sleep."

9. "Americans now average six and a half hours of sleep a night…a 20 percent decrease in the last one hundred years, and one and a half hours less than in 1960."

10. "…11 percent of the Americans interviewed reported that they never got enough rest or sleep during the previous thirty days."

11. "35 percent of Americans said they wake up in the middle of the night three or more times a week, and of those who woke, 43 percent had a hard time falling back asleep."

12. "25 percent of Americans take some form of sleep medication every night, and that figure does not include evening drinkers."

13. "In 2005, more than twenty-six million prescriptions for Ambien were written in the United States alone, totaling more than $2 billion."

Are You Dreaming?

14. "…everybody dreams four to six times a night."

15. "…on average, we forget 50 percent of what we dream within the first five minutes after waking and 90 percent after ten minutes."

16. A study of recently divorced people, half of whom were depressed, found that "those who recovered best remembered more dreams, and their dreams were longer and more complex…They also made a gradual shift over time from playing more passive roles in their dreams to playing more active ones."

Do You Need that Sleep or that Sleeping Pill?

17. How much sleep we should get? The CDC recommends "that adolescents get eight and a half to nine hours and adults get seven to nine, based on studies of how they perform the next day."

18. "While some people do better than others on short sleep, those who believe they do great on four or five hours usually do not."

19. "Approximately one-third have fallen asleep at the wheel during the past year

20. It is normal to take "twenty or thirty minutes" to fall asleep.

21. "…many of us do not reach our full abilities for two hours after waking…"

22. "…sleep medications, including the nonbenzodiazepines, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by an average of 12.8 minutes compared with placebos and increase the total sleep time by only 11.4 minutes. Moreover, functioning does not improve the next day."

23. "Prescription and over-the-counter medications, sleep studies, white noise machines, earplugs, eye masks, apnea devices, sleep monitors, specialty mattresses, high-thread-count sheets, aromatherapy pillows, high-end beds, and alarm clocks fuel a sleep economy worth more than $20 billion a year…"

You are reading

Living Single

Why Divorced People Are Key to Understanding Marriage

The health of people who divorce is very different from those who stay married.

One Parent Can Do Just as Good a Job as Two, Women Say

Survey finds openness to single life, single parenting, diverse family forms.

Individualism Goes Global: More Live Alone, Value Friends

Around the globe, individualistic values and practices are on the rise.