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People ask Google everything under the sun. One of the most commonly searched questions in the world is “How Can I Fall Asleep?” Allow us at SciShow to explain.

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As many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, so it's not much of a surprise that when Google sent us their list of the most asked questions in the English-speaking world, “How Can I Fall Asleep” was pretty close to the top.

Sixty million people! That's weird since, you know, it's literally impossible not to sleep.

And if you're one of those people who's up in the middle of the night Googling sleep solutions, it might help you to learn a little about the science of sleep.

This is The World's Most Asked Questions.


The first thing you should know if you're having a hard time getting some shuteye, is that you're wired to sleep regular hours, going to bed the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. Having a regular wake-up time seems to correlate pretty highly with the ability to fall asleep consistently.

This is because it keeps you aligned with what's known as your circadian rhythm, your body's natural tendency to stay in sync with the cycles of day and night.

And you know what controls your body's circadian rhythm more than anything else? Light.

A lot of the help you get falling asleep comes from hormones. They lower your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure and basically let you relax.

The key player here is the hormone melatonin, and it's regulated by your exposure to light. In darkness, it flows freely. But when you're exposed to light, whether natural or artificial, the release of melatonin stops.

So you know what that means? No phones or laptops in bed! The light emitted by electronics confuses your body into not knowing that it's time to sleep.

So scientists suggest at least an hour of screen-free time before bed, though I am completely incapable of that myself.

Another obvious enemy of sleep: caffeine. Even though you might think that cup of coffee after dinner might only affect you for an hour or so, studies have shown that caffeine consumption as much as twelve hours before bedtime is linked with insomnia.

And even the way you think about sleep can affect your sleep patterns. Worrying about not getting enough sleep is a common enough cause of insomnia that it has its own name, sleep onset insomnia.

But you know what's really weird? A lot of the time, when we feel like we can't sleep, we actually are sleeping. When scientists rouse patients in the first or second stages of sleep, more than 60% of them say that they weren't sleeping, even though they were.

Now, of course, there's a whole class of medications that will help you sleep, from antihistamines to the pharmaceuticals known as hypnotics, which include Ambien and Lunesta.

But research has shown that while patients can fall asleep faster on hypnotics, the effect is small, adding only about 15 minutes to their sleep times.

Other studies indicate that our minds are significantly more powerful than any medications. In double-blind studies, patients who were simply told that they were taking a sleep drug ended up sleeping far better than patients who were told they weren't.

So, if you want to know how to sleep, the answer is right there in your head.

Now as part of our work answering the world's most asked questions, we asked you, our SciShow viewers, a few questions and one was how many hours per night you sleep.

And it's bad news: Only 10% of you are sleeping more than eight hours per night, and eight and a half is the doctor-recommended amount. And over half of you report having trouble getting to sleep at least once per week.

And now it's time for meaningless correlations! 

The best sleepers for countries where we had enough data to make any sort of judgement were Saudi Arabians, with 76 percent reporting that they experience insomnia infrequently or never. Most of Europe scored better than average, with the Netherlands, Russia, and Spain all sleeping relatively soundly. The English speakers in the US, UK, and Australia all had some of the worst scores.

And, finally, unsurprisingly, our staggeringly unscientific survey reports that people who commonly drink coffee, soda, energy drinks or tea are all more likely to suffer from insomnia.

Thanks for watching, and special thanks to Google for sharing their most asked questions with us.

Of all the fascinating questions in the world, which do you want answered most? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter or in the comments down below and we will answer the best questions in a new video at the end of the month. Don't forget to use the hashtag #WMAQ and stay tuned for more videos this week.