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Mouth Legends: Do you Really Eat Bugs in your Sleep?

Although it differs depending on who you ask, the old adage is that we eat up to eight bugs or spiders in our sleep on a yearly basis. This may now be chalked up to an urban legend that an older sibling tells a younger one to toy with them. If you ask an expert on the subject, the likelihood that this is at all true goes way down.

The adage is that we eat mostly spiders in our sleep, and when someone relays this dubious piece of information, we immediately conjure images of something creepy making its way across our face and entering our open mouths, but for this to actually happen, a number of unlikely circumstances have to happen all at once.
First of all, you have to sleep with your mouth open, and although some people do, not everyone does. So if you don’t, then you’re not swallowing bugs and spiders. If you do sleep with your mouth open, then you’re exhaling warm breath. It would take a very brave critter to wander into an open orifice that’s exhaling. If you’ve ever blown on a spider on its web, you’ve seen that they run away from it.
Another issue with this statement is that it implies that there are bugs and spiders crawling on your bed all the time. Assuming you live in a clean environment, this happens maybe once or twice a year. Again, this sounds more like mischievous person toying with a gullible one. Since most people roll around in their sleep, the critters tend to stay out of the way to avoid being crushed, and are certainly discouraged from crawling around on your face.
The last item that makes this highly unlikely is that we don’t automatically swallow every time something enters our mouths. If anything, something foreign entering our mouths would trigger our gag reflex, or certainly wouldn’t trigger the reflex to swallow.
Often, a statement like this is prefaced with something like “scientists have proven that..” which is an outright lie. Even if this has happened to someone somewhere, there’s no evidence to prove that it has, so next time someone says that there’s scientific proof that we swallow bugs in our sleep, give them an incredulous look and ask them where they get their facts.

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