Top 10 Weird Sleep Superstitions
August 20, 2012 | Lists
Not getting enough sleep has been proven to be unhealthy – if you knew just how unhealthy you wouldn’t be able to sleep and we would not be responsible for hastening your date with the daisies. Likewise, too much sleep is linked to diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea and the utter contempt of bed partners who have to work for a goddamn living. Maintaining a healthy balance – eight hours in bed, or slightly longer if you’re being fed grapes – is essential, as is making sure you don’t fall off the bed or release your bowels while slumbering.
Sleep takes up so much of our lives that innumerable superstitions have arisen around it, both concerning the optimum sleeping arrangements to ensure good fortune (extending, presumably, to the looks of the person one pillow over) and dreams. While one might be tempted to believe that all you need for successful sleep is a decent mattress, a pillow that doesn’t smell and neighbors who do not commit axe murders during the night, there are many people out there who think the matter is far more involved.
1. No hats on the bed
While in the Randy Newman song permission is granted for the woman being seduced to, bizarrely, leave her hat on despite having doffed her shoes and dress, many superstitious folk would say that the risk of the hat ending up on the bed would be too great to make such a concession. There are many theories as to how this superstition came about — that it was a practical measure to prevent lice, or, perhaps, to avoid drawing attention to the fact that you sleep with rodeo cowboys.
2. The bed should sit as far from the bedroom door as possible (Commanding Position principle of Feng Shui)
In some apartments, it’s impossible to open both the fridge and oven doors at the same time and in some bedrooms mattresses need to remain permanently bent to fit the available space. It’s clear that it’s far easier to align your Qi if you’re rich and can afford a Feng Shui buffer zone between bed and door wide enough to hold an aerobics class.
3. Kita makura. Japanese superstition about pillow direction
Make sure your pillow isn’t facing north, as it’s the way corpses are positioned at Buddhist funerals. This is an extremely common superstition that extends even beyond Japanese beliefs. Basically, if you are positioned towards the south, you run the risk of, say, swallowing your tongue or being smothered by an unscrupulous relative given prominence in your will. A compass would come in handy here and if you are unfortunate enough to bed down with someone who has the opposite belief about pillow direction, just hope their feet get a thorough wash before beddie by’s.
4. If you clip your toe-nails before bed, your parents will die before you get to see them again
We’re not sure of the correlation here because as youngsters all the advice we were given regarding toenail cutting amounted to: do it before you ruin your socks. Perhaps if you’re really lax in your grooming habits the news that you clipped your toenails will send your parents down in shock. Before bed seems as good a time as any to clip toenails, though, of course, while collecting them all afterward and disposing of them. Those who clip their toenails in bed and risk the odd clipping getting lost in the sheets are almost as contemptible as those who put their bare feet on an adjacent seat while riding public transit, a behavior we condemned in our Transit Etiquette post.
5. Fan death
If you’re wondering why the hell it’s so hot in here and are in the proximity of a sleeping Korean, we may have the answer for you. This is a widely held belief in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those sleeping inside. And they don’t mean by strangulation with the cord. This belief has even been given some credence in the Korean media and as a result fans sold in South Korea come with an automatic timer that turns the fan off after a certain number of minutes.
If you think your husband might be the type to seek to add more names to his horizontal mambo dance card, there are various theories about how to best handle the situation. Some would suggest a direct, rational conversation addressing your fears and giving your husband the chance to address your concerns by looking you straight in the eye and lying about how you are the only person he finds attractive. Or you can sew a swan’s feather into a pillow to prevent him from straying.
Let us know how the latter works out, but please opt for pre-plucked plumage, lest you end up like the man here.
7. A stranger’s face means you’ll be changing your place of residence
Jack Kerouac once said that “dreaming ties all mankind together”. He also used to run down dogs in his car for sport and drank himself insane, but he had a point here. There is no better evidence of this than listening to people talk about their dreams despite no one in the history of humanity who is not being paid to listen giving the slightest crap about what runs through other people’s minds when they’re in the land of nod. This is one dream interpretation that is particularly common — the theme of the stranger appearing. Strangers in dreams are as common as they are in Facebook, so why we are not all riding boxcars up and down the countryside is a mystery.
8. Cats suck the life from sleeping infants
This one wouldn’t entirely surprise us, actually. They look like they would enjoy nothing more than waiting until you’re asleep, and then sticking their noses in the mouths of sleeping innocents of whom they are jealous to suck the wind right out of them.
But, dust-addled hissing freeloaders though they may be, cats are generally not infant murderers. Or so we think.
9. Always knock on hotel or unfamiliar room doors before you enter to stay the night
This is probably the most practical superstition on this list and also a good way to avoid embarrassing bathroom encounters at parties. This Chinese superstition is a way to warn spirits of your presence, but depending on the star rating of the hotel you might want to bring a black light along to warn you of things far more fearsome than even the most malevolent poltergeist.
10. If a single woman sleeps with a piece of wedding cake under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.
If a single woman sleeps with wedding cake under her pillow, she might need to attend an over-eater’s support group and that future husband she’s searching for might be put off at the idea of sleeping in a bug-infested bed.
(Research: Bizarre Superstitions: The World’s Wackiest Proverbs, Rituals and Beliefs by Christopher Cooper)