Debunking the Myth: Do We Really Eat 8 Spiders A Year?

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An image depicting a realistic spider on a dinner plate, with a person's hand holding a fork and knife, as if they are getting ready to eat it. The scene should be set at a dining table, with the focus on the plate and the spider. The atmosphere should be quirky and slightly surreal, highlighting the unusual nature of the subject in a visually interesting and engaging way.

By Larry Billinger

Have you ever shivered at the thought of waking up with eight tiny legs tickling your throat? You’re not alone. The notion that we unwittingly swallow spiders in our sleep is a chilling urban legend that’s surprisingly pervasive. It pops up in internet memes, whispered warnings between friends, and even found its way onto Snapple caps with the dubious label “Real Fact.” But the truth is as spindly and fragile as a cobweb: swallowing spiders in our sleep is a myth, and a deliciously creepy one at that.

Matt Cohen/rd.com

Delving into the Web of Deception

Tracing the myth’s origin proves tricky, like chasing a spider through a dusty attic. Some pinpoint a 1993 magazine article, while others whisper of a fake interview with a fictional professor. Regardless of its birth, the spider-snacking tale spread like wildfire through the fertile ground of the internet and watercooler gossip. Its persistence speaks volumes about our fascination with the macabre and our tendency to accept sensational tidbits without questioning.

A Spider’s World: Not Your Mouth

But let’s step back from the shiver-inducing imagery and examine the reality of spiders. These eight-legged creatures prefer predictable corners and quiet crevices, far from the chaotic symphony of snoring and tossing bodies that define human sleep. They’re sensitive to vibrations, and the rhythmic rumble of a sleeping person would likely send them scuttling in the opposite direction. Additionally, most homes offer a smorgasbord of tastier, less disruptive prey than human orifices. Flies, mosquitoes, and other insects hold far more culinary appeal for the average arachnid.

Science Squashes the Myth

Beyond anecdotes and common sense, scientific evidence also firmly squashes the spider-snacking myth. Entomologists, the gatekeepers of the insect world, have never documented a single case of a sleeping person becoming an unsuspecting spider buffet. Sleep experts, too, find the notion improbable, highlighting the reflexive cough or gag response that would likely erupt at the first touch of an unwanted guest.

Why We Bite on the Bait

So, why does this myth cling to us like a spiderweb on a forgotten broom? Psychologists tell us it’s a delicious cocktail of fear, fascination, and the allure of the unknown. We’re wired to be wary of creepy crawlies, and the image of a spider in our sleep taps into that primal fear. Plus, the sheer unexpectedness of the myth adds a titillating edge, making it a juicy morsel for dinner table conversation.

Real Sleep Encounters: Less Creepy, More Common

While the spider-swallowing scenario is pure fantasy, sleep does hold its own share of unexpected occurrences. Inhaling dust particles is a far more likely nocturnal adventure, as is the occasional sleepwalking escapade or nighttime teeth-grinding symphony. But even these experiences pale in comparison to the absurdity of an eight-legged midnight snack.

Conclusion: Untangle Yourself from the Myth

The next time you hear the shivery tale of spider-infested sleep, remember this: it’s a myth, spun from the thin threads of our imagination. Embrace your skepticism, do your research, and enjoy the peaceful slumber that awaits, free from the phantom tickle of spider legs. After all, a good night’s sleep is far more delicious than a creepy crawly crawl.

Spider Facts:

  • Spiders eat more insects than any other group of animals.
  • Most spiders have eight eyes, but some have up to twelve!
  • The world’s smallest spider is about the size of a pinhead.
  • Only a handful of spider species are venomous to humans.

Common Sleep Myths:

  • We only dream during REM sleep (partially true, but we dream in other sleep stages too)
  • You should never wake someone sleepwalking (it’s usually safe to gently guide them back to bed)
  • Snoring means you’re getting deep sleep (not necessarily, it can also be a sign of sleep apnea)

How Myths Spread:

  • Repetition – Hearing something multiple times makes it seem more true.
  • Authority figures – We tend to trust information from experts, even if it’s wrong.
  • Emotional appeal – Scary or exciting stories are more likely to be shared.
  • Lack of critical thinking – We often don’t stop to question what we hear.

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