Sleep is a fascinating thing -- you can doze off while behind the wheel of a car that's going 70 mph down the highway, then the very next night find it impossible to get to sleep in your own warm bed. It's basically a roll of the dice.
If you want proof, look no further than the insane events that people have managed to sleep right through. Like ...
It would be a bit of a bummer to sleep through a major historical event, even if it was a disaster. At worst, you want to be able to tell people about that shit at parties later on; at best, you'd like to get a book deal out of it. But that will happen for people like young Douglas Spedden, who slept through the sinking of the Titanic (which you will know as the historical event retroactively based on the hit movie of the same name).
Seen here in this dramatization.
To lessen the apparently enormous burden of being extremely wealthy by birthright and having to raise a single child, Douglas' parents, Frederic and Daisy, brought Douglas' private nurse, Elizabeth Burns, onto the Titanic with them to take care of him during their voyage. Upon feeling the shock of the impact with the iceberg and hearing the sound of the engines grinding, Frederic and Daisy went to find out what had happened. The ship was already tilting by the time they did.
"Quick, stuff some poor people onto the other side!"
Young Douglas had totally slept through the collision, and Burns had to briefly wake him to take him to the lifeboat, at which point he fell asleep again. All she told him was that they were going to "see the stars," and clearly Douglas bought it, because he was snoring away through the night, not waking until morning, and then only to comment, "Look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it!"
The family made it back alive, and many years later, a distant relative discovered a book that had been written for Douglas by his mother that was a recounting of the sinking through the eyes of his stuffed polar bear, imaginatively named Polar, who had been with him throughout the entire ordeal. The book was published in 1994 to much critical and commercial success, probably adding to Douglas' despair that even his damn teddy bear got to see the Titanic sink while he couldn't keep his damned eyes open.
But years of therapy could not make the bear forget what he had seen.
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was so busy carrying on various wars with every nation he didn't like that his officers believed that he barely slept at all. However, it turns out that Napoleon was a fiend for a good nap -- even as cannons were going off around him, he was renowned for his ability to seemingly sleep at will, regardless of the chaos that surrounded him.
"Should we tell him that his crotch is on fire?"
Keep in mind, battles in those times sometimes raged for several days in a row, even going straight through the night. It was tough titties if you were a soldier who had to fight for 72 hours in a row, but if you were the emperor, you could retire to some quiet place and get your beauty rest. And if you were a batshit insane emperor, you might take a nap right there on the battlefield, with shit exploding around you. As recounted by one of his biographers, Napoleon slept "even during the action, and completely within range of the enemy's balls." We don't even know if that's a euphemism.
It wasn't just something he did once or twice. In fact, if we go back to the Battle of Marengo in 1800, before he even added "emperor" to his title, sources recount how, facing certain defeat, Napoleon rallied his outnumbered, weary, retreating troops, spurred his trusty steed to the front of the ranks and shouted: "Frenchmen! Remember my custom is to sleep upon the field of battle."
"So keep it down!"
This would appear to be the least inspirational rallying cry in history (we take it to mean "How the hell can I get any sleep with all the racket you assholes are making losing the war?"), but the Battle of Marengo wound up being a decisive French victory. His men knew that the guy needed his damned sleep.
Try to imagine what it's like to live through a plane crash. If Hollywood has taught us anything, between the screaming, the flames ripping through the cabin and the flying debris, it's probably the loudest and most terrifying thing a human can experience that doesn't involve some kind of apocalypse. But tell that to the people who were so disinterested in their brush with inconceivable horror that they just slept through it.
"Son of a bitch, my Coke spilled."
Take Terry Pierce of Florida, who fell asleep while commuting in a single-engine plane ... and didn't wake up until he was lying in the woods some distance from the wreckage with his limbs broken and red ants biting at his open wounds, with no memory of anything other than a peaceful sleep.
But when it comes to dozing through trauma, no one can top your average child. Like those of Army Specialist Matthew Jones -- he was piloting a small aircraft cross-country from Washington State to Detroit with his two young daughters on board when his carburetor iced up and he was forced to make a crash landing in the mountains. After he scraped himself out of the pilot's seat, he went to check on his daughters, only to find them peacefully dozing -- they had slept through the whole thing.
Meaning that there was no way he could blame the crash on the kids being too loud.
Another time, a small plane was taking off from the Roche Harbor Air Strip on San Juan Island around midnight when it clipped trees and crashed into the roof of a house, as well as the truck sitting in the driveway. Amazingly, inside the house were six children, the oldest 9 years old and the youngest a mere 15 months, and not a single one of them woke up due to the aircraft exploding into their goddamned roof.
So for anyone with a fear of flying, it really does sound like if you just doze off, even the worst disaster will just sort itself out before you wake up.
Side effects may include invincibility while airborne.
On a similar note ...
One morning, 85-year-old Winnie Withers of Indiana got up to pour herself coffee and found to her curiosity that she had a brand new garage door opening in the middle of her kitchen. An 8-foot-wide hole led straight outside.
The Indy Channel
"Brick up that hole! I'm not heating the neighborhood!"
Withers figured that the wall must have simply fallen in, until she went outside and saw the tire tracks in her yard. Somehow, she slept through a vehicle smashing through her exterior wall and then fleeing the scene. Her bed, by the way, was only about 20 feet away from the crash.
Sadly, the pie she had set on the windowsill to cool was never recovered.
But this was hardly the first time someone woke up to find that their house had been remodeled with blunt vehicular force. In 1951, in Hobart, Australia, two cars crashed into each other around 1 a.m., sending one of them off the road on only three wheels, smashing through a picket fence and colliding directly with the side of a house.
The driver was then consumed by venomous animals, because Australia.
It took the police about 10 minutes to arrive, and when they showed up at the residence, they were forced to wake the occupant, who said he had "only a faint recollection of any unusual sound." Nobody was seriously hurt in the incident, but the homeowner presumably invested in a louder alarm clock, preferably one that punched him in the face.
The takeover of the HMS Bounty in 1789 is probably the most famous mutiny in history, evidenced by no fewer than five film adaptations of the event re-enacted by names such as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Anthony Hopkins. This sequence of events that has been thrilling audiences for more than 200 years was missed entirely by midshipman Ned Young, the man who slept through the whole thing.
A typo led to strict orders for him to only be awakened in case of scrutiny.
The ship's troubles all started with the commander and giant asshole William Bligh and his penchant for berating his crew members in front of their comrades. On the morning of April 28, 1789, Master's Mate Fletcher Christian had finally been pushed too far. Having been the most frequent subject of Bligh's public humiliations, and possibly because he wanted his title changed to something less emasculating, Christian started his morning by relieving midshipman Edward "Ned" Young of watch duty before proceeding to rally his supporters to take over the entire ship.
Young, whose shift ended at 4 a.m., had gone to bed, where he proceeded to sleep his way into legend. After dozing through the entire mutiny and waking to find that the chain of command had changed entirely, Young did what any sane man would do, and chose to side with the winners.
"We still get nap time, right? That's kind of a dealbreaker for me."
Eventually the mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island, where Young seemed to flourish for a time. Despite being considered particularly unattractive compared to the other crew members (reportedly missing several of his front teeth, with all of the remaining being rotten), Young was the most popular with the ladies. Maybe he was just really funny. He ended up having seven children, including three with Christian's widow. It is even reported that the women protected him during a bloody conflict on the island -- which some say he also slept through. OK, this guy might have had narcolepsy.
For more people who were way too oblivious, check out 6 People Who Had No Clue Their Faces Were World-Famous. Or learn about 6 Famous People Whose Identities We Still Don't Know.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Corey Feldman Is Throwing the Creepiest Christmas Party Ever.