You Don’t Swallow Spiders in Your Sleep: Debunking a Creepy Myth

Do you dread the thought of waking up with a spider in your mouth? If so, you’re not alone. The idea that we swallow spiders while sleeping has become a popular myth. But fear not! We’re here to debunk this creepy claim once and for all. In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind why spiders don’t crawl into our mouths at night. So, let’s put this myth to rest and learn the truth about our eight-legged friends.

Spider Behavior and Human Biology

Spiders and Humans: A Misunderstood Relationship

Contrary to popular belief, spiders want nothing to do with humans. While there are thousands of spider species, only a few live in our homes. These indoor-dwelling spiders are usually small and harmless, preferring to spin webs or hunt insects that pose a threat to us, such as mosquitoes or flies.

According to Bill Shear, a biology professor and former president of the American Arachnological Society, spiders see us as nothing more than part of the landscape. We’re so much larger than them that they perceive us as a potential predator, and they prefer to keep their distance.

You Don't Swallow Spiders in Your Sleep

Spiders and Vibrations: A Warning Sign

Spiders have an incredible sense of vibration. This sensitivity helps them detect potential threats and prey. When we sleep, we breathe, our hearts beat, and we may even snore, all of which create vibrations. These vibrations act as warning signs for spiders, signaling danger rather than an invitation to crawl onto our faces or into our mouths.

Floyd Shockley, an entomologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, explains that spiders are repelled by the warm, moist environment of our mouths, which is rich in carbon dioxide and water vapor. So, the idea of a spider willingly crawling into such an unappealing space is highly unlikely.

The Unlikelihood of Spider Ingestion

The Odds Are Against It

While it’s theoretically possible for a spider to accidentally end up in our mouths, the odds are highly stacked against it. For a spider to be swallowed, a series of unlikely events would have to occur. It would need to lose its grip while crawling on the bedroom ceiling, fall precisely over our face, and then land squarely in our open mouth. The chances of all these factors aligning are incredibly slim.

Bill Shear compares the likelihood of swallowing a spider to winning the Powerball lottery. So, if you’re worried about spiders finding their way into your mouth at night, rest assured that the chances are virtually zero.

Lack of Concrete Evidence

Despite claims from individuals who believe they have swallowed spiders, there is a distinct lack of concrete evidence to support their stories. Rod Crawford, the arachnid curator at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, mentions that those who claim to have swallowed spiders often don’t have any proof to back up their claims. Any evidence is usually discarded or flushed down the toilet, making it challenging to verify such anecdotes.

Furthermore, the frequency of this alleged spider ingestion, eight spiders per year, lacks eyewitness accounts. So, even if you’ve heard or read this statistic from a seemingly reliable source, there is no substantial evidence to support it.

You Don't Swallow Spiders in Your Sleep

Debunking the Origin of the Myth

A Misinterpretation of Facts

The spider-swallowing myth likely originated from a misinterpretation and exaggeration of facts. In a 1993 magazine article by Lisa Birgit Holst, the claim that people swallow eight spiders a year in their sleep was mentioned as an example of how readily people accept information they read online, no matter how outlandish it seems. Unfortunately, this fictional statistic quickly spread across the internet and was embraced as fact.

Sensationalism and Misinformation

The spread of misinformation about spiders is not uncommon. Researchers who studied online news stories about human-spider contact found errors in almost half of the content published between 2010 and 2020. Furthermore, they discovered that 43% of stories about spiders were written to shock readers, possibly to increase social media shares.

Fear of spiders is prevalent among humans, and this fear may contribute to the perpetuation of the spider-swallowing myth. Arachnophobia affects a significant portion of the population, with estimates ranging from 2.7% to more than 11%. Despite this fear, less than 1% of all spider species are potentially harmful to humans.

The Benefits of Spiders and How to Coexist

Spiders as Nature’s Pest Control

While spiders may not be welcome guests in our homes, they play a crucial role in our ecosystem. Many spiders are excellent pest controllers, feeding on smaller insects like flies, beetles, and ants. By keeping the population of these pests in check, spiders contribute to a healthier and more balanced environment.

Tips for Spider Management

If you’re concerned about spiders in your home, there are steps you can take to prevent their presence without resorting to harmful chemicals or extermination:

  1. Maintain Intact Screens: Ensure that window and door screens are free of holes and tears, preventing spiders from entering your home.
  2. Seal Entry Points: Check around windows and doors for gaps that spiders could use as entry points, and seal them to keep spiders out.
  3. Limit Hiding Spots: Regularly inspect your home’s foundation, walls, and corners for cracks and holes where spiders could hide. Seal these areas to minimize potential hiding spots.
  4. Remove Spider Webs: If you come across spider webs on the outside of your house, remove them to discourage spiders from building their homes.
  5. Create a Dry Environment: Spiders prefer damp areas, so keeping your home dry can make it less appealing to them. Address any sources of excess moisture, such as leaks or standing water.
  6. Regular Vacuuming: Vacuum frequently, especially in areas where spiders tend to hide, such as corners, closets, and under furniture. This can help remove spider eggs and discourage their presence.
  7. Mind Your Firewood and Plants: Avoid bringing spiders inside on firewood or potted plants. Inspect these items before bringing them into your home.
  8. Elevate Bedding: Keep your bedding elevated and away from the floor to reduce the likelihood of spiders crawling onto your bed.
You Don't Swallow Spiders in Your Sleep


In conclusion, the myth that we swallow spiders in our sleep is just that – a myth. Spiders have no interest in crawling into our mouths, and human biology and spider behavior make it highly unlikely. While fear of spiders is common, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction and appreciate the valuable role spiders play in our ecosystem.

So, next time you drift off to sleep, rest assured that spiders will be keeping their distance. Embrace the presence of these eight-legged creatures in your environment, knowing that they are more interested in maintaining balance and harmony than venturing into your mouth. Sleep tight, spider-free!

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