At some point in your life, you were probably told something along these lines: People eat an average of seven to eight spiders per year while sleeping.
Great news! This is complete and utter bullsh*t.
Indeed, there is no palpable evidence that you consistently swallow arachnids whilst you slumber.
According to Rod Crawford, an expert on spiders and Curator of Arachnids at Burke Museum:
For a sleeping person to swallow even one live spider would involve so many highly unlikely circumstances that for practical purposes we can rule out the possibility. No such case is on formal record anywhere in scientific or medical literature.
You are scarier and less appealing to spiders than you might believe (don't take it personally).
Firstly, people move around in their sleep a lot, which would likely frighten spiders from going near a bed, as noted in Mental Floss.
Second, spiders are not suicidal -- they don't desire to crawl into your mouth and never see the light of day again. Likewise, your breathing during sleep, like your frequent movements, would also deter a spider from going anywhere near your mouth.
Not to mention, if a spider crawled into your mouth, you'd probably wake up. Think about it, even the heaviest sleepers would wake up if something with eight legs literally strolled into their mouth.
So breathe a sigh of relief, arachnophobes, it's almost impossible to swallow a spider during sleep.
Indeed, everything you eat likely has insects in it.
But this is normal. It's fairly impossible to avoid getting insects in our food, and the FDA will not approve food with unsafe levels of insects, or food that is hazardous to consumer's health.
So don't panic, insects in your food won't kill you. In fact, insects are actually pretty good for you, and you could make a pretty good case for why we should already be eating them.
As Vox notes, insects are a great protein source, providing similar levels to those found in chicken, beef and fish:
Insects also provide significantly higher levels of nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc and are a great source of Vitamin B.
You might be thinking: I don't care if insects are good for me, more needs to be done to keep insects out of my food!
The problem with this is the pesticides and preservatives used to keep bugs out of food are far more damaging to our health than a few bug fragments.
Furthermore, the United Nations has actually argued more people should substitute bugs for other forms of meat, NPR highlights. This is because they're nutritious and better for the environment overall.
Correspondingly, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states:
Livestock contribute both directly and indirectly to climate change through the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Globally, the sector contributes 18 percent (7.1 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent) of global greenhouse gas emissions. ...Carbon dioxide emissions from the livestock sector are related to fossil fuel burning during production of fertilizer for feed production, the livestock production process, processing and transportation of refrigerated products.
Simply put, insects are a more sustainable form of food than the meat we typically eat -- they require less resources, produce less greenhouse gases and take up less space.
Even though you're unlikely to swallow spiders during your sleep, perhaps you should consider doing it while you're awake. Join the 2 billion people across the planet -- in Africa, Asia, South America and Australia -- who already eat insects with great enthusiasm.
Citations: How Many Spiders Do You Really Swallow in Your Sleep (Mental Floss), The Spider Myths Site (Burke Museum ), FDA Allows Bugs In Your Food Food Must Reach Defect Action Levels To Be Labeled Unsafe (Huffington Post), 6 reasons you should consider eating insects (Vox), The role of livestock in climate change (FAO ), Maybe Its Time To Swap Burgers For Bugs Says UN (NPR), Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans (FDA)