Everyone knows at least one old wives' tale (or 75). These superstitions are both doubted and depended on, but because there is a decent amount of skepticism surrounding old wives' tales as a whole, it's worth a closer look into which are true, right? Right. As it turns out, there are a surprising number of true old wives' tales.
For instance, look at Galileo! His ideas about space were doubted for 300 years before they were adopted as facts. Now, throwing a noodle against the wall to determine its readiness isn't as insightful as the layout of our solar system, but somebody's great-great-great grandma deserves some credit for the perfect pasta. And while eating bread crusts won’t give you curly hair and putting salt in water won’t make it boil any faster, not everything you were told as a child was false. Here are a few old wives' tales you can count on. (Spoiler alert to the gossips: itchy ears didn’t make the list).
Eating Right Before Bed Causes Vivid DreamsPhoto: Mary Smith / Flickr
You slam that last piece of pizza as the credits to Stranger Things roll. You brush your teeth, slip in your retainer and begin to doze off. Next thing you know you're running down the corridors of Hogwarts, late to the most important meeting of the year, wearing no pants.
Is this nightmare a result of the Upside Down, or something a little harder to digest? According to Livestrong, eating right before bed is directly correlated to an increase in brain activity. Your metabolism is working overtime and your brain is too, causing a notable spike in the vividness of dreams. One study by Nature Education focused solely on the effects cheese had on participants' dreams. Because this type of dairy contains an amino acid associated with peaceful brain activity, the scientists broke down the different types of cheeses and their respective effects on those being studied. Take a feta look at the results here.
Red Skies at Night, Sailor's DelightPhoto: Nick Kocharhook / Flickr
This tale might be the oldest in the books. It is referenced in the Bible, after all. This adage has been used for centuries to alert sailors of incoming weather conditions, though it's only practical in areas where weather systems travel from west to east. Here's how it works: when dust particles get captured in the atmosphere by high pressure, the blue light dissipates, leaving the red light to paint the sky. If those particles cause a red sky in the morning, the sailors know that a low-pressure system, or storm, is likely to follow. A red sky at night indicates that the sinking air and potentially dangerous weather has passed.
A Bar of Soap in Bed Bars Cramps Instead!
Scientifically, this tale is in the works. Anecdotally, the results are in, and they're undeniable: placing a bar of soap in your bed sheets prevents leg cramps. The main hypothesis is that when soap is new, and its water content is still high, a tiny, unidentified molecule passes through it and settles onto the legs. When soap is older, it dries out. This is the point many believers say the cramps return, leading many to speculate that the magic is in the molecule.
Many ingredients in soaps aren't listed on the packaging, making this investigation tricky, but we do know that the essential oils used in most bar soaps are vasodilators. This just means that they cause blood vessels to enlarge. When the soap dries, the blood vessels don't receive the relief, and the soap must be scored or replaced to continue reaping the benefits.
Heartburn While You Carry Means Your Baby's Hairy
There are approximately one trillion pregnancy adages to go around, but this one happens to be true. In 2007, researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted a study in an attempt to cut the tall tale down, but they were met instead with an overwhelming amount of evidence proving its validity. Eighty-two percent of the women with severe heartburn during pregnancy gave birth to especially hairy babes. It turns out the hormones that are known to cause heartburn in pregnant women are the same ones thought to affect fetal hair growth.