Chris Cowsley woke up and found he was unable to breathe in the early hours of Sunday, 23 July. Later, he would learn that a spider had crawled down his throat while he was sleeping.
Cowsley, 52, woke up at 3.30am as he was choking. Unable to breathe properly, he called 999.
"It had been a perfectly normal night but then I woke up choking and couldn't breathe," the retired postman says.
"I had to stick a finger down my throat to get some air in but as soon as I took it out I couldn't breathe again."
Cowsley, from Sandon, Hertfordshire, adds that he thought he was "going to die" and that he’s surprised the 999 call operator could understand what he was saying because he "couldn’t speak".
"When the ambulance got here the paramedics had a look at my throat," he continues. "One of them said they thought I'd inhaled a spider in my sleep and it must've bitten my uvula on the way down.
"They hooked me up to machines - and the first thing he said was, 'I think you've swallowed a spider'. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it."
The uvula is the soft flap of tissue that hangs at the back of your mouth.
Cowsley was rushed to Lister Hospital in Stevenage where he was given a saline drip, antibiotics and steroids.
Once his throat was no longer swollen a few hours later, Cowsley was discharged and returned home, but says he couldn’t sleep until he’d vacuumed the whole house and put a spider repellent plug in the wall.
What are your chances of swallowing a spider in your sleep?
While there have been various figures thrown around as to how many spiders we swallow during our sleep - some have said eight a year while others estimate four across a lifetime – there has never been a definitive study as to whether this is true or not.
In fact, most researchers call this an "urban myth", and something that is likely to never happen.
"The idea that spiders crawl into people's mouths while they sleep, let alone that you swallow a certain number of spiders a year – five, eight, 10 – is a myth," Michael Skvarla, PhD., insect identifier and extension educator in the Department of Entomology at Penn State University, told SELF in 2019.
This is because spiders tend to hang out where they can hunt for food, and because the bed isn’t normally a haven for insects, spiders steer clear of it. Instead, spiders prefer quiet, darker spots like basements and the corners of a room.
So, while Cowsley may have been incredibly unlucky, there haven’t actually been many (or any that we can find) other records of someone swallowing a spider while they sleep.
Don’t worry arachnophobes, you can sleep soundly tonight.
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