Yesterday was a pretty laid-back day for me. My mood was mellow, and I had a mild desire to take a nap. My thoughts were soon drawn to my sister’s cat, Random Kitty. I sometimes wonder if he has a sleep disorder. Cats, particularly young ones, sleep much of their lives away. Some of them sleep 15 or 16 hours per day. Old cats snooze even more. Yet Random Kitty rarely seems to be at rest. Nearly every time we encounter each other, he’s very active. What is noteworthy are the very few times I’ve caught him catnapping.
A couple of Sunday afternoons ago, I noticed Random lounging in a sunny patch of sofa. He wasn’t asleep, but was much more calm than usual. He appeared to actually be catnapping, albeit with his eyes half open. Just knowing that Random Kitty was napping made me happy. I decided to sit near him, but not bother trying to pet him or talk to him. After Random came over and stretched out near my right leg, I pondered the subject of sleep.
There are still some mysteries surrounding the bodily state of sleep. Studies have discovered that humans and other animals have varying sleep requirements according to age. Regardless of species, we creatures spend an enormous amount of time asleep. Even though cats, and many humans enjoy napping, we all require deep sleep. Actual deep sleep is critical for our bodies to regenerate and to preserve our health.
The real mysterious aspect of sleep is dreaming. Experts have made progress in helping us understand the mental processes of the brain in dream state, but we still don’t know why people and animals dream. There are some hypotheses about why we dream, but none of them are yet proven.
The most obvious reason might be that our brains are responding to biochemical and electrical processes that happen only during sleep. Some scientists postulate that dreaming is a form of memory processing that enables the consolidation of short term memory into long-term memory and is part of our ability to learn. Another hypothesis states that dreaming is a form of consciousness the brain uses to unify past, present, and future to provide continuity of experience. It is thought that the dream state unites past and present in order to anticipate the future. Even though there are many other possible reasons, we might not ever find a single simple theory that explains why we dream, anytime soon.
While I pondered Random Kitty’s peculiar sleep and napping habits, I wondered if just sitting next to him on the sofa, in my own mellow state of mind, qualified as a catnap. I looked down to enjoy his presence. We looked into each others’ half-lidded eyes and felt simple joy.