Sunday, February 16, 2014

Of Cats and Naps

This morning I had the hangover experience without the benefit of alcohol. Lack of sleep was the culprit, not that last night involved any wild times: a late night movie (Enders Game: not bad), a few book chapters (Postwar: an informative history and analysis of the post WW2 era by Tony Judt), and a Lydia Lunch double album (Widowspeak: not for everyone but inventive) took me into the small morning hours. Then, at the crack of dawn one of my cats started complaining at my door because it isn’t summer outside. I know how he feels.

My wake-up time largely is regulated by my cats, especially in the winter when both are inside all night. I no longer let them sleep in my room since Mini and Maxi (Mini is the big one) have developed unacceptable quirks as they have grown older. Maxi is restless at night: he jumps off the bed, he jumps on the bed, he sticks his nose in my face, he walks on me, he moves from one side of the bed to the other, he cleans, he sneezes, he kneads, etc., etc. I don’t get more than 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep at a stretch with him allowed in the room. (He conks out in the daytime after all that activity at night.) Mini is happy to let me sleep, but lately she has decided that the litter box, which is at the other end of the house from my bedroom, is an unreasonably distant journey for any cat to be expected to make in the middle of the night. So, she poops on the bedroom carpet instead. Since I refuse to live with the smell of a litter box (or cat poop) in my own bedroom, for the past few months I have locked both of them out of my room at night. That doesn’t prevent them from raising a fuss at my door when they are tired of waiting for me to get up in the morning: this can start anytime between 4:30 and 8:00 a.m. depending on the season and their moods.

With regard to logging hours of sleep, the only variable within my control (other than the choice to be a cat owner at all) is the time I retire for the night. The late evening hours can be spent much more enjoyably than by snoozing through them, however. In consequence I rarely get the traditional 8 hours of sack time. Some days less than others.

There are health consequences to lack of sleep. According to it diminishes memory, longevity, flexibility, creativity, athletic performance, academic performance, attention span, weight loss, sex, and contentment. Yikes! Yet, too much sleep is bad, too. According to WebMD, it increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and death. Also, yikes! So what is the right amount? It is different for each person, and the advice here tends to get annoyingly tautological: get the amount that’s right for you, which is the amount that’s right for you. In my case, “more” is probably a safe answer.

I do know from experience, though, that if you stay up long enough, you get something like a high instead of a hangover. In 1974, the last year before hippiedom removed its headbands and donned disco shoes, we knew a lot about highs, but the one I had after staying up 78 consecutive hours (without the assistance of any stimulants other than modest amounts of caffeine) was unlike others I’d experienced. Staying up that long wasn’t a mindless exercise. I had just finished two papers (Impact of a Vulnerable Grain Supply on the Imperialism of Fifth Century Athens and Demographic and Geographical Aspects of the South African Separate Development Project) and had three days to wrap up two more before their due date: A History of Land Use in the Township of Mendham from Colonial Times to 1974 (about 40 pages plus graphs and notes) and Classical Influences on the U.S. Constitution and the Great Seal of the United States. Fear not: I have no intention of inflicting those page-turners on readers of this blog, and somewhat (only somewhat) regret having obligated my professors to read them, if indeed they did. I finished typing the bibliography to last of those only minutes before class.

I remember very little about what was in any of those papers, but I remember vividly my walk from my dorm to class in order to turn in the last one. The sense of being tired actually had vanished about 24 hours earlier, and had been replaced by a generalized haziness. The world looked fuzzy and all the sounds were muted. My feet felt as though pillows were strapped to them. Door handles seemed to melt to my touch, though somehow the doors still opened in rubbery fashion when I pulled on them. It was not an altogether unpleasant sensation. I didn’t experience outright hallucinations (seeing what wasn’t there, as opposed to registering oddly what was there) though in all likelihood I was mere hours from that stage. I returned to my dorm room around 3 p.m., lay down on the bed, and woke up 11 a.m. the next morning. It took a while for me to be sure what day it was.

As interesting sensations as those were, however, I don’t really wish to go through the process necessary to repeat them. Come to think of it, now is a good time for a catnap.

I’m guessing Sleeping Beauty’s hours would be considered excessive. Trailer for Maleficent, Disney’s retelling from the viewpoint of the villain, opening May:


  1. When we first got Hobbes, he would wake up at around 4 or 5am and start meowing and crying. We don't let the cat sleep in the bedroom, but he can come in if he is supervised.

    Anyway, we started giving him half of his dinner at 4:30 and then the other half at 8:30. This kept him quiet. We also got this neat plastic ball, with tiny holes that allows kibble to fall out as the cat bats it. So I'll hide this in the house (as he follows me around) trying to figure out where I'm gonna put it. Sometimes I put some single kibble in hiding places and that will throw him off the scent for a while. But this exercise (for him and me) does end up getting him to rest until around 6am or so when our alarm is about to go off anyway.

    Might be something to look into, if you don't mind playing hide and seek with the cats. Not sure how it would work with two of them though.

    1. The kibble wiffle might work for Maxi. Mini resolutely refuses to play with anything but real mice, moles, or other small animals -- it amazes me that such a lazy cat catches them, but she does occasionally.