Looking To Cats For An Insomnia Cure

By Bill Hall

A person can understand why scientists looking for a harmless sleeping potion would study the chemistry of cats. Nobody is better at remaining unconscious than a cat.

But there are reasons to worry about this if science intends to point us toward cat remedies for sleeplessness. Food, for instance. Cats are such accomplished sleepers because they know the secret of a full belly. Give a cat a square meal and it will drop like a rock, spending the next few hours sleeping it off.

But the kind of food may be the problem. There is hardly anything a cat eats, including that mystery meat in commercial cat foods, that wouldn't disgust the sort of person who is naturally wakeful.

However, most insomnia is caused by an activity unfamiliar to cats thinking. All kinds of thinking can keep you awake: worrying, a guilty conscience and especially problem solving mulling over details all night. For instance, I have spent my life with writer's insomnia, getting an idea for a story as I go to bed and not being able to stop fussing over it in my mind.

Some people lie awake all night trying to resolve their bills and their income.

People who design and build things have similar bouts of insomnia. For instance, I have recently had a few nights of concrete insomnia. My wife and I are building new concrete steps down to our vegetable garden that are sturdy enough to carry us safely during our creaky years down the hillside for another hogshead of zucchini. It involves individually tailoring each step and sometimes it isn't easy figuring out how to do that, given the tricky terrain. But I eventually solve the riddle usually about 3 a.m.

Cats have no such difficulty because they don't do anything at all. They sit and watch me build the steps. They are unemployed, uncreative and exhausted by finally figuring out the difference between a mouse and rock.

The scientists studying cats to find a natural sleeping potion in their chemistry need to understand what's going on here. Even if there is some chemical that aids a cat's rest, there is a more obvious reason cats don't normally suffer from insomnia:

They have no responsibilities in life. They have nothing on their alleged minds to keep them awake. Thus we have already learned one cure for insomnia from observing cats:

If you want to sleep well, quit your job and find some sucker to feed you.

Careful observation of sleeping cats will lead you to several other feline habits to promote sleep that may not be entirely useful to human beings. For instance, sleeping on the warm hood of a car seems to work for them.

And if you would copy their methods, you should also try sleeping out in the sun in a fur coat. There is something about that approach that promotes a limpness in body and mind.

You might also try the bushes in the summer time. On a hot day, if you poke around in the deep cover under your bushes, you will often find a cat or two sleeping there. There is apparently nothing like a cool spot under a green bush on a hot day to make you drowsy.

And you might want to try sleeping on my feet when I am stretched out on the couch. Several cats of my acquaintance have found it easy to fall asleep each evening on my comfy feet.

I gather, watching cats, that another remedy for insomnia is to sleep on your back with your arms and legs thrown out in all directions with your head rolled back and your mouth wide open, looking dead. You see a lot of cats around the house like that. Most of them aren't dead.

But with all due respect to cats, you have to admit that being famous for sleeping is an odd claim to fame. It amounts to being famous for being sluggish, listless, inert. Thus cats are famous for the same thing rocks are known for, a talent for not moving.

And let's all bear in mind that insomnia is not so much a curse as it is a sign of some mental activity. It's just a normal part of being a useful member of society.

Of course, there is another reason I don't sleep soundly. How well would you sleep with a comatose cat on your feet?



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