Restful sleep is a topic that most of us don’t give enough attention to… unless it’s to fret about not getting enough of it! And hardly anyone thinks about sleep as far as animal companions are concerned.
But getting enough good quality sleep is essential to health. And this goes for our pets, too!
Most wild members of the feline (and canine) species are born in a dark nest or den; and they’re born with their eyes closed. Darkness is a key component of healthy development in those first weeks of life. Kittens’ ears are also folded shut at birth. Similarly, early humans were cave-dwellers who slept in a dark, quiet environment, which was just as important for infants as for other baby mammals.
But in the modern world, it’s hard to find any place that doesn’t have light and sound going on 24/7. This is extremely disruptive to the sleep cycle.
Cats “sleep” for up to 20 hours a day, but only about 15% is in the deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep state associated with dreaming. The rest is spent napping in a light, easily arousable state, or in quiet, non-REM sleep… states we might even call “meditation.”
REM sleep is crucial for brain development, learning and memory, and overall mental and physical health. Experiments have shown that depriving a cat of REM sleep leads to death.
But non-REM sleep is also important: hormonal activity, antibody production, and restorative functions are increased during this sleep phase.
Interruption of these cycles by noise and light is detrimental to overall health. Diseases linked to poor sleep are many, and include obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Having a safe, quiet, dark sleeping place is important for you and your cat!