delicate creatures and insomnia

Moomin and Joxter and Insomnia etegamiEnding the week* as I started it, on a cat note. Here are Joxter and Moomin, in a typical pose. The words are from Joseph Wood Krutch: “Cats are rather delicate creatures… but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.”

I have little bouts of insomnia myself, and my cats often wake up with me, only to curl up next to me and torture me with their ease at sleeping. I’ve been reading a little about sleep patterns, and am fascinated by the concept of “first sleep, second sleep.” A NYT article last year talked about how the “tyranny of the eight-hour block reinforces a narrow conception of sleep and how we should approach it. Some of the time we spend tossing and turning may even result from misconceptions about sleep and our bodily needs: in fact neither our bodies nor our brains are built for the roughly one-third of our lives that we spend in bed.”

One of the experts in that article, Roger Ekirch, is featured on an episode of a favorite podcast of mine, Backstory, a history podcast that brings historical perspective to events happening today in the United States. Ekirch appeared on a Backstory podcast about the history of “Time” as a concept in the US. He discusses a fascinating episode involving “sleep temperance” in the 19th century, where activists were concerned that Americans were getting too much sleep, and that the first sleep and second sleep may allow the possibility of too much depravity or sloth. I highly recommend you take a listen to Backstory — whether it’s in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep, or, as I do, on my walking commute to and from work.

(*ending it a little early, on Thursday, as I prepare for a holiday!)

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