Our cats are the masters of sleep. And that is a good thing — a very good thing — because they can help us! Many of us struggle with sleep. I was recently at a yoga teacher training workshop, where sleeplessness was referred to as “epidemic” in the U.S. If you want to sleep better, here’s what I think our cats might be trying to tell us. Spend some time observing your cats and see what they might be able to teach us about sleeping better.
I know that sleep is very individual. What works for one might not work so well for another. But I can share what works for me, and what my cats reinforce in my life.
A cat puts her heart into everything, including sleep. Have you ever seen a cat make a half-hearted attempt to sleep? No — she picks her spot on the floor, bed or couch, settles in, and sleeps through anything. We should be so lucky.
How do I translate this into my life? I take sleep seriously. For me, sleep is one of the cornerstones of health. What seems to help me is to turn off all screens an hour before bed, read some fiction, and settle into deep breathing. Sometimes I do a little yoga or stretching before bed. Of course, cats inherently know this — they stretch all day! Perhaps that’s why so many of our cats sleep so well.
Another thing that works for me — dark and heavy curtains in the bedroom. I turn the bedroom into a cave. Unfortunately, I differ from my cats in this way — they can sleep anywhere, anytime, in any amount of light. But if I’m tired enough, I’ll take a short catnap on the floor, in the sun, right in the cat pile. They love it, and so do I.
Our cats have this down. Sure, they’ll sleep on the floor if they have to, but they are tremendous opportunists. The floor works if a handy sun puddle has made an appearance. The bed is a coveted place, especially in the fall and winter, when bedding makes a warming nest. A lap is really the best — depending upon the personality of the cat.
What can our cats teach us in this respect? Pick the spot or the situation that is going to give you the best sleep. Some need a hard mattress, some like it soft, some of us can sleep on the floor with no problem, some like a couch. I’m much like a cat in that I like the feeling and security of snuggling into something heavy over me. So, arrange your sleeping situation so it serves you best.
Posture is important, and individual cats sleep in the funniest positions. Some sprawl out on their backs, paws dangling in the air. Some fall asleep on the edge of the bed, oblivious to the fact that they may slide off the bed and wake up abruptly. As humans, our bodies are all different. We have anatomy that varies, and we have injuries or compensations that we carry. Which way of sleeping gives you the most relief? Take the time to find out, for your body.
Do you sleep best on your side, with a pillow between your legs for support? Does a particular pillow work best for your neck? Are you fortunate to be able to sleep on your back? (I’ve tried and I can’t.) Watch your cats and see what they can teach you about sleeping posture. They always look comfortable (unless they are ill, which may show up in their body position). Find the sleeping posture that works best for you. The better sleep you get, the more quality time you can spend with your cats!
Isn’t it cute when the cats cuddle together? That’s when I know I’m truly a crazy cat person, because much of the human population could probably care less when this happens. It’s particularly special to me, because I started out with two cats who would have nothing to do with each other and who never cuddled. If you have a partner, watching your cats cuddle is a good reminder of the healing power of closeness! Cuddling is a great prelude to sleep — just watch your cats. If you don’t have a partner or don’t feel like cuddling with said partner, cuddle with your cat! Many cats ADORE this quality time. You’ll know your cats well enough to know when a cuddling opportunity presents itself.
Though cats don’t always purr when they sleep, the purr is such a relaxing sound. Like many cat nuts, I’ve often wished I could purr. As a substitute, I settle for deep breathing. If I’m having real trouble getting to sleep, I’ll try to slow my breathing, breathe through the nose, and visualize each exhale dropping me deeper and deeper into relaxation, and into the mattress. This works pretty well for me.
So even though we can never be cats (although we might like to be), there’s plenty our cats can teach us about sleeping and how to sleep better. What do your cats teach you about how to sleep better? Share your stories in comments!
Read more about cats and sleep here:
About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of a short story collection about people and place. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.