Last night while you were asleep…
So began a commercial from my childhood that for some reason has stuck with me for nearly half a century. I can’t recall the specifics of the product — a limited edition toy in a brand of cereal, I believe — but the opening image has stuck with me. A girl in shadows is deep asleep while the silhouette of a ballerina dances in her imagination. The image dissolves to a boy in the same position, and then there is the silhouette of a pitcher letting loose a baseball. The whole point of the ad was that while children were in deepest sleep, a magical new treat was available for them when their mothers took them to the market.
That idea of something magical happening while I am in deepest slumbers has stuck with me through the decades. The eye opening statistic that comes up when we see how much we spend on various activities is that 33.3% (assuming an eight hour sleep) of one’s life is spent sleeping compared to a mere 12-14% working. That, of course, is paid work since so much more of tasks happen off the time clock.
The fact that so much is still not understood about sleep is why it continues to fascinate me. Further, it is the one activity that we share the most in common with other animals. Other things like sexuality, food, exercise, etc. are all animal activities but certainly aren’t exactly the same or experienced quite so similarly as sleep. For more than a third of my life, I have let my cats and now basenjis share my bed. This is surely the time we are most connected, all three in the same state. I often wonder what the dreams of animals might be like. Research seems to be minimal on that topic and obviously not easy to interpret beyond monitoring brain waves. But it is the stuff of daydreams as I watch my too in morning or afternoon slumbers, reminding me that they spend more than 33.3% of the day asleep.