Pets know the value of sleep, but people don’t

Published 9:00 am Monday, May 24, 2010

When I was a teenager and young adult I thought sleep was over rated. When I was a young mother I thought sleep was the most valued thing on Earth. When I was the mother of teenagers I wanted a beeper that would control their movements and automatically bring them home so I could get some sleep. After my teenagers left my house I rejoiced at being able to sleep at night.

Then we adopted Sam, our faithful mutt. I had heard the stories of people’s pets keeping them awake at night. My daughter frequently would tell me how tired she and her husband were because their cats had kept them awake.

The first few weeks we had Sam it was an adjustment period. He would howl at night and want to get out of his kennel and be with us. We relented and Sam got his own couch. He was comfy and we were sleeping.

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Lately, however, after three years of Sam being a member of our household his habits have changed. Sam rings bells to let us know he has to go out. We even have a bell attached to the outside of our bedroom door so should he need us he can ring his bell.

So I thought I was dreaming one night recently. I was dreaming about bells. Were the angels calling at 2 a.m. awakening the heavens with their bells?

No, it was Sam. I dragged myself out of my wonderful dream and to the door. I flopped onto the couch waiting for the signal for Sam to want to come in and flop on his bed. Usually on the rare occasions when Sam does go outside in the middle of the night it is quick and fast. However, this night I waited and waited. I finally lifted the curtain and there was Sam investigating every blade of grass and whatever was crawling in the moonlight.

Sam then continued on to the fence and every bush. I opened the door and in my sternest voice called his name. He hesitated and came in. I plopped into my bed for a nice new dream. Just as the dream started I heard the bells again. I thought his time the bells had to be in my dream. No, it was Sam and it was 2:45 a.m. This time I crawled out of bed with a scowl. I followed Sam to the door and plopped myself onto the couch.

A half hour passed, no Sam. Again I checked the window, and again Sam was meandering in the moonlight. It reminded me of the picture of the dog’s shadow in the moonlight. Maybe he was waiting for his lady love Lola to wander out in the middle of the night. Maybe he thought they had a clandestine meeting. But Lola is a female, and she knows the value of sleep. Again in my sternest voice I called and Sam meandered the perimeter of the yard before gracing me with his presence.

We both flopped into our respective sleeping places, Sam, on the couch and I in my bed. The dream started and again I heard bells. This time I knew it wasn’t the angels. This time I did what I used to do after many sleepless hours with my kids, I nudged the other party in my house. It was 4 a.m. So the other party in my house dragged himself to the door with Sam and plopped on the couch. Did I sleep? No. I worried about what might be wrong with Sam. Was he sick? Why had he kept us up? Even though someone was up with Sam I had to go check on him after 45 minutes. I found him lying in the rocking chair on my patio. The other person in my household had wisely fallen asleep on the couch. Everyone was sleeping but me!

In the morning Sam avoided my eyes. Head down he avoided me as if he knew I was not happy with him. Sam slept all day. The rest of us did what we always had done when our kids were little and our teenagers were teenagers and kept us up; we continued on with our day, crabby, sleepy and grumpy.

According to the Internet dogs sleep at least 14 hours a day. No one is sure why dogs sleep so much. According to my source, dogs are able to adjust their sleep pattern so they can be awake when there is something to do and sleep the rest of the time. Maybe dogs are just smarter than us and know the value of sleep and how it contributes to their well-being and health. Dogs have the art of napping down, too.

According to the national sleep foundation there is no magic number for sleep for us humans. Different age groups need different amounts of sleep as do individuals. We all have basic sleep needs. Not enough sleep has been connected to motor vehicle accidents, obesity, risk of diabetes and heart problems, depression and ability to pay attention to signals and information.

Yet all of us put sleep as a low priority on our list. We have too many things to do, deadlines to meet or increased social activities that rob us of our sleep.

I have often wondered how much more productive I would be if I actually got hours of uninterrupted sleep or took time in my busy work schedule for a small nap in the afternoon. Would rest make a difference to my health and my stress? I wonder what my employer would say if he caught me taking a quick siesta in the middle of the afternoon. Possibly it would be goodbye.

Perhaps we could learn something from the quick naps that our pets take. They appear to be restored and frisky after a quick nap. Of course we must remember that they have someone to feed them, pet them, tell them they are cute and take care of their every need. No wonder they sleep so well.

For one week, check out how much you sleep and whether it makes a difference to your mood. What keeps you up at night? What makes you tired? How do you feel if you have had too little or too much sleep? I am no longer a teenager and I know sleep is not overrated. I just have to convince Sam of that.

“May sleep envelop you as a bed sheet floating gently down, tickling your skin and removing every worry. Reminding you to consider only this moment.” — Jeb Dickerson

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send e-mail to her at .Her blog is Listen to KBEW AM radio 1:30 p.m. Sundays for “Something About Nothing.”