Monday 1 March 2021

Domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers

It is important for cat owners to be aware of the fact that domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers This is a cross post because it is an interesting topic in my opinion (read the other article by clicking here). You don't see this topic discussed very often. Polyphasic sleep means sleeping many times during the day as the prefix 'poly' means many and 'phasic' means phase. 

There are two other types of sleep namely monophasic and biphasic. People are generally monophasic sleepers which means they sleep at night and work during the day. It's a convention but a lot of people are biphasic and retired people are often polyphasic, napping throughout the day combined with broken sleep at night.

Domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers
 Domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers. Photo: Pixabay.

Boris Johnson is a good example of a person who has a biphasic sleep pattern because he uses a power nap in the afternoon to energise himself for the remainder of the day.

Polyphasic sleep for domestic cats fits in with their lifestyle. Innately they hunt during the day and night. Although they tend to focus on crepuscular activity which as you probably know is activity at dawn and dusk because their prey animals are more available at these times. Another reason for a domestic cat's polyphasic sleep pattern is because they have to fit in with the human lifestyle.

The human's biphasic sleep pattern because of their circadian rhythms is in friction with the domestic cat's lifestyle which is more fluid. The domestic cat is motivated in terms of activity to hunt. That is the raison d'ĂȘtre of their life and it requires fluidity. They need to hunt whenever they can because they are opportunistic hunters. The end result is a fluid lifestyle and a fluid sleep pattern which means that they are polyphasic sleepers.

The sleep pattern of domestic cats depends somewhat (at least) on whether they are full-time indoor cats or indoor/outdoor cats. The full-time indoor cat is likely to be the sort of cat who will sleep more often. This is not true sleep but napping and snoozing to kill time. The indoor/outdoor cat can behave more naturally in that they can hunt which means they're likely to rest and snooze less but they are still polyphasic sleepers.

An interesting point worth making is that because domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers they give the impression to people that they sleep a lot more than they do. There must be a million articles on the Internet about domestic cats sleeping for inordinate lengths of time, up to about 18 hours or more a day. I'm going to say that these are misleading articles, everyone of them.

Domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers
Domestic cats are polyphasic sleepers. Image: PoC.

Domestic cats are not actually sleeping during these phases. They are snoozing and resting. Based upon careful observations of my domestic cat, I can confidently state that when he is apparently sleeping he is only in genuine sleep, including REM sleep, for about 25% to 30% of the time. The rest of the time he looks like he is sleeping but he's alert and ready to get up and do things. I know this because at the slightest sound he gets up. And his ears are constantly mobile.

There is a misconception which is sadly disseminated and constantly reinforced on the Internet that cats sleep far more than people. I'm going to argue that domestic cats do not genuinely sleep more than people. If you add up the many phases of their sleep - and it may be 4 or 5 or 6 times in a day - you will find that they genuinely sleep for about 8 hours or maybe even less. This is a similar amount of time to people.

It is arguable, in fact, that domestic cats genuinely sleep less time than people.

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