One restless night when sleep seemed to elude me with every stroke of the clock, I found myself staring at my cat Parker. I felt a slight pang of jealousy at how easily sleep came to him. Even in the most peculiar spots, he finds just the right conditions to drift off into sleep.
A house cat can average over 16 hours of sleep a day. There’s a reason why we call them “cat naps” and not “dog naps.” It dawned on me that I was living with a sleep expert. To learn some important lessons about sleep, I had to look no further than my cat.
Here are some things Parker, my personal sleep guru, has taught me over the years.
Sleep is priceless
This one’s a no brainer. I thought I knew this until I realized that I wasn’t prioritizing my sleep enough. I was letting trivial things get in the way. My cat, on the other hand, will cuddle up into a nap whenever and wherever he sees fit, even if he blocks my view of the TV.
Making sleep a high priority means arranging your day around it. It means turning off the TV and putting the phone away at least an hour before bedtime. That next episode or after-hours email can wait.
Sleeping with intention is a thing—and cats are very good at it.
Live in the moment (aka get out of your head)
Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle once said, “I have lived with many Zen masters, all of them cats.” Cats always seem to be in a perpetual state of meditation.
Whether they’re peacefully perched on a windowsill or stalking an unsuspecting bird, every part of them is buzzing with the present moment. I can guarantee they’re not thinking about a clumsy move they made hours ago. They’re fully in the here and now.
This is why Parker never has any trouble catching a quick cat nap whenever the opportunity arises.
Make time for play
It’s all too easy to get bogged down by to-do lists and the chaos of everyday life. Our pets remind us to give ourselves permission to press pause. Doing things purely for the sake of fun not only helps us unwind, but it also helps us get out of our head (see previous lesson) and release stagnant energy.
Playtime sets us up for better sleep—and a better life.
Less is more
Cats don’t require a lot to relax. We really should take cues from their constant state of contentment.
Keep things simple before bedtime. Don’t overindulge at dinner, skip the late-night snack, declutter your space. Say no to “just one more episode” of that docuseries.
Self-care is important
My cat may not take bubble baths before bed, but he always indulges in a relaxing grooming session after dinner. I, too, have learned how soothing a self-care routine can be to wind down the day.
Whether it’s a nightly skincare routine or a short yin yoga session, carving out time for mindful self-care can make all the difference when it comes to getting better sleep.
Listen to your body
Cats are very in tune with their bodies. They stop eating when they’ve had enough, take a nap when it beckons them, and take every opportunity for a good stretch.
Through the daily hustle and bustle of human life, it’s all too easy to lose this sacred connection with our bodies. We mindlessly scarf down too much food too fast, we push past the point of exhaustion, we ignore telltale signs our bodies are sending us to slow down.
So the next time you see your cat enjoy a leisurely stretch, let it be a reminder for you to take the time and do the same.
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