9/4/2020 0 Comments
On sleeping and dreaming
I woke up early this morning and with mornings coming so late these days, I was awake before the birds and heard them all wake up in order. First, the ruru called a last few times after its long night awake, then one after another tui began to call, the warblers warbled, a kaka called out and the blackbirds began to sing. In the summer, the tui wake up long before I do, and today I thought about how much more sleep birds have in the winter than they do in the summer, and I wondered whether they dream more in the winter, even though you would think in the winter they would have less to dream about. I read somewhere once that scientists had tracked the dreams of animals by comparing the patterns of neurons firing in their sleep to their waking patterns, and concluded that rats dreamed of running in mazes, birds dreamed about bird songs, presumably confirming their hypotheses, although the maze-running must be a laboratory-specific dream and perhaps birds, too, have more to dream about after a day of flying around outside than they do after a day in a laboratory aviary. The point of the experiment I think was to confirm that dreaming consolidates learning, one of the theories about dreaming and why we sleep. Perhaps I am not sleeping late because I have nothing I need to dream about, going out so little into the world at the moment. Perhaps the rats and birds in the laboratory also woke early, electrodes on their heads, not feeling like sleeping any later even if all they had to wake up to was another day of running mazes and learning notes. If the sleep of birds depends so much on the season though, dreaming cannot really be what is driving sleep patterns, and bears hibernating through the winter may not be processing particularly complicated knowledge they took in without processing through the long summer, or managing particularly troubled or repressed emotions. Perhaps dreaming really is just like reading with your eyes shut, a way of getting through a time in which it isn’t safe to move around in the world, a way of staying put. I have been half thinking of using the long sleeping hours of my hens to accustom them to being patted, by patting them on their perches when they are relaxed and half asleep, except they roost so high up that by the time I’d climbed up to where I could reach them they would probably be in a state of high alarm, as well as tired, and in any case as the weather worsens I don’t find myself much wanting to put my gumboots on over my pyjamas and make the trek down to the coop in the dark. Instead, I go to sleep early, and dream about minding children I realise are substitute children, dreaming yet another dream about having the wrong child in my arms, or, the other night, a blue speckled rooster who let me carry him around but whom I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to keep, and shouldn’t be carrying, but how could I know he’d be safe, if I let him go?
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