It’s no secret that cats love to sleep. Cats spend up to 75% of their lives sleeping, which is a significant amount of time. Cats get the unfair perception that they’re lazy animals, but they sleep for several fundamental reasons. However, what is impressive is their ability to fall asleep so fast.
Cats sleep for up to 15 to 20 hours a day. Their sleep cycles consist of the slow-wave sleep, rapid eye movement, and non-rapid eye movement stages. Cats fall asleep so quickly because they start off in the lightest sleep stage, which is a dozing slumber. During this stage, they remain alert to protect themselves from danger. Cats sleep this much to conserve their energy ready for their night-time hunt.
It might seem that every time you turn around, your cat’s asleep. But more often than not, they’re resting their eyes to conserve energy. It’s also important to remember that cats aren’t like humans, and their thoughts don’t cloud their ability to fall asleep when they’re feeling tired.
Table of Contents:
- 1 How Do Cats Fall Asleep So Quickly?
- 2 How Fast Can Cats Fall Asleep?
- 3 Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
- 4 When Is Too Much Sleep A Problem?
How Do Cats Fall Asleep So Quickly?
Cats enjoy plenty of rest, with most sleeping on average 15 hours a day. Kittens and older cats can sleep for up to 20 hours, as they tire much more quickly than adult cats.
Cats are crepuscular, which means that they’re most active between dusk and dawn, preferring to hunt at night-time when it’s dark. Because you’re less likely to see what your cat is up to at night-time, it sometimes feels like all it does is sleep all day
But to understand why cats fall asleep so quickly, it’s helpful to first understand the different sleep cycles cats go through on a daily basis.
Slow-wave sleep (SWS) is a shallow form of rest, where a cat’s senses are in tune with what is going on around it. While it may appear fast asleep, it can hear and sense when things are nearby.
Cats in this stage of sleep are dozing but remain alert in case they need to pounce or run away. This stems from their time in the wild when cats needed to escape quickly from lurking predators.
According to Science Direct, there are two forms of slow-wave sleep; light and deep. Cats that are in the deep slow-wave sleep usually move onto the rapid eye movement stage of sleep.
Rapid Eye Movement Sleep
When your cat is in the rapid eye moment (REM) stage of sleep, it’s most likely to dream. As the name suggests, a cat’s eyes will move rapidly and its paws and ears will twitch. The US National Library of Medicine describes how rapid-eye movements occur in tandem with the loss of muscle tone, muscle twitches, and wake-like cortical activity.
Your cat will seem active, and that’s because its brain activity is the same as when the cat’s awake. However, waking them is very difficult during REM sleep. It’s also unadvised to do so, as your cat may become confused and attack you, thinking you’re a predator.
REM makes up around 60% of your cat’s sleeping time and takes place every 90 minutes or so.
In the non-REM stage (NREM) of sleep, cats are unlikely to move much and will become unattuned to what’s around it. This is the deepest form of sleep and is crucial for maintaining a cat’s health. Cats will rebuild and repair their bodies during this time but may also experience muscle tone loss.
Cats in NREM will tuck themselves away to sleep, as they are at their most vulnerable. Kittens need more non-REM rest than adult cats, as they build, strengthen, and revitalize their immune systems during this time.
Why Cats Fall Asleep Quickly
Cats spend most of their life asleep, alternating between a light catnap and a deeper slumber. The main reason cats fall asleep so quickly is because they’re in the lightest stage of sleep, which makes up around 60% of a cat’s total sleeping time.
Each phase lasts for around 15-20 minutes and is used to conserve energy. If you touch your cat while it’s in a light sleep, it will stir as it responds to you. Similarly, you’ll see your cat’s ears and paws twitching as it remains alert to the sounds around it.
While it might seem like your cat can fall asleep anytime, anyplace, it’s more accurate to say that your cat is dozing.
There are a cat’s instincts to consider, too. In the wild, cats use an optimal sleeping strategy to catch as much sleep as they can before predators turn up. By taking shorter, quicker naps throughout the day, they get a good amount of rest and can successfully avoid predators.
Cats also don’t experience as much mental stimuli as humans. While we might toss and turn in bed at night worrying about things that are going on in our lives, cats don’t have the same sleep barriers. When they are tired, they will sleep.
How Fast Can Cats Fall Asleep?
It’s always amazing has fast cats can fall asleep. One minute they’re awake and alert – the next, their eyes are closed and they begin to emit sleepy sounds, such as light snoring and heavy breathing.
In the slow-wave sleep stage, cats spend roughly 15-30 minutes dozing. During this time, a cat enjoys some shut-eye while sitting upright with its paws tucked in. Cats go into this stage of sleep incredibly quickly and easily – almost as soon as they close their eyes.
After 30 minutes or so, they move onto the deep sleep stage, which only lasts for about 5 minutes. Cats are harder to awaken during this stage and will adopt a more comfortable sleeping position. They’re less likely to stir or respond to sound and touch.
After 5 minutes, the cat returns to the slow-wave sleeping stage and alternates between the two until it is ready to wake up. The cat will repeat this process as often as it needs to, usually until it goes out at night to hunt.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
You might worry that your cat is sleeping so much because it is bored, but that’s far from the case. Cats are adaptable creatures and change their sleeping patterns to suit their hunting schedule. They also love to be comfortable.
The most common reasons for a cat’s prolonged sleeping cycles are because of the following:
Cats that hunt expel a large amount of energy at night stalking and hunting their prey. After a night on the prowl, cats need to recuperate their lost energy by sleeping, which prepares them for another evening of hunting.
In the wild, cats hunt to eat, so their predatory instincts are what keep them alive. Domesticated cats have retained this wild streak, even if they’re not successful with catching prey. Hunting requires a lot of energy as cats stalk, climb, run, and pounce as they try to find and kill their prey.
Indoor cats that primarily play with toys also expel the same amount of energy. You’ll find they have short bursts of intense play before falling asleep for an extended period.
Keeping Themselves Cool
In warmer climates and throughout the summer months, cats sleep more often to conserve energy and keep themselves cool. When it’s hot, cats can sleep for up to 8 hours at a time. If a cat expels too much energy when it’s hot, heat-related illnesses can develop, rendering the cat seriously unwell.
If you notice your cat sleeping more often while it’s hot, keep an eye on symptoms of illness, including:
- Excessive sweating
- Redness of the tongue and mouth
- Stumbling or dizziness
If any of the above symptoms occur, take your cat to a vet to get checked over in case of serious illness or disease.
Some cats enjoy sleeping and will do more so than other felines, especially on a cold and windy day when there’s little else to do. Sleeping when you’re tired is a deeply enjoyable experience for us – and this applies to cats too.
While cats usually sleep in 15-30 minute stints, cats that need a good snooze will go into a longer, deeper sleep. They’re also less likely to stir or wake up prematurely.
If a cat feels under the weather, it will attempt to sleep the illness off and conserve its energy for when it’s feeling better. Also, sleeping acts as anesthesia and allows the cat to find relief from the pain.
Illness usually zaps a cat from its energy. Cats will sleep because they have little left in the tank. However, once your cat starts to feel better and starts eating again, you’ll gradually see it becoming more active and alert. At this point, it won’t need to sleep as much.
Bored cats tend to sleep more. Inactivity causes feelings of sluggishness and depression, which leads to cats going into deeper sleep levels more quickly.
If cats are left on their own for long periods of the day without access to the outdoors, toys and puzzles should be left out to provide physical and mental stimulation. Cats might also enjoy having access to the yard via a cat flap.
When Is Too Much Sleep A Problem?
It’s normal for cats to sleep for up to 20 hours a day. After all, they love to sleep. However, if you notice that all your cat does is sleep, there might be an underlying problem that needs treatment.
Your cat must get looked at if it’s sleeping throughout the night. Cats should be at their most active when it’s dark, and if they show no interest in going out, health issues could be to blame.
Boredom, obesity, age, poor diet, feline depression, and a lack of vitamins are other common causes of excessive tiredness.
Cats fall asleep fast. But more often than not, they’re in the lightest stage of sleep. While it looks like cats have slipped into a deep sleep, their brain activity is similar to that of an active cat. Just like cats have short bursts of activity, they have short bursts of sleep too.