Those little slices of death

The New York Times science section has a special issue devoted to sleep.

The feature contains about 10 articles about recent findings in sleep research, including one by Carl Zimmer on how studies carried out on birds are informing us about the functions of sleep.

The title of the post is from a quote that is often attributed to Edgar Allan Poe: “Sleep, those little slices of death; Oh how I loathe them.”


5 thoughts on “Those little slices of death

  1. My favorite bit was the poem by the incredible Jonathan Swift.
    Those dreams thaton the silent night intrude,
    And with false flitting shapes our minds delude,
    Jove never sends us downward from the skies,
    Nor do they from infernal mansions rise;
    But all are mere productions of the brain.
    And fools consult interpreters in vain.

  2. I have five parrots. Often, their small sleeping cages (covered with dark fabric) are in my bedroom so we sleep near each other. Repeatedly, one or more of the parrots wakes me up during the night – often multiple times. The birds talk, sing, and make generic bird noises. Each parrot’s nighttime vocalizations equate with the types they use during the day. The Patagonian conure who knows whatever he chooses to remember from human speech, talks at night, as if reviewing and refining his speech. He knows a Mongo Santamaria song “Besame Mama”, except for one line. At night, he will sing up to that unknown line, try a few words in it – pause – then go back to the beginning of the song and sing again until the last line. Maybe 10 times. He also has awakened me with meaningful speech he never heard from me. First, it was two telephone numbers, local seven digit, faithfully repeated over and over for a few minutes each event. 6 months later during the local public radio fund drive, I heard those phone #s and realized he had learned them from the radio.
    Now it’s weirder. He has another phone number – something like 9832296, but he mixes up the last four numbers as if trying to get them right. Then he says “Call now!”. I suspect my hard-of-hearing neighbor listens to some tv/radio call in show and as I don’t live on that side of the house, the bird hears it while I do not. If he ever gets the correct number, and I get a voice-dial phone, I think I’m in trouble.
    But. Birds do talk, sing in human fashions as well as in bird style during the night. I’ve heard them hundreds of times over 7-8 years. Are they awake? If I life the dark cover to see, yes, then they are awake. But it has always seemed more like a vocal dream – they are asleep mostly, but some part of their brain is “practicing” for the next day.
    This happens with infant humans, too. The nighttime babbbles that slowly become words during the day.

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