I have a knack for dwelling on odd questions to the point of having them spin around and around my head. It feels like my brain is constantly slithering around, looking for material that’s nothing more that filler for my skull. The questions my mind conjures up are usually nothing that will change the world, or anyone’s life once they’re answered. But, because the questions swirl around my brain in a tiresome, taunting manner that keeps me from attending to anything else, I have no choice but to research the answers to make the questions go away so I can move on. This week I found myself questioning the sleep habits of snakes.
I had some sticks to clean up in my yard and I went to the tool shed for a rake. When I opened the door, my husband’s chainsaw that was on the floor between me and the rakes on the back wall, commanded my attention. I wondered where the garden hose came from that my husband set on top of it because I didn’t recall having one that color. Then the garden hose’s head popped up and I did a yucky-yuck-yuck dance as I backed out of the shed to get away from what I realized was the biggest garter snake I’ve ever seen.
I thought I had a fear of snakes, but I realized I didn’t feel so afraid of this one. I stepped back in the shed to look at it and I realized that what I thought was a fear of snakes is actually a fear of animals when they’re moving unpredictably – I’m going this way, no that way, no this way, oh, and I might have teeth and venom, just in case you wrongly guess which way I’m going . . . This snake was napping on my husband’s chainsaw, so I felt I had time to run into the house and get my camera so I could zoom in on it from a safe distance. When I returned with the camera and opened the door, the snake sleepily raised its head for a photo. Then it put its head down and went back to sleep. It looked like it needed to rest from a long day of cutting wood. It looked so cute while it was napping, that I thought about making it a little lumberjack outfit to go with the chainsaw. I stopped fantasizing about my potential new dress-up toy when I realized I had never seen a snake nap before. Snakes seemed like a creature that’s wound up with enough energy from birth to keep them moving their entire lives without the requirement of sleep. I couldn’t actually see the snake’s face, and I didn’t want to walk around the chainsaw and crouch down to see if its eyes were shut. I thought that maybe it was being a snake in the grass – on the cement floor of my shed – and was plotting to kill me while catching me off guard with its soothing stillness. I wanted to tap the snake on its shoulder and ask if snakes really nap. But I didn’t know where its shoulder was, and I didn’t really want to touch it anyway because I’m easily grossed out and would need to shed my own skin if I ever came in physical contact with one.
Thank goodness for Google. I owe what sanity I have to its inventors. When I was growing up, our sets of Childcraft and World Book Encyclopedia weren’t able to sufficiently answer the daily questions that wound through my head, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them. I’m also thankful for the validation Google gives me when my question appears verbatim at the top of the search list, and I know there are lots of other weird people asking the exact same question as me. I was able to find the answer to my sleepy snake question immediately.
Q: Do snakes sleep?
A: Yes they do. But you can’t tell when a snake is sleeping because they have no eyelids.
Then I felt sorry for snakes, even though I think they’re gross. And it led me to my next question.
Q: How do snakes sleep without eyelids?
A: They just do. Their brains are in charge of sleep, not their eyes.
Then I felt jealous toward snakes because my brain is always spinning, and despite possessing eyelids, insomnia rules me. My jealousy led to my next question.
Q: Can humans sleep with their eyes open?
A: Up to 10% of people sleep with their eyes open.
I realized that, maybe the customer service people I encounter that I think are completely useless are actually just sleeping with their eyes open. I was then so disturbed by the idea of people sleeping with open eyes that it eliminated my brain’s obsession with snakes’ sleeping habits – mission accomplished. But now I’m obsessing about how people develop nocturnal lagophthalmus. I have to go do some research to answer my latest question so I can sleep through the night . . .
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