Of snoring spiders and Spider-Men — rest easy

Burt's Eye View

Rest easy — science has confirmed that spiders sleep.

Also, Spider-Man turned 60 this month, so you know that he naps, too.

While no scientific study was conducted on Spider-Man’s slumber habits, you better believe researchers focused their spy cameras on the bedchambers of spiders to determine their sleeping cycles.


Who knows? I fell asleep before I read that far in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Like Spider-Man, I’m also in my 60s, so I nod off in the middle of ball games, movies, work, lectures from my wife and dense scientific studies.

My guess is that researchers wanted to know if it was safe for us to snore with our mouths open. If spiders nod off when we do, then that fact that we swallow eight spiders a year in our sleep can’t be true.

Especially since that “fact” actually isn’t true, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In 1993, a magazine cited the “outlandish example” of swallowing spiders as proof of how easily people swallow any nutso “truth” they read online.

Then the magazine piece became self-fulfilling prophecy — the eight-spiders-a-year statistic spread like a viral wildfire across the internet, and the magazine was cited as the source. Oops.

The factual truth, according to Britannica, is that you snore, you twitch, your heart thumps, and you are too big, noisy and jerky for vibration-sensitive spiders to handle. You scare him, you monster, you!

The arachnid that disturbed my sleep was Dr. Zin’s gigantic robot spider way back in 1964. I was banned from watching the sci-fi cartoon “Jonny Quest” on Saturday mornings after the nightmares that thing gave me. It took Dr. Benton Quest’s Para-Power Ray Blaster to bring down that beast.

I told Mom that if she bought a Para-Power Ray Blaster for my bedroom, I’d sleep perfectly fine with my finger on the trigger. And I could keep watching “Jonny Quest.” She didn’t buy it — neither my story nor the ray gun.

But back to the study — Daniela Roessler, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany, seemed ecstatic that the cameras she and colleagues trained on baby jumping spiders showed what looked like sleep cycles. Their legs twitched and their eyes flickered. The spiders’, I mean. The scientists might have twitched, tapped, flickered and fluttered as well, but the article didn’t specify.

Researchers said spiders exhibited REM — rapid eye movement — sleep, which is the phase linked to dreaming. Dreaming of what, I don’t know. Perhaps of growing up to become gigantic robot spiders, or of overcoming the fear of snoring so they can use your lower lip as a diving board tonight. Yum, yum.

Whatever the case, it appears that spiders sleep when you do, so it isn’t necessary to keep a ray gun handy while you slumber. (It still would be cool to have if neighbors crank their music. My wife says no.)

However, if you have an infestation of friendly neighborhood Spider-Men, watch out. Crime-fighting web-slingers generally work at night. But Spider-Man debuted in 1962. Trust me on this, he’s not staying up late anymore. Slip him cookies, a senior mug of warm milk and a pillow, and he won’t be bothering you for the rest of the night.

Unless Spider-Man snores.

• Talk spiders with Cole at the Canfield Fair. He’ll be signing his children’s novels at The Vindicator tent 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 1, 2 and 5.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today