by Carole A. Travis-Henikoff
Passings - Death, Dying and Unexplained Phenomenon
by Carole A. Travis-Henikoff  •  Foreword by Dr. Garniss H. Curtis


See Carole's blog in Psychology Today: All Things Human.


Travis-Henikoff's recent book Dinner With a Cannibal has earned widespread critical acclaim. Publisher's Weekly gave the book a star, stating that the book is "a meticulously researched, compulsively readable history of mankind's greatest taboo."

With Alice, Travis-Henikoff enters a whole new literary genre with a story just as enjoyable, exploring a topic no less taboo.

Alice was conceived during the middle hours of many nights, October 2007, aboard the barge, La Tortue, on the Canal du Midi, France.

Read Alice (hosted by The Process Is ...)

Alice illustration by Doug Mesner

The Birth of a Notion
The Formulation of A Hypothesis
By C.A. Travis-Henikoff

Snoring may have been our first lullaby - a rough song of mimicry sung by adult males in order to keep predators at bay by announcing the presence of a healthy, protective adult population.

It was a feat done undercover, a superbly executed rollover accomplished with the synchronization of smoothly meshing gears. The man I love led the way, moving me through a nighttime ballet performed in slow motion. With my conscious mind at rest, the lower layers of my neural network stood ready to ease me into semi-consciousness. A mere change in my lover's breathing pattern accompanied by the slightest motion of his arm, caused my sleeping body to ready itself, and as our dance began each partner disengaged, rolled over then re-engaged with a fluidity of grace. Through gentle murmurings I breathed in deeply, then exhaled slowly into the darkness of the night. My man settled in, snuggling his face into my fine, blonde hair, his nose and mouth coming equidistant with my shell-like ear - and then - he began to snore.

My eyes opened. 4:17 A.M. Raspy, growling sounds resonated into my right ear. Though in deepest sleep my man hugged me through his dreamtime and for once, instead of being irritated over being awakened by his snoring, I wedged myself deeper into the contours of the warm body that cradled me. I settled in to listen to the rhythmic drone of my man's snoring.

I must have had enough sleep, as I felt neither tired nor sleepy. Most unusual for me, but there I lay, all tucked in with love and the quiet of the night which was now being rent asunder by the simple act of snoring. My mind was in a clear, inquisitive mode and despite the din I was sensate with the hush of the room.

The snoring increased, building towards a deep resonance. I listened attentively.

"Why do we snore?" I wondered. "Well, it's air flowing through a constricted air passage over an age softened palate." said my conscious mind. "No, no, dummy, that wasn't the question." barked a lower layer of my mind. "The question you asked was not, 'How do we snore?' - the question you asked was 'Why do we snore?'" "Yes!" cried back my conscious mind as it recalled the professor who said, "If you can formulate the correct question, you are half way to the answer."

My forte and passion is paleoanthropology - the study of human origins. F. Clark Howell, famous within the field, stood at a Paleoanthropology Symposium in New York and proclaimed to a gathering of colleagues that a Paleoanthropologist is just an old anthropologist. And it was Dr. Howell who pushed for inter-disciplinary teamwork within the field. What good was it to simply study the fossils if you didn't communicate with the paleontologists, the paleo-botanists, the paleo-climatologists, those who study ancient micro fauna and flora and all the rest of the gang who can round out the picture as to how conditions were during the times of our earliest ancestors.

My love's snoring was now at its zenith and my brain began to whirl in cadence.

We know that from ovulation to sneezing, each bodily function exists for a reason, thus snoring must also occur for a reason and the reason needs to be looked for far, far back in time... evolutionary time.

Now my mind began to sort and sift, search and seek, then dictate into the vibrating ether of the evening as it inched its way towards the dawn of a new day.

Sneezing is often related to hay fever or a cold, but the ability to sneeze is inherent within the biological form in order to expel unwanted or harmful particles from the nasal passages and upper respiratory tracts. Perfectly healthy mammals sneeze. Perfectly healthy humans sneeze. Perfectly healthy mammals, including humans, snore without the presence of pathology.

It is the adult males of our species who do most of snoring with post-menopausal women lagging far behind in second place. Children never snore unless there is a pathology present. Many animals snore, and of great importance is the fact that the list of mammalian snorers is exclusively made up of carnivores and omnivores; creatures who do the consuming as opposed to those who would be consumed - thus snoring in humans had to have performed a function that fit into the art of living, the art of staying alive in a time when we were more interconnected with nature as we danced through a time of daily survival and predation.

I listened ever more intently as my man continued his serenade of growls and grunts and snorts, and the more I listened the faster the synapses fired.

Geologic and fossil evidence tell us that the giant dinosaurs became extinct sixty-five million years ago. Their departure allowed for the proliferation and diversification of the small mammals that managed to survive. In time, several lines of primates evolved, then, some six to seven million years ago, a group of them stood up and branched off. Their lineage eventually led to us--modern humans--Homo sapiens. We are the latest model of upright apes and certainly the most precocious. Fortunately many of our oldest cousins left their bones in proper places for fossilization. From their bones we are able to decipher many things.

Paleo-climatologists (old climatologists) tell us the weather changed around five million years ago; causing the forests that had covered the bulk of Africa to shrink leaving vast savannas in their wake. With vast spaces opening up we eventually left (or were forced from) the sleeping safety of the trees. Moving out onto the emerging savannas posed the difficult task of sleeping unprotected on the ground.

Snore, snore - race, race - light bulbs - popping, popping.

Via fossil finds, paleoanthropology, archaeology and a multitude of studies on aboriginal tribes we can be assured that our ancestors, from Australopithecines to Homo habilis, from Homo ergaster and Homo erectus to Archaic Homo sapiens and Neanderthal to modern humans - all slept in groups.

We refer to our ancient ancestors as hominids and theorize that any given group of hominids had to number between 12 and 50. A minimum of 12 (some say 28), in order to have both breeders and those who would replace them, and a maximum of 50 as any number greater than fifty would deplete all surrounding foodstuffs so rapidly that the band would have to travel daily in order to feed itself.

Of importance is the fact that sleeping was done in groups.

YES!! I screamed silently into the night as I lay there with my mate in our solitary room, isolated from all others of our kind. How recent is our "civilized" habit of sleeping apart from the rest of our band? When did we begin to snuggle down in separate cubicles? Did this new sleeping pattern begin when we learned to build sturdy, predator proof structures? Or later?

Large carnivorous cats, wild dogs and hyenas prey on weak, young or solitary animals and were proto-human's biggest danger of the day - and on into the darkness of the night. The huge toothed cats of the past, down to those we know today, continued to be life threatening for millions of years until over-population and firearms put the predators into the position of danger. While some big cats stalk and hunt alone, others, such as lions, hunt in packs. Solitary, or in a pack, predators consistently take the young, the lame, the sick and dying. A pack will work together to cull an infant or weakling from a herd, attacking the strong and healthy only when more vulnerable individuals are unavailable.

Big cats still kill. Today, in parts of India, people are still taken by tigers on a rather consistent basis. The victims are invariably alone and away from their group; a lone woman doing her wash at river's edge, or a woodcutter working deep in the tiger's territory. There have been some instances of children playing on the outskirts of a village who have been taken - but even in those cases you find the victim on the fringe of the group in a vulnerable, unprotected position.

As cunning as predators are, they know their prey and their abilities. In the Lightning Bird, Lyall Watson tells of Adrian Boshier, an epileptic who wandered the Transvaal of South Africa until his death. Raymond Dart, founder of the fossilized Taung skull (1924), aided Boshier in his travels and exploratory education. Dart supplied the books and moneys Boshier needed and in return Boshier brought his learning experiences back to Dart from the bush. One of the things Boshier found was that a solitary man waving a stick in his hand and screaming at the top of his lungs could ran at a pride of feeding lions and drive them off a kill. Bosheir would then cut a fine portion of meat from the kill and walk away. The lions never attacked him on his retreat, but simply return to the kill. This anecdote tells us that bipedalism and useful arms allowed us survival techniques unique to our two-leggedness, at least while awake. Surely, the predators of the day knew the capabilities of our earliest forebears, just as they would have known their scent. But prey that can throw and brandish things about when awake would still be vulnerable when hunkered down for the night. But mimicing those that would consume you, as many other species have done, could save your hide via a message of warning and strength.

I was on a roll as the love of my life throttled down to a more tolerable tone.

Many plants and animals mimic some facet of their predatory enemy in order to escape detection. Civet cats prey on bush babies. Civet cats can be detected from a good distance as they have a distinct odor. ("Stink" is the word used by researchers, but we will try to maintain a semblance of propriety.) In order to save their lives, bush babies also possess a distinct odor - their odor mimics the smell of their archenemy the Civet cat.

There are insects that resemble twigs, leaves or other insects. There are fish who look like rocks, nice tasting frogs who mimic the colors of highly toxic cousins, moths whose design copies the toxic Monarch, Abyssinian cats with markings just above the eyes which make them look as though their eyes are open while they sleep, but regardless of species, each disguise, of each organism, is a means of not being consumed.

Another move, a double pirouette performed perfectly beneath the curtain of our sleeping chamber.

The snoring stopped leaving my galloping mind to race the break of day in quiet solitude.

One might think that snoring would bring on the snorer's enemy by announcing the snorer's presence, but if a snore, is a snore, is a grunt, a roar, a hiss and a whistle, then a marauding cat or circling pack of hyenas would know that the sounds renting the evening air were those of many predators. If nothing else the raspy, growling sounds of the sleeping group would say loud and clear, "Here is a group of strong, healthy animals. We are many. There is nothing here for you tonight but a fight."

If snoring drew one's enemy to one's place of existence and provoked attack, then all devourable snorers would have been devoured long ago and snoring would have ceased to be a function of human beings and their ancestors. Natural evolutionary culling would have eradicated snorers from our midst millions of years ago.

Daybreak - back to life and its dailies. I needed more information, needed to speak with others, needed to see if everything fit.

I wanted to know if our primate cousins snore. I phoned down to Virginia Landau at the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in Tucson, Arizona. Virginia was very helpful and put me onto Larry Jacobsen of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Larry became an instant primate lifeline by putting some questions onto the computer link-up, Primate Talk, there-by connecting me with more than 350 primatologists.

Snoring proved to be to an interesting topic and the lines began to hum. Every time I called Larry he had more input from out-lying regions to report. The data seemed to boil down to this; higher primates have been known to snore in captivity (both male and female) but not in the wilds. Anne Russon had followed a juvenile orangutan through the jungles and had to put up with his nightly snoring, but it was found that he had a bad cold with upper respiratory complications. If fact, every infant, or juvenile primate that had been observed to snore had a pathology. Like human children, primate children do not snore unless there is a pathological problem. The reason for this is that normal snoring cannot occur until the palate (the roof of your mouth), has softened with age.

Kevin Hunt, Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University and a long time Chimpanzee researcher, has never heard a Chimpanzee snore while sleeping in a tree nest, but one day he came upon a male sleeping by the base of a tree, on the ground, and he was snoring. It was the only time Kevin has ever heard a Chimpanzee snore in the wilds.

The fact that higher primates snore in captivity but not in the wilds stumped me for a minute until I remembered that all of the higher primates (Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Orangutans) live in forests or jungles, not out on the savannas, and most of them sleep in trees. Do they snore in captivity because of sleeping posture? Stress? Diet? In modern humans these things enhance the occasion to snore: age, sex (male < > female), weight, drinking, smoking, and stress. Many animals, including primates, gain weight in captivity due to over feeding. Sleeping posture and the stress of confinement might also be part of the equation. In regards to my hypothesis the fact that great apes possess the ability to snore is significant as it tells us that our most ancient ancestors probably possessed the physiological aptitude for snoring. The fossil palates of extinct hominids within the global collections show palates that resemble ours and those of other apes. There appears to be no difference that would preclude Homo habilis, for instance, from filling the night air with sonorous vibrations.

Through the communications of Primate Talk many primatologists told of snoring monkeys. Jay Kaplan wrote, "Those who lie down with the monkeys at Cayo Santiago* are frequently awakened by snoring." which gave everyone a grin for the day and caused some to type in words of wonder over such behavior. Jay has done work with Rhesus monkeys; those who have worked with baboons told of gentle snoring through the night. Both Rhesus monkeys and baboons live out in open shrub lands and the African night is a dangerous time. So dangerous in fact, that one tribe of baboons crawls down a hazardous cliff each night to sleep precariously upon ledges that do not allow for rollover-pirouettes, either singly or in pairs. Of course there have been roll-OFFS within the tribe, but those occasions must amount to less of a toll than being out where the leopards can partake. Baboons, unlike our ancestors, do not possess the capability of prolonged bipedalism or the craft of swinging a large stick or throwing boulders in the direction of a predator, and so it is that a tribe of baboons troops down its precarious cliff each night to sleep in safety while risking the act of rolling over.

Another night, another snore, another dance, there's more in store, La,la,la,la, la - la, la, - de,da,da, ummm hmmm de whoopee.

I spoke with Rosalind Cartwright of Rush Medical University and Rush Medical Center in Chicago. Aside from being department head of Psychology, Rosalind is a sleep and snoring specialist. I spoke to her in regard to my hypothesis. As she laughed her head off, I continued telling her of listening to my mate's snoring, of being astounded by the growling, snarling, grunting that issued from the man I love. Rosalind stopped laughing and said she has heard every description imaginable, from "like a freight train coming through the wall" to "he pulls the paint off the walls."

When I explained my hypotheses more fully, Roz stopped her giggles and got serious. Snoring is caused by the exhalation of air through a narrowed (laryngeal), air passage narrowed via the engorgement of lymphoid tissue over an age-softened palate. The exhaled breath, coming out with greater force, due to passing through a constricted space, blows over an age-softened palate, which acts as a reed in a musical instrument and, Voila! Snoring! But humans don't snore all the time so something else must prompt this most noisy of human functions. Rosalind knew all the answers and even named the culprit. First of all, you have to be old enough and preferably male, as male hormones, primarily testosterone and progesterone, seem to be the instigators. Both have been heavily implicated as a contributing factor in the etiology of snoring. Science has found that neurons located in the brain stem control the muscle tone of the upper airway. When these neurons are stimulated by male hormones you get relaxed laryngeal muscles plus enlargement of said muscles and that produces resistance to airflow through the upper airway which leads to snoring and your night's sleep being shattered by growling and snorting sounds emanating from the regular, normal, neat guy (or gal) you sleep with.

Progesterone is a known respiratory stimulant and can increase the tone (size) of the muscles, thus stabilizing the upper airway. (i.e., in a sustained, engorged state) A higher prevalence of snoring has also been attributed to the effects of testosterone upon the act of breathing.

"Male and female hormones, however, not only may have direct functional effects on respiration, but could influence snoring by structural changes in the respiratory system - the upper airways in particular and the musculoskeletal structures in general. Snoring is more common when the mouth is open, and men spend a far greater time mouth breathing during sleep than do women." Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, Kryger, Roth, and Dement.

Rosalind smiled as she related tales from the past. She told how many years ago when male sex hormones were first implicated in relationship to normal snoring, male snorers were given female hormones. The Knights went silent but discontinued the treatment when they development breasts and other feminine attributes which they deemed to be more of a problem than snoring.

Hormones allow us to understand the statistics. Statistically men snore far more often than women, 84% compared to 16% respectively, except after menopause, and children only snore when there is pathology present. But just as important as who among us snore is the fact that we humans snore during periods of deepest sleep and REM time - Rapid Eye Movement - dream time. In other words we snore during periods of time when the mind is least conscious of its surroundings, during the periods of time when an organism would be most vulnerable to predation.

The wave was continuing to gain momentum and mass and in response my love's snoring began to bother me less and less.

If our adult ancestral males snored and offspring and females (for the most part) did not, than we have the sleeping equivalent of the yell of the charging silver back gorilla, the hiss and snarl of the lion, the bark of the male baboon and the rumble of a purr, all produced for announcing and/or giving threat to enemies.

Do we further this idea with the thought that the louder the snore the greater the protector? It is possible that when a dominant male lion flops himself down on his back and shatters the gentle hum of the savanna with his mighty snore, he is, in fact, announcing (while sleeping) that he is still the hale and hearty King and all contenders should keep their distance?

Could there be a dominant sexual proclamation hidden within this theory? Did our dominant ancestral males snore the loudest? Did ancient woman plug her ears with wadded leaves or ornithological down? Or did she understand the benefit and sleep through the night in peace?

There are times when the mind doesn't wish to sleep - being too busy with conscious thought - at such times 'tis best to let it work itself out.

Garniss Curtis is a retired professor of Geology at Berkeley and a renowned geochronologist in the field of potassium-argon dating. Garniss is the man who has settled many a dating argument in the field of paleoanthropology by correctly dating hominid fossils via volcanic tuff material. A few years back Time magazine's cover showed a rendition of Homo erectus highlighting an article concerning Dr. Curtis and Carl Swisher's re-dating of Java man, showing that some of the oldest Homo erectus fossils we possess come from Java, rather than Africa. With a date of 1.78 million years in Java for Homo erectus and with snoring being ubiquitous throughout the human races we can surmise that we have been snoring for at least two million years.

Garniss is a long time friend and mentor who has slept for months at a time on the savannas of Africa. Garniss liked my idea on why we snore. True to form he tried to knock it, even argued a bit, but in time found it to hold up under scrutiny. "It sounds logical and I can't think of a better explanation, but I'm not yet convinced."

Garniss is a scientist. I would have expected nothing less.

Clark Howell of Berkeley reviewed the first draft of my hypothesis and gave me an affirmative on the possibility of the idea, suggesting also that snoring might serve as a sleeping form of communication within a group. Primates families are always "touching" one another through sound. It could even have been communication between rival neighboring groups of hominids; their snoring giving off the message "We are sleeping, so it's safe for you to sleep." Salient ideas.

Weeks past, I continued to call, and read and speak with anyone I thought could put forth an idea on the subject of snoring. Anthropologist Joan Travis of Los Angeles received my written words on snoring. Ten days later we spoke, "Carole, I have been trying to punch holes in your hypothesis ever since I received your paper but it all seems to fit. It's fun, I like it, but I'm still trying to knock it."

"Wonderful! If you come up with anything let me know."

Good! A hypothesis is worthless unless tested and researched over and over again.

I called Desmond Clark* who, along with Lewis Leakey and Basil Cook, created the study of early man in Africa. I read my paper to Desmond over the phone. "Good show, Carole. I mean it's splendid and fits absolutely. Why didn't we think of this before? It seems quite obvious."

Things were getting really exciting. At least, I was getting really excited and fortunately some of my friends were becoming excited with me. This was more fun than rolling over!

Roger Lewin, writer of many books on paleoanthropology and evolution laughed, kind of liked it, and then queried, "How would you go about proving it?" Laughing back I said, "Good question for many a hypotheses, perhaps some genetic marker will help by proving that we have been snoring for millions of years."

My thoughts turned to long ago to a time when Homo erectus discovered the management of fire. The capture of fire may have been the most significant finding ever known to man as fire made the night safe, it took away the darkness, and only man is unafraid of fire. I know, your dog and your cat love to lie before the hearth, but your domesticated animals came later - much later.

Most paleoanthropologists accept hearth datings of close to a million years, which is not very long ago in the scheme of evolution. Others believe fire was tamed farther back in time. Paleoanthropologist, Jack Harris, has found well dated hearths in Africa at 1.5 million, but the taming of fire was not ubiquitous and many groups must have lagged behind the initial fire tamers. Still it is the command of fire that demands us to travel so far back in time in order to understand the origins of snoring. At the turn of the last century a lone Aboriginal woman was found wandering in the woods of Australia carrying a stone container of coals covered with moss. She was the last survivor of her group and had been the fire keeper of her people. Her sole job was to carry and protect coals for each night's fire, as her people, who had lived in Australia for more than sixty thousand years, had never mastered the art of making fire; husbanding it, yes - making it, no.

This leads us to surmise that there were many peoples on a global scale who kept and used fire without the knowledge of how to produce it. Reason then states that the coals they protected had to have been lost time and again to weather or neglect and we are back to needing a defense mechanism in order to protect a group through the night.

I brought up the use of fire and it's place in the time-chart of human evolution in order to address the fact that not all humans, male or female, snore - that it may be a dying protective device, one that is slowly leaving the species as it is no longer needed. There are whole families in which no one snores which points to this dying trait being genetically transmitted. There are many parts of us that are drifting away from our mortal forms because of disuse. The appendix is a prime example of an organ that must have been needed in times past, but now hangs out as an atrophied appendage.

The appendix may have been connected with the consumption of raw meat. The vogue of cooking food came in long after fire first illuminated the darkness of the night, giving us power and security over and from the other animals. But you don't utilize a powerful God that transforms the darkness for roasting your warthog; you idolize it, feed it, tend it and dance around it, but put your food in it? Later - much later...

Many Far Easterners have no wisdom teeth. My Pakistani friend Dr. Azra Raza has a great deal of wisdom, but no teeth by that name. Even on X-ray. The cessation of consuming tough vegetable matter and raw meat is implicated. We no longer need great chewing power in order to obtain our energy quota of calories. Orientals, and peoples originating from oriental stock, have little facial or body hair in comparison to the rest of us. Tonsils and adenoids have also been argued to be of no value at this point of our biological journey. Since I was a child doctors have reversed themselves several times on whether or not tonsils serve a purposeful function. I came along during a season of "no-longer-functional" so our general practitioner removed mine when my actual pathology was Rheumatic Fever.

"But, those are all anatomical parts of our body." you say. And I say, "Snoring is also a part of your anatomical makeup. Neurons in your brainstem are stimulated by sex hormones causing certain muscles to enlarge and flex thus narrowing the anatomical passage through which you breath. The body's chemistry works the anatomical body so that we, men in particular, can make harsh, raspy, growling sounds (with a few whistles thrown in for variety), during periods of sleep when the conscious mind is least aware of its surroundings.

Snuggled in once more. The delicious sense of safety - a dream, a snore, a sigh, a rollover, followed by calm and the night goes on as leopards and hyenas sniff the air, twitch an ear and slink away.

Garniss called after a geologic survey trip down the Grand Canyon.

"How are things going?"

"Great! I went to the Paleoanthropological meeting in Toronto. I'd called John Yellon at the National Science Foundation to see if I could give my paper on snoring but the conference had been over-booked months ago. Nonetheless, I sent him a thumbnail sketch of my hypothesis."

"And... ?"

"Well, when I got to the conference I introduced myself and handed him my long paper. I didn't think much of the vibes I received but shrugged them off and went in for the morning session. Then at the lunch break John and his wife, Alison Brooks - she's at George Washington U - came to me and John told how he had gone home after receiving my short paper, and how it had kept the two of them up all night as they punched holes in the fabric of my idea. Then John waved my long paper at me and said, but, your expanded hypothesis addresses every single argument we came up with that night.' "

Garniss interjected a "Marvelous!" as I rattled on.

"Thanks. Alison asked to keep my long paper then related in stern tutorial fashion all the work I have to do in order to reinforce what seems apparent.

Several others at the conference thought the idea was a given, while some looked at me a bit cross-eyed. The fellow who has taken over for Phillip Tobias in South Africa, one Maciej Henneberg, damn near came out of his chair as he spewed forth in agreement. He's working on a hypothesis that says that when we walked out onto the savannas we had to become meat eaters, as there wasn't much else out there to consume. He thinks my snoring idea fits right into his and immediately told me something I'd already written; that snoring probably began as mimicry. He knew that all predators snore. His meat-eating hypothesis is based on our small gut size. You know that carnivores have small guts, herbivores have large ones. He started out as an MD specializing in anatomy, in fact, he still teaches anatomy."

"Like Dart and Tobias before him. It's always been a well trained bunch down there." chimed Garniss.

"He knows his stuff, but is a real character. I thought he'd stepped out of an old Dutch Master painting even though he's Polish born. As for his idea on gut size, look at the gorilla as an example; too many veggies. It takes a lot of gut to process all that cellulose."

"Hey, you're really moving on this thing."

"Well it keeps getting more exciting. I spoke with Henry Harpending of Penn State (now at the University of Utah doing genetic research), who has lived with the Bushmen of the Kalahari. He said they snore softly. What's so interesting about that is that they are known to have very low testosterone levels which may account for the soft sound of their snoring or it could be the their noses."

"Their noses?"

"Yeah, you don't snore through your nose but it does act as the megaphone through which the sounds of your snoring are amplified and the Bushmen have broad, but small noses, but - get this - Jim Allen of La Trobe, Australia says the Aborigines of Australia snore big time and they have very large proboscises, kind of the French horn of the snoring orchestra, but you haven't heard the best part...

"What happened?"

"Laurie Dawson was on Primate Talk. She also works for the Canadian Broadcasting Company and the long and short of it is that I was interviewed on CBC about snoring in Edmonton and then in Calgary on the morning of April 13th."

"Ha! How'd it go?"

"Good, really good."

"Well I have to add to your pot. There were seventeen of us down in the Grand Canyon and on several nights we managed to pitch our tents at beautiful big campsites. One night we really spread out. The tent furthest from me was at least seventy-five yards away. That night I awoke around 3:00 A.M. and as I lay there I became aware of a persistent growling, raspy sound and laughed out loud as I realized that at least half of the camp was snoring. Your theory resounded in my ears as I listened with a different perspective, and I only wish you could have been there as there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the noise arising from our group would have kept any predator at bay. I've accumulated many years of sleeping in the open wilds of Africa. I know the predators and the night sounds of the savanna and snoring is a perfect defense mechanism, even if snoring only announced the presence of a healthy group, as opposed to a solitary creature, it still would have given the right information to keep predators at bay. I'm telling you, that night proved your theory to me conclusively. I wish you could have been there - you would have loved it - lying out there in the deepest wilds listening to all those protective growlers - it was really something."

Music to my ears, the stuff dreams are made of. Oh Joy! Oh Boy!

Garniss and I spoke of the joy of developing a thought. "That's okay Garniss," I said in response to his repeated wish that I'd been there to hear the roar, "like most women I'm well acquainted with the sound of snoring. But you know, I'm beginning to sleep right through my man's snoring. Rosalind Cartright said that some women find their husband's snoring to be a comfort, telling them that he's there, that he's breathing and is all right... I wonder if on some deep, deep level they are remembering something the rest of us have forgotten? Do you think we could tell the men and women who snore that the danger has past, that they no longer need to protect us through the night in noisy fashion? - Perhaps we could remind them that the dangers of today's world stalk their prey on two legs as opposed to four?"

"Ummm ... "

Months later, while in Washington DC. I spoke with Ruth Bulger a health science specialist. She read what you have just read and replied, "Oh, I disagree. Most burglars are after your valuables, not your life. If you're snoring the burglar knows where you are and that he is safe as long as you continue to sleep, so snoring could still act as a protective device even in this day and age."

Does her remark relate to Howell's comment of communicating while sleeping? Or does it mean we must now take snoring lessons as a self-defense skill?

Bedded down once more. This time the sound is of speech - an acquired human trait made possible via the dropping of the larynx, - the voice box, the Adam's Apple - which allowed for the intoning of consonants, which led to words, which led to language and complex thought. Language is a major criterion in distinguishing us as being truly different from all other mammals. Thought! The ability to formulate an idea. With the aid of language we can relate our ideas to one another. Abstract thought! And it was abstract thoughts on snoring which broke the silence of the night as we transformed our thoughts into our native tongue and spoke - one to the other. After a few moments only my voice resonated the patterns of my speech as my mate's mind took a hike into slumber land leaving me alone with the wakefulness of my conscious mind. I lowered my voice, and then switched off the mental connections that translate my thoughts into spoken words. In seconds I wended my way back into the realm of pure thought and beyond to the land of pirouettes.

*Cayo Santiago: an Island off the coast of Puerto Rico used primarily for primate research. The Island is inhabited by a large troop of Rhesus monkeys who have been known to snore.

*Desmond Clark died in February of 2002. He will be missed until the last person who knew him personally has passed away. After that many will read his words and work.

*F. Clark Howell died in March of 2007. He was the soundest thinker I have ever met within the field of Paleoanthropolgy.

Both of these men laid many tracks for others to follow.

Sleep well.

It is important that a distinction be made between normal snoring and sleep apnea. Normal snoring is rhythmic and never ends in a pause and gasp sequence. With sleep apnea there is snoring followed by a ten second to two minute long cessation of breathing followed by a gasp as the starved lungs gasp for air. During a sleep apnea cessation the lungs continue to work (the chest can be seen rising and falling), but the air passage has closed and no air passes to or from the lungs. Sleep apnea is a pathological - physical - psychological problem whereas normal snoring is only a problem to those who sleep with the snorer. Sleep apnea must not be confused with normal snoring.

This hypothesis pertains only to normal snoring

Acknowledgments: F. Clark Howell, Desmond Clark, Garniss Curtis, John Allman, Rosalind Cartright, B. Edward Mulligan, Rumy Hilloowala, Roger Lewin, William L. Boyd and John Flynn for their review and Larry Jacobsen and all the primatologists and physicians who aided me in my research.

Of note: Studies have shown that obesity, smoking, drinking, stress and menopause can prompt snoring in females as well as males. Our ancient ancestors lived in truly stressful times - our adrenal glands are living proof of the old flee or fight response. But modern day prompters would not have affected our early ancestors as they were more likely to starve than become obese, cigarettes were way off in the future, no one knew the techniques of making beer, wine or distilled fire-water and most females died prior menopause. (Actually, it is not known when menopause first occurred within our ancestry. Other primates do not experience menopause.

General Hypothesis on Why Humans Snore
Formulated November 1992 - set to print January 1993
Abstract only: Paleoanthropology Society Meeting Paper presented 1995, St. Louis.