Tracy Bonham was going through a period of intense personal growth when she wrote the songs for her debut album, The Burdens Of Being Upright
. "Sharks Can't Sleep" is one of those songs. It's a look at how our animal instincts can compel us to do or feel things that might not feel right.
In a 2022 Songfacts interview with Bohman
, she explained: "It was around that time when I was contemplating what it means to be in a relationship with someone else, but it was less about this ex-boyfriend and more about how people say they're in love and so close with someone one day, and then just turn their backs on them the next day, and that included myself, because I was looking at myself and past relationships and confused by the about-face. One day I could feel like I want to spend the rest of my life with this person, and then it seemingly felt like the next day I was moving on and I didn't have anything to do with that person. So it really felt like the Nature Channel. Like sharks, how do they sleep? How do they go to bed at night? That was the metaphor I was using."