Surprising Sleep Facts in the Animal Kingdom

10 Strange and Surprising Sleep Facts in the Animal Kingdom

We’re not the only animals that sleep. We humans may need our eight hours of sleep a night to keep our brains functioning, but that’s not the only duration, or reason, why animals sleep. In the animal kingdom, there’s a wide variety of sleeping habits. You may find it surprising to know that giraffes typically sleep only 1.9 hours a day, yet brown bats sleep for a whopping 20 hours a day. Plus, some animals are able to turn off only portions of their brain as they sleep; keeping the rest at work at all times to ensure their survival. That seems pretty amazing since humans are known as the most advanced species, and we are oblivious to the world as we fall completely asleep.

While sleep is vital for the cognitive function for some species, that may not be why sleep is essential to other species. The differences in the amounts of sleep different animals require is also quite surprising. Animal sleep researchers have only just begun to make significant strides in understanding the purpose of sleep serves among different species and how it works for each species. Not too surprisingly though is the fact that animal sleep is just as mysterious as human sleep.

Here are ten strange and surprising facts we’ve discovered about the sleeping patterns of different animal species:

  • Cats spend two-thirds of their lives sleeping.
  • Dolphins and whales only fall half asleep; it’s about survival – their brain hemispheres take turns so they can continue surfacing to breathe.
  • Elephants can sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but they lie down during REM sleep.
  • Giraffes can get by on 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period; however, they typically sleep 1.9 hours a day in five- to 10-minute sessions.
  • Horses can sleep standing up, but like elephants, they must lie down to get REM sleep.
  • Koalas sleep up to an astonishing 22 hours a day.
  • Migrating birds can sleep while flying.
  • Rabbits commonly sleep with their eyes open.
  • Sea otters hold hands when they sleep, so they don’t drift away from each other.
  • Snails can sleep for three years; it’s a period of hibernation.

How much do animals sleep in the wild?

  • Brown bat – 20
  • Cat – 12
  • Chimpanzee – 10
  • Dog – 10-11
  • Dolphin – 10
  • Elephant – 4
  • Giant Armadillo – 18
  • Giraffe – .5 – 1.9
  • Horse – 3
  • Lion – 13
  • Pig – 8
  • Platypus – 14
  • Sloth – 10-16
  • Tiger – 16

Note: Hibernation isn’t the same as regular sleep. Animals show signs of sleep deprivation when they wake up from hibernation. They have to get a lot of sleep over the next few days to recover from hibernating.