10 Weird & Wonderful Animal Sleeping Habits

Although experts constantly debate the recommended amount of sleep human beings need in order to survive, they’re all agreed that catching a few z’s is necessary for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. But in the modern age of emails on our smart phones, late night TV binges and long commutes, how can we make sure we look after our circadian rhythms? The answer, as it turns out, might well lie in the animal kingdom…

Sloths

The Deep Sleeper

10 – 15 hours a day

The sloth is commonly referred to as the world’s slowest mammal, and with good reason. Studies have revealed that the common sloth climbs at a rate of around 2 ½ meters per minute.

In line with this, it’s no surprise that the sloth gets some of the most sleep of all the animals on our list, averaging around 10 hours per day, which is considerably more than the average amount of a human gets. Interestingly, it’s reported that sloths in captivity get around double this, usually clocking in between 10 – 15 hours of sleep per day. To avoid threats from predators, sloths are typically found sleeping in trees, and often even sleep whilst hanging from branches.

Albatross

The Dynamic Snorer

42 minutes a day

As albatrosses spend most of their lives flying above the ocean, it’s no surprise that they’ve developed the ability to actually sleep whilst in flight. One of the world’s largest species of bird, the wandering albatross, nests in Antarctic islands before completing a global journey that will take them around the southern hemisphere, sometimes clocking up to as much as 16 months at sea.

This has led to the birds developing a mastery of dynamic soaring; a flying technique that uses differences in air currents and speeds to maintain altitude with very little energy. Scientists in 2016 discovered that many birds actually sleep whilst they’re flying, catching on average 42 minutes a day. Scientists were even able to observe characteristics of REM sleep, such as relaxed muscle tones, also common in humans.

Chimpanzees

The Bed Builder

9 hours a day

One of man’s closest relatives, it’s no surprise that chimpanzees are probably the most sophisticated sleepers on our list. Chimpanzees are known to build their own beds (similar to birds’ nests) from a mixture of branches, leaves and other jungle debris. Depending on their habitat, most chimps will build these high up in the treeline to keep themselves safe from predators on the ground, however scientists have found evidence of beds on the jungle floor in some countries.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, chimpanzees on average get just over the recommended amount of sleep for humans, clocking up over 9 hours per day, which works out at around 40% of their entire lifetime.

Cows

The Big Lie In

3.9 hours a day

Contrary to popular belief, if you see a cow lying down it isn’t a sign that it’s going to rain. Interestingly, however, the cow probably isn’t asleep either. Studies show that cows actually spend over half of their lives (around 14 hours a day) lying down, but just a fraction of this time is spent sleeping. Cows are thought to get just under four hours of sleep each day (around half the recommended amount for humans). The animals will, however, occasionally fall asleep standing up, snoozing for a few minutes at a time.

Dolphin

The One Eye Open Sleeper

2 hours a day

Although they spend their entire life at sea, dolphins don’t have gills, so need to intermittently come up for air to avoid drowning – but how do they sleep? The answer: they only technically sleep with half of their brain at a time.

Dolphins are thought to generally sleep in one of two ways, either whilst resting in water (vertically or horizontally) or whilst swimming alongside another dolphin. Whilst asleep, the dolphin keeps one eye open to remain alert for predators, and a certain section of the brain remains conscious to monitor oxygen intake, and decide when it needs to resurface for more air. Dolphins typically sleep for around two hours at a time, spending a third of their life, on average, catching some z’s. After two hours, the animal will ‘reverse’ the sleeping process to periodically rest alternating sides of the brain.

Giraffes

The Power Napper

20 minutes power naps

As herbivores, giraffes roam their habitats looking for trees and other vegetation as a means of sustenance. Usually travelling in packs of up to 20 – aptly referred to as ‘towers’ – giraffes are natively found in many African countries including Chad, Zambia, Tanzania and more.

Unfortunately, giraffes are widely hunted by predators further up the food chain including lions, leopards and hyenas, leading them to develop a useful sleeping habit. As they constantly need to be on guard from all manner of threats, giraffes have become the champions of the power nap, and often only actually sleep for around 20 minutes at a time. Sleeping largely on their rear, these short, sharp naps help members of the tower to remain alert to threats, and protect younger calves from any incoming dangers.

Goats

The Light Sleeper

5 hours a day

Sociable by nature, both domesticated and wild goats are often found living in herds of around 20 or more. Having been raised as livestock for centuries, goats can be found in a wide range of habitats from pastoral farm land to rugged mountain landscapes. In the wild, goats are often the prey of larger mammals such as wolves, and as such are skittish, light sleepers.

Typically, goats will get around 5 hours of sleep at night, and take naps throughout the day in between bouts of grazing to digest food. Goats are notoriously light sleepers, easily waking at the slightest sound, including passing ramblers.

Sea Otters

The Communal Sleeper

11 hours a day

Some people just don’t like sleeping alone, and the lovable sea otter is no different. Sea otters usually get around eleven hours of sleep per day stretched out on their backs, floating face up on the water’s surface. Interestingly, however, the small, amphibious mammals will actually sleep in pairs or larger groups, ‘holding hands’ to make sure they’re not carried in separate directions by rogue currents and waves. The ingenious animals have also been known to wrap themselves in sea kelp, which forms an ‘anchor’ to keep them in place whilst they snooze.

Penguins

The Cat Napper

Short naps only

Like giraffes, penguins are rarely seen sleeping for prolonged periods of time, instead preferring short power naps to conserve energy. In their natural habitat, penguins are often under threat from predators both on land and at sea, meaning they need to constantly remain alert for a variety of hazards.

As such, penguins prefer to take naps of up to ten minutes throughout the day instead of getting deeper sleep for longer periods of time. There’s clear safety in numbers, so the birds will often sleep in large groups (called rookeries) to help keep an eye out for any threats on the horizon. This also helps them to preserve body heat, which is highly important as the average temperature in Antarctica can fall as low as minus sixty degrees!

Spiders

The Insomniac


The only insect on our list, spiders don’t actually sleep in the traditional sense that humans do for one very simple reason – they don’t have any eyelids! Like humans, however, they go through regular periods of rest and activity throughout the day to conserve and maintain energy. You can typically tell when a spider is resting by their body language; they’ll usually ‘sleep’ with their legs curled underneath them to avoid burning calories.

Different species of spider follow completely different patterns of activity, some species in colder areas even ‘hibernate’ to conserve energy during colder seasons before hunting and eating when the climate becomes warmer again. Most species choose a safe space to rest, usually on their webs, which are typically found in small, dark cracks and crevices. Some species of spider have even been know to ‘pass out’, either due to environmental factors like climate, or even whilst mating!

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