Sleep Care

Bizarre Sleeping Habits of Animals

Animals’ Sleeping Patterns May Provide Valuable Insight on Sleep

Whether it’s a cat stretched lazily in a sunny spot on the floor, or the koala at the zoo snuggled around the Eucalyptus tree, every insomniac has at least once wished they could sleep like some of our friends in the animal kingdom.

But not all animals have life so easy. In fact, the amount of sleep animals get may depend greatly on whether they are the hunter or the hunted. For instance, some birds sleep with one eye open. Their open eye is keeping track of potential predators lurking around. Meanwhile, a mammal’s sleep also is impacted by danger. Take the baboon, which sleeps on its heels at the tops of trees. This awkward position makes it difficult for him to sleep soundly.

And dolphins can turn off half their brain and close one eye, which allows them to be partly awake and partly asleep at the same time. According to an article in Scientific American, dolphins sleep this way so they can be ready to protect themselves from predators and swim to the surface for air. Additionally,

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another science journal reports that mother dolphins and their babies don’t sleep at all for the first few months after birth.

Here are some other interesting facts about animal sleep.

  • Koalas: These mammals are super sleepers. They sleep about 18 to 20 hours a day.

  • Primates: They sleep in one long stretch at night. For instance, chimpanzees average about 10 hours of sleep. Meanwhile, gorillas get about 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep and orangutans get about 14 hours of sleep each night.

  • Walruses: Like dolphins, walruses can sleep and swim at the same time. When a walrus wants to sleep, it inflates spaces inside its body with up to 13 gallons of air. These pouches act like life jackets and allow them to bob up and down in the water so they can breathe. Although walruses can sleep up to 19 hours at one time, they do not require sleep every day. In fact, they can swim without stopping to sleep for up to three days.

  • Crocodiles: They often rest with their mouths open for heat regulation. By doing this, they are allowing more sunlight in for faster warming. This also allows the heat to dissipate quicker if they are too hot.

  • Brown Bats: These little creatures will sleep 12 to 19 hours without stopping. Because they are nocturnal, they sleep during the day and are awake at night. Additionally, bats sleep upside down. According to a Cornell University guide to bats, they do this to make flying easier. Their wings are not strong enough for them to take off on their own, so they allow gravity to drop them into flight from their perch.


While there is nothing more fascinating than a sleeping animal, scientists have discovered their sleep patterns can satisfy more than our curiosities. We can study animal sleep as a way to learn more about human sleep. For instance, rats have similar sleep needs to humans. Like us, they require rest to become alert and to learn new tasks. Even some dogs have helped researchers treat serious sleep disorders.

The common denominator between some mammal’s sleep and human sleep is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Both mammals and humans demonstrate some level of brain activity and increased heart rate during REM sleep. During REM sleep, you can see eye movement and twitching across species. For example, dogs often twitch and bark during REM sleep. Even platypuses show signs of REM sleep.

Moreover, researchers indicate that mammals have the same fundamental sleep cycle as humans. By studying animal sleep patterns and sleep habits, researchers hope to uncover ways to help humans overcome sleep disorders. As a result, researchers are no longer letting sleeping dogs lie.