Ever wonder how animals sleep? Do they love to sleep as much as we do? Do they forget everything about their surroundings just like we do as soon as we hit the hay? Surprisingly, there are some animals who love sleep so much that they can sleep up to 20 hours in a day and some can even sleep for 3 years at a stretch! While on the split side, there are some who don't bother sleeping more than a minute. Sounds weird right? Well, that's how the animal kingdom is.
Most animals have a polyphasic sleep cycle which means that they take multiple short naps during a span of 24 hours instead of one long one, because they have to be constantly aware of their surrounding and be on guard in case of any predators around. The sleeping patterns across the animal kingdom are astonishing beyond imagination. Let's take a look at some of the weirdest ones.
We all know ants are workaholics and they hardly sleep. Well, not the queen fire ant. Research on fire ants colony shows that the queen is so lazy that it falls into relatively long deep sleep and can sleep for 9 hours on an average day. The poor workers ants, on the other hand sleep for half as much but don't fall into deep sleep at all. They are made to get by on hundreds of power naps lasting hardly a minute. This could explain why the lazy queen gets to live for years while the worker ants typically get to live for only a few months.
Living in the wild with predators around, giraffes have much more on their mind than sleep. Giraffes are known to have the shortest sleep span in the animal kingdom. They don't sleep for more than 2 hours in a day and that too in multiple short naps lasting only 5 minutes. In the wild, giraffes hardly get down to sit and almost never lie down. They spend most of their time standing and even sleep while standing. However, when they do sit down to sleep it is the most adorable sight.
Love for sleep runs in the family be it domestic cats or lions in the wild. Cats can sleep for 13 to 14 hours a day consisting of short and long naps. Cats also experience REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. That means they are one of the few animals who can dream.
Koala bears literally follow the mantra “eat, sleep, repeat". They sleep for 20-22 hours a day and eat rest of time; not that they eat a lot. They just eat slowly. Koala bears are slow, sluggish animals and can spend the entire day eating leaves and sleeping at the same tree.
Do you want to know who loves to sleep more than cats and koalas? It's the desert snail which is known to sleep for 3 years!
Otters sometimes sleep in water because of fear of predators on land. They are known to hold on to something with their tail so that they don't drift off in the water while sleeping. But sometimes, instead of anchoring with their tails, they hold hands with each other while sleeping which might be the cutest sleep position in the entire animal kingdom.
Bats are the only flying mammals and also the only mammals to feed on blood. They famously sleep hanging upside down which allows them to quickly and efficiently take off flight in case of an emergency. This position also helps them to huddle closely together for protection against cold and predators. Bats too are heavy snoozers and can sleep for up to 19 hours in a day.
Seals sleep on both land and water. When sleeping, seals only shut one side of their brain and one eye. The other eye and half of the brain remains alert and keeps track of predators and other dangers in their surroundings. An interesting position of seals sleep is floating just below water with only their snouts protruding out, so they can breathe while they sleep. Other times, when taking short naps, they submerge themselves completely under water close to the surface and rise up from time to time to breathe.
Meerkats live together in big groups called gangs or clans. The gang can include up to 50. They live in underground burrows where they can stay safe from predators and the desert cold. They sleep by lying on top of each other, making a heap like puppies do. This way they get warmth from each other in the cold desert nights. The gang leader sleeps at the bottom of the heap getting the most warmth and protection from predators. Now that’s leading from the bottom!
The act of ostriches burying their heads in the sand is commonly thought to be sleeping position. However, it’s just one of the bird’s defensive behaviors. When they actually sleep it looks like they are wide awake with eyes open and neck upright. Sometimes, they do close their eyes and their neck starts to droop. That's only when they have to experience REM sleep (the phase of sleep in which they dream).
The sleeping habit and patterns, although bizarre at first glance, on closer inspection are clearly adapted traits, specialized to the environment and conditions of the respective species. These strange snoozing habits allow these animals to sleep safely and are crucial for survival.
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He writes about sleep, health and fitness. If you liked this post about animals and sleep, then check out his article on human sleep positions, it might be a little relevant for you. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.