How much sleep do different animals need?

Ever wish you could function on 2 hours sleep? Look no further than the tallest mammal in the animal kingdom for inspiration.

Sleep, in whatever amount, is vital to every species survival, but it appears some living creatures can live off of regimes that would leave us humans feeling like a zombie.  To give the below some comparison, it’s recommended that we get 7-8 hours a night and keep to a routine as much as we can. Depriving ourselves of this can lead to symptoms that completely take over our days such as poor memory, lack of coordination, headaches and even hallucinations. Alternatively, sleeping too much can cause as much disruption with weight issues, depression and increased risk of diabetes all on the cards. With this in mind, it’s fascinating to discover the sleep needs of other living creatures.

Cats—15 hours

On average, cats spend around 15 hours a day sleeping, and as may of you may have discovered, they do not want to be disturbed when they snooze. But every cat is different. Those sleep times can range from 12 to 16 hours. Domestic cats and large, wild cats seem to have put their differences aside when it comes to sleep, as they also snooze most of the day away. Male lions may even sleep a full 24 hours after a large meal; wish we could!

Giraffe—about 2 hours

There’s debate about how long giraffes actually sleep, but it’s between one and five hours a day (can you imagine surviving on one hour?!). They can sleep standing up with their necks down and heads resting on their back. Like humans, they experience a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle, but in order to reach that, they need to lie down with their legs tucked under their bodies.

Horses—3 hours

Horses evolved from a species that was preyed on in open fields, so they don’t need much time to sleep; they need to be ready to go on the run at the drop of a hat! This is also why they sleep standing up. They have a  “stay apparatus” in their legs which allows them to stay sturdy, even during sleep.  However, scientists may believe horses need to lie down to enter a deep sleep, so don’t be surprised to see them having a flat out snooze in the sun. Due to their ‘flight or fight’ nature, they only need to do this for an hour or two per every few days.

Dogs—Between 12 and 14 hours

Dogs can sleep anywhere from 10-14 hours, although 12-14 is considered average for adult dogs. Puppies can need as much as 18-20 hours of sleep because they use so much energy running around and playing during they waking moments (it takes a lot of energy to continuously wag that tail you know). Canine sleep habits vary between breeds, but any dog that seems to sleep all the time may need a trip to the vet.

Elephants—4 hours

In total, elephants sleep about four to five hours during a 24-hour period, but their bedtime is actually split into chunks throughout the day. They can sleep lying down or resting against tree trunks and termite mounds. Elephants in herds take turns sleeping while the others keep watch for trouble while matriarchs can sometimes stay awake for two days solid in order to protect their family. Interestingly, it also seems like elephants only dream every three to four days. Given the well-known memory of the elephant, this calls into question theories associating REM sleep with memory consolidation; could it really be true that an elephant never forgets?

Sharks- ummm, they kind of don’t but kinda do?

So it turns out sharks are a weird one, and for different reasons varying from specie to specie. Some sharks need to keep moving constantly in order to keep water passing through their gills, containing the oxygen they need to stay alive.  They do not sleep in the sense of curling up into a ball for a cosy snooze, but their brain is partially able to shut down as their spine continues to instruct the body to just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Other sharks have what’s know as a spiracle, which is a small opening behind each eye. This structure forces water across the shark’s gills so the shark can be still when it rests.