Humans and animals need to do several things in daily life: eat, reproduce and the most important is sleep. Sleep is absolutely essential for health. To feel rested and refreshed while awake, humans require 7-8 hours of sleep, but how many hours do these large mammals need to sleep per day? And how do they sleep?
Elephants are the largest land mammals, captive elephants may have different sleep patterns of elephants living in the wild. In captivity, elephants sleep 3 to 7 hours at night, lying down for 1 to 5 hours at a time and getting up to feed between naps. But in the wild in their natural surrounding the elephants rested for only two hours, mainly at night. The elephants in the wild sometimes went up to 46 hours without sleep while walking far distances to avoid threats such as lion or human poachers. African and Asian elephant still manage to lie down to sleep, both are sleeping on their sides for long periods, or take a nap while standing, leaning against a tree for support.
The elephants appeared to experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, REM sleep is believed to be critical in forming memories. It is a type of sleep seen across the animal kingdom in mammals and most mammals go into REM sleep every day.
2 hours of sleep a night for an elephant might sound unbelievable but it’s not just the number of hours they spend asleep that’s important – it’s the quality of those hours!