How Do Elephants Sleep? Sleeping Habits, When, How and More

Have you been asking yourself, “How do elephants sleep?” Well, you’re not alone – there are dozens of people in the same boat querying this question. Some may even wonder if these majestic animals sleep at all.

After all, there are animals that rarely sleep and some that sleep more hours than humans are awake. For example, koala bears sleep over 18 hours (everyone would love that, right) a day, while giraffes sleep for less than 4 hours at a time. Want to know where elephants fall in that spectrum?

You’re in luck; this article answers all your questions about these massive animal’s sleeping patterns. From where they sleep to how many hours, read further to find all these facts below.

Do Elephants Sleep?

Herd of elephants walking in a safari

While this may seem like a straightforward answer, there are several animals that don’t sleep or undergo deep slumber. For instance, a bullfrog may shut its eyes to sleep, but it maintains a level of consciousness.

So, do elephants fall under that category? The short answer is no. This is because elephants are mammals and like many of its species, they do have to sleep. This also goes for the elephant, which is the largest land mammal in the world.

Just like humans, they sleep for rest purposes. It’s no joke having to travel over twenty kilometers in search of food on a daily basis.

When Do Elephants Sleep?

Elephants have a similar sleeping clock to humans, although there are distinct differences between us. They sleep after sunset, generally after midnight and they wound up awake before dawn.

However, they don’t sleep using a linear, continuous pattern. They sleep in intervals, much like naps for people, throughout the night. A sleepy elephant may even catch some shut-eye during the day for a few minutes.

You can see them sleeping if you’re on one of the many elephant safaris in Africa. Be warned, though, you’ll have to brave the dark and the chilly weather of the early morning hours.

How Many Hours Do Elephants Sleep?

Baby elephant going to drink water

Elephants sleep for such a short period of time that humans can’t even call a great nap. According to this study that tracked two wild elephants using technology, they sleep an astonishing 2 hours a night on average. This is quite incredible when considering that they’re deemed animal brainiacs and don’t even use coffee to keep them awake.

Further, a baby elephant sleeps for longer periods of time because it doesn’t have a digestive system as demanding as adult elephants. They also get a guardian angel in the form of their mother, who’ll watch over the calf to protect it against predators.

In contrast, elephants held in captivity, like zoos, tend to sleep between four and six hours a day on average. This is because they don’t have to worry about traveling a long journey in search of water and food. Another reason they sleep for longer is that they don’t face predatory danger like an elephant sleeping in the wild.

Where Do Elephants Sleep?

Being in the wild, elephants can choose to sleep wherever they want. As soon as they feel that it’s time, they can sleep right there and then.

They’ve been most observed to sleep near trees, termite mounds, and in grass-populated areas – enjoying the soft bedding. Elephants kept in captivity are sometimes spoiled with a soft bed of straw for a comfortable sleep.

Watch this video to see the phenomenon in action. If you’d prefer a chance to see it up close, consider joining this game reserve wildlife tour.

Elephants Can Sleep Standing Up or Laying Down

Herd of elephants at night time

Another intriguing fact about these massive creatures is that elephants sleep standing up or lying down, being comfortable with either one. Elephants in captivity tend to sleep lying down more often than those in the wild, only getting up when it’s feeding time.

A sleeping elephant often rests its head against tree trunks or termite mounds when they sleep standing up. When lying down, they may sleep on their sides or their tummies. These smart animals have sleeping shifts when moving as a herd; some rest while others stay awake guarding for predators.

Why Elephants Sleep Standing Up

An explanation for their sleeping choices has much to do with their bodies. Weighing between 3000 – 5000 kg, adult elephants take significant time to get up. It’s already hard enough to prop up for humans, now imagine adding thousands of kilograms to your body.

Their lag in getting up is dangerous in the wild, as predators can easily catch them while they try to stand up. Sleeping while standing upwards is their best bet at evading these predators as they can get to their top speed much quicker. Fortunately, due to their sheer daunting size, they don’t have many wild predators.

There’s a scientific explanation for how elephants sleep. If they lie down too long, they may interrupt blood flow to other parts of their body. This goes for most large members of the animal kingdom.

Are Elephants Nocturnal?

Elephants are most active during the day, they spend the daytime foraging for food and water. This means they are diurnal animals who spend their nights sleeping, regardless of how brief it is. The only exception would be when they stand guard and watch for predators while other herd members sleep.

Ready to See Sleeping Elephants?

Elephant spraying itself with water

Having read the article above, you should now know all the interesting facts about how, where, and when these massive mammals sleep. While some of the facts are trivial, it’s hard to argue they aren’t astonishing. In fact, you may even envy their ability to function after sleeping for such a short period of time.

Want to confirm these facts with your own eyes? You can watch an elephant sleep when you book one of these all-inclusive safari packages.

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