How Long Do Giraffes Sleep? Their Sleeping Habits Explained

So you’ve been up at night wondering – how long do giraffes sleep? Do they even sleep? And if so, then how? And these questions are giraffing you crazy! We get it.

Sleep is an interesting concept. Every day, humans retire to bed to close their eyes and lay still for a couple of hours. Anything short of 6 hours of sleep makes us feel like those zombies from The Walking Dead TV show.

Those of us who burn the midnight oil know how vital a good night’s sleep is to function properly the next day. Research has linked human sleep to productivity and emotions.

But what about animals in the wild? How do they sleep at night, knowing that death could be looming close by?

Most predator animals sleep or rest for the majority of their day. Lions, for instance, blissfully sleep and rest for 16-20 hours of the day. The same can’t be said for prey animals who fear the day their carcass will be left for scavengers after the predators have had their fill.

In contrast to giraffes’ amazingly long height, their daily sleeping hours fall quite short to even be considered a human nap. In this post, we’ll answer all the questions about a giraffe’s sleeping patterns that keep you up late at night.

Check out this post on how fast a giraffe runs and become a giraffe expert. 

Do giraffes sleep?


Before we get to the details of a giraffe’s sleeping habits, let’s first address if they even have one.

Back in the mid-’50s, people assumed that giraffes didn’t sleep at all. No one had ever seen them asleep and all they ever did was stand around and eat leaves.

It’s not uncommon in the animal kingdom to go days without sleep. Some animals like jellyfish, bullfrogs, and sea urchins don’t sleep at all.

So to answer your question, do giraffes sleep? Yes, they do. However, it’s their sleeping habits that fascinate scientists the most.

And guess what? You can visit these gentle giants at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi.

How long do giraffes sleep?

With all the standing they do, you would think giraffes would need plenty of sleep to re-energize. Yet, shockingly, giraffes can survive on as little as 30 minutes of sleep per day. 30 minutes being the minimum requirement of sleep for any animal in the kingdom.

Your Sunday nap probably lasts longer than a wild giraffe’s three days of sleep combined.

Depending on where they’re staying the night, a giraffe’s sleep duration can be about 30-40 minutes or a couple of hours. Giraffes in captivity have been observed to sleep longer than giraffes in the wild.

As the saying goes, “sleep is for the weak.” And in this case, giraffes are not weak.

How long do giraffes sleep in the wild?


Unfortunately for giraffes, they make quite the tasty meal for predators like lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. Their fort-like height doesn’t help either when it’s time to get up and run.

To protect themselves from the claws of savages, giraffes sleep no more than 5 minutes at a time. On average, the total amount of time a giraffe in the wild will sleep is 30-40 minutes. Baby giraffes, sleep for longer, though, (usually a quarter of the day) while adult giraffes watch over them.

Think about this the next time you’re feeling lazy. While you’re reading this article in bed before your full 8 hours of sleep, somewhere in the wild, a giraffe is waking up from his 5 minutes of sleep feeling fully recharged and content.

How long do giraffes sleep in captivity?

In captivity, the fear of being ambushed by brutes is obviously non-existent.

So captive giraffes will sleep on average 4-5 hours per day, but still not for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

However, stress affects a giraffe’s sleeping habits. Their living conditions in captivity can cause them to sleep for fewer hours or lose sleep altogether. They can also experience stress if they’re moved to another zoo, another cell, or if they lose a cellmate.

Why do giraffes sleep so little?

Besides the fear of being hunted, giraffes sleep so little because they spend most of their day eating, or chewing on cud to break down the food further. On average, giraffes spend 16-20 hours per day just eating leaves.

Believe us, we know, this makes them sound like dull, lazy, gluttonous creatures. But you would be chewing all day too if you had four stomachs to fill.

Do giraffes ever lay down?


With an average height of 4.6 to 6.1m, it seems almost impossible for giraffes to ever lay down. But they can, and when they do, they fold their legs under their body and keep their head high – unless they’re sleeping.

Even in this resting position, giraffes continue to chew.

Giraffes in the wild are less likely to lay down because this makes them more vulnerable to predators. However, sitting isn’t an exclusively resting position for giraffes. So wild giraffes aren’t missing out on much because they sit down less compared to captive giraffes.

Do giraffes sleep standing up?

The answer to this question is both a yes and no. Giraffes can sleep both standing up and lying down.

Research findings have revealed that giraffes sleep in different positions and have three different types of sleep. These three types of sleep are known as standing, recumbent, and paradoxical.

How do giraffes sleep?

Standing sleep is when giraffes sleep while standing up, with their heads a bit forward.

During recumbent and paradoxical sleep, giraffes sleep with their legs folded, their neck arched backwards, and their head resting on either their rumps or the ground.

The difference between recumbent and paradoxical sleep is that paradoxical sleep is more like REM (Rapid Eye Movement). In this phase, humans/animals experience a deep sleep with more random rapid eye movements and vivid dreams.

The state of recumbency is more like a drowsy state where giraffes switch between sleeping and wakefulness many times before falling into the paradoxical sleep stage. In recumbency, giraffes may spend their time chewing cud.

In contrast, standing sleep is more like a light nap and is the most common form of sleep for giraffes.

Are giraffes nocturnal?


Giraffes are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day.

They spend some parts of their night sleeping and some moving around. They are not noisy creatures, but the sound of their hooves can be heard when they’re moving around at night.

Female giraffes with young calves may have a nocturnal routine so that they can stand guard while their calves sleep.

A giraffe’s sleep is every working man’s dream

As if we didn’t envy their slender model-like body enough, we can now also envy their sleeping skills.

Imagine how productive humans could be if their sleeping patterns functioned like giraffes. To have the power to sleep standing up and only need a minimum of 30 minutes of sleep to survive the day? Man, we wish we were even half as cool as giraffes.

Ah, all this talk about giraffes and not a single one in sight! Plan your dream safari vacation here, and don’t forget to ask the giraffes, “what’s up?” on our behalf.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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