We all know that a good eight hours of silence and darkness, a comfortable bed and privacy are everything we need to get a good night’s sleep. But how about horses? How do horses sleep?
You might have noticed that horses sleep while standing up without falling or having any problems at all. And that in the middle of the day. Curious thing, right? The sleep needs and patterns of a horse are very different than the ones we humans have. The reason behind why horses sleep while standing up is to be able to quickly escape a predator if the need be. But sometimes, horses will lie down to get some sleep too.
How Do Horses Sleep
Horses are prey animals that evolved to live their lives on open fields so it’s normal they developed defense mechanisms against predators. One such mechanism is their sleep patterns.
The Sleep Patterns
The sleep patterns of horses are all based on a quick getaway for the situations when a predator might attack by surprise. Sleeping while standing up is one of them.
It gives horses the ability to flee at once whenever a threat is nearby. Those seconds spent getting up on their feet can mean the diference between life and death out there into the wild so horses have adapted to have the edge over their predators in those situations.
In addition to that, horses sleep mostly during the day because most predators are active at night and rest during daytime. Related to this is the fact that horses usually take brief but frequent periods of rest during that time.
When choosing the place to rest, horses are very careful to leave themselves a way out in case of danger, so they will often sleep facing an escape route from the area.
The body of a horse is well adapted to his standing sleeping patterns. His legs have a sort of lock mechanism in the knees so they can fall asleep while standing without tipping over.
What’s more, during their brief periods of sleep, they will shift their weight around on three legs, always resting and relaxing the fourth.
Their heads and necks will hang down with their ears relaxed and eyes closed.
Deep and REM Sleep
While most of the time, a horse will doze standing up, there are moments when they lie down to get some deep sleep. They also have what’s called the REM sleep stage. The difference is that they need these sleep stages a lot less frequent than we do, so they can afford to lie down with rare occasions.
Sometimes, in comfortable situations, like on a sunny summer day, horses can stretch down on a meadow and soak up some sun. But most of the times, there will be one another horse standing up and on guard to keep an eye out for possible danger.
The age plays and important role as well, as younger horses lie down more often while adult ones prefer napping while standing up.