The Curious Nap Habits of Our Favorite Animals

Written by Laura Brooks

You aren’t the only one looking for some afternoon shuteye during a long day – in fact, humans’ nap habits aren’t at all unique. There are a wide variety of species in the animal kingdom that are habitual nappers, and like you, their naps have big benefits for their well-being.

Let’s look at some of nature’s prolific nappers and their helpful habits.

Koala

Coming in at the #1 sleepiest animal, the koala is the MVP of naps. But it’s almost unfair to call the koala’s midday sleep a “nap,” because when you’re only awake for 2-6 hours a day, the line between nap time and nighttime sleep are blurry, at best. 

On average, a koala sleeps 22 hours a day, in between munching on eucalyptus leaves. That’s right, these furry climbers are only awake for two whopping hours. But why do they need so much sleep? 

Eucalyptus leaves – though tasty – are full of toxins, and have little nutritional value, according to the Australian Koala Foundation, hence the need to eat a lot of it. There is also a lot of fiber in these leaves, which requires a lot of energy to break down, and thus requires a lot of rest to recharge. 

Albatross

A bird of the sea, the albatross spends most of their time hunting for food. Its busy lifestyle doesn’t allow for much time to rest and they can’t sleep too long on the water or they will be eaten, so experts believe that the albatross squeeze in a nap while flying. Productivity at its finest.

Giraffes

It's safe to say that giraffes are some of the strangest sleepers in the Serengeti. A quick Google search will tell you that giraffes only sleep for about 20-30 minutes a day, but that’s not entirely accurate.

On average these long-necked mammals will squeeze ~4 hours of sleep into a 24 hour period (in the wild, they’ll get a bit less sleep). However, their naps are taken in 20-minute power nap intervals, which is a survival tactic — since they’re surrounded by predators, they sleep very lightly so they can make a move at a moment’s notice. And they don’t waste time lying down — giraffes sleep standing up, with their long necks twisted slightly so their head can rest gently on their butt. Doesn’t sound comfortable, but according to evolution, it does the job.

Sea Otters

For sea otters, the water’s where it’s at when it comes to a nap

When it’s time to catch some zzz’s, sea otters float on their backs at the surface of the water to avoid land-based predators, and tangle themselves up in floating seaweed so they don't drift away. Sea otters – especially mothers and pups – tend to hold hands while they’re napping so that they don't drift too far from each other.

Sometimes they take co-napping to an extreme. It's pretty common to see up to 100 sea otters napping together, in what's called an “otter raft.” Group naps… where do we sign up? 

Cats

Cats can sleep for as many as 20 hours in a 24-hour period.

Their preferred nap positions are curled up on their legs, so they’re able to spring up at a moment’s notice. While people tend to sleep for longer periods at night, cats have a polyphasic sleep schedule, which means they take multiple short periods of sleep throughout the day and night. Generally speaking, cats tend to be more active at night and sleep more during the day (like, all day).

Dolphins

In order to nap, dolphins either rest quietly in the water (vertically or horizontally) or swim slowly next to another dolphin while sleeping.

Dolphins have to consciously think about breathing, even when they're sleeping. Because of this, dolphins can only shut down half their brain at a time, and they sleep with one eye open. As well as preventing them from drowning, this move helps keep them on alert for predators even while they’re resting. After approximately two hours of napping like this, dolphins will ‘reverse’ this process to rest the alternate side of the brain. 

Brown Bats

Some animals take sleepiness to a whole new level. Imagine sleeping your entire day away, literally 20 hours.

Researchers at the University of Washington say that brown bats spend an average of 19.9 hours in their caves, sleeping, every day. Which sounds like more than nocturnal. Plus, these bats also hibernate throughout winter, which only adds to their epic sleepiness.

Try it for yourself