Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom Infographic

Do all animals sleep? Does a dolphin need to catch a quick cat nap before swimming laps? Is it true that horses can sleep standing up? And what about opossums and bats… can they really doze upside-down?

The long and short of it is that scientists aren’t entirely sure. In truth, we don’t actually know how many types of animals there are in the world, let alone how all of them sleep. Though experts believe there are between 1 to 2 million species of animals on earth, some say that upwards of 86% of land species and 91% of all sea species have yet to be discovered.

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So… We Have No Idea if Non-Human Animals Sleep?

Well, not exactly. According to the National Sleep Foundation, several species of animals slumber in much the same way humans do, though their sleep patterns and habits are as diverse as the creatures themselves.

Scientists have found that one type of animal may go through totally different stages of sleep than another. Insects and fish, for example, never experience REM sleep, though most birds and all mammals do every night. Additionally, the amount of time these critters snooze can vary wildly. While sea otters and parrots need up to 11 hours of shut eye to feel well-rested, blue whales can get by just fine with two, and giraffes are able to get all the energy they need from a single, 30-minute nap.

Compelling stuff, right? To learn more about how the various members of the Animal Kingdom catch their respective Zzz’s, take a peek at our infographic below. It’s chock-full of tantalizing facts, weird tidbits, and surprising stats that should shed some light on the species-unifying subject of sleep.

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Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom

As you can see, we have a lot more in common with our animal brethren than you might at first think. While a pig may not have the option of cuddling up on one of best memory foam mattresses, they still like to get the same eight hours of sleep that us humans do. And interestingly enough, orangutans have been shown to actually make their own mattresses out of cushiony leaves and twigs, which sounds like a pretty industrious (and cost-effective!) skill to us.

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Studying the Sleep Habits of Animals

Though these facts are interesting, and demonstrate a wide breadth of sleep practices across the animal kingdom, the fact remains that there’s much we don’t know. While it’s also difficult to study the sleep habits of humans, scientists can at least monitor human brain activity with relative ease and draw conclusions based on scans and self-reported data. With non-human species, things become a whole lot trickier

But that doesn’t mean there’s no research on the subject. As a 2008 report pointed out, though there may not be consensus on why animals sleep, there’s no reason to deny the fact that it’s an essential component of every healthy organism’s life. (1) A 2017 review expanded on this notion, detailing the many studies that have since used optogenetics and chemogenetics to study animal brain behavior. (2) These modern methods target specific brain circuits to influence cell activity, either with light (optogenetics) or via a process in which larger molecules can be encouraged to interact with previously unrecognized smaller ones (chemogenetics). According to the review, both methods have broadened understanding of the neural mechanisms of sleep at play in non-human animals

Ultimately, while there may not be a ton of answers out there, that doesn’t mean the topic’s not worth exploring. In fact, the mystery makes it all the more ripe for research, though we’re pretty sure all human or non-human animal sleep woes could be cured with a fantastic pillow


  1. Cirelli, Chiara, and Giulio Tononi. “Is Sleep Essential?” PLOS Biology, Public Library of Science, 26 Aug. 2008. 
  2. “Sleep in Vertebrate and Invertebrate Animals, and Insights into the Function and Evolution of Sleep.” Neuroscience Research, Elsevier, 10 May 2017.
Logan Block

Logan is the content director of Sleepopolis, which means he not only reviews new mattresses every week, but also curates all the comparisons, best of pages, and video guides on the site. He takes a straightforward, honest approach to his reviews and endeavors to give viewers an objective look at each new product he tries out. Logan has perfected his method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he’s not only able to discern the overall vibe of a specific bed, but to contextualize its feel within the bed-in-a-box market as a whole.

13 thoughts on “Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom Infographic”

  1. I am totally pinning this on Pinterest (on my “Know It All” board, hahaha)! I had quite a few, “WHAT?” moments while I read this. I will give you guys the credit that you deserve on my pin. Thank you for all that you do!

  2. Can one safely put one of the new foam mattress like Casper or Leesa on top of a traditional box spring? This would look more traditional. Matbe even better support?
    #2 how does one get ride of ones old traditional mattress? thank you, Anthony

    • Hi Anthony,

      In most cases, yes, Casper, Leesa, or most any mattress can be used on a traditional box spring. The thing you’ll want to watch out for is the very traditional box springs that contain actual springs. They generally will not provide the right support.

      However, I always recommend checking directly with the mattress company. Some companies have strict warranty policies and a boxspring may not be a valid foundation for their warranty.

      As far as getting rid of your old mattress. If it’s in decent shape you can offer it for free on Craigslist or depending on your state / city you can call up a charity, who will usually come pick it up for free. The Salvation Army will pick them up.

      If it’s super old or just not in great shape you may just have to recycle it. In which case, you’ll want to call 1-800 Got Junk.

      Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you. Thanks!

  3. Sleep is a necessity when it comes to physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We provide the foam that goes into the foundation of your bed! This infographic of the animal kingdom’s sleep habits is truly enlightening. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Wow, this is a very cool chart. It explains why our 2 dogs and 3 cats seem to sleep so much. Now if only we could get the 8 hours that we are supposed to sleep. I get around 6 and hubby gets about the same. Too much to do in life I guess, and my biggest downfall is being online when I should really be in bed! Thanks again for the cool chart. At least we know our critters are just being normal and not lazy ;)


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