Do Horses Sleep Standing up

Do Horses Sleep Standing up

Can a Horse Sleep While Standing?

Everyone always wonders if horses sleep standing up. This is one of the biggest myths that have to do with horses, and the answer is actually a little tricky. The truth is that horses do sleep on their feet, but at the same time they don’t. Horses actually take naps on their feet and lie down to go into their deep, REM sleep. 

So, the proper question would be: why do horses nap standing up? The answer is because sleeping while lying down can be hazardous for a horse. It takes too much work for them to get down and then get back up, and in the wild, this makes them vulnerable to predators. For the horse to protect itself, it has evolved to take light naps while standing on its feet so that it can easily run away in case of an attack. 

What Kind Of Sleep Do Horses Need?

When a horse actually does go to sleep to get the little bit of REM sleep that they need, this is when they lie down. But Interestingly enough, they only need a few minutes of REM sleep during any sleeping cycle. All the rest of the time they spend lightly snoozing on their feet.

Horse sleeping lying down

Another interesting fact is that horses typically sleep in groups. This is another defence mechanism they picked up in the wild. Even though horses have been bred for centuries, they still have their natural instincts.

And by sleeping together in a group, one horse can watch over the others to make sure everyone is safe. They even switch watchers throughout the night until everyone in the group has had their rest. 

Unlike humans who need a solid 8 hours of deep sleep, horses typically only need to sleep for around 3 hours inside of any day. The difference is that they don’t get it all at once. They basically take power naps all throughout the day to keep up their energy over the 24 hours. They don’t get their 3 hours of sleep all at once, as it builds up throughout the day so they can stay alert. 

What Allows a Horse to Sleep Standing Up?

An even more complicated question is how exactly horses do this. How do horses sleep standing up without falling over? The answer is a special apparatus specific to horses. They have a special system of tendons and ligaments which enables them to lock the major joints in their legs so that they don’t fall over. Just imagine if your legs stiffened so that you could sleep while resting against a wall. Or better yet, imagine if you were on all fours and your legs and arms locked. That’s what happens to a horse. 

Even when a horse is at home in their barn, locked in a stall next to other familiar horses, they will still practice the same sleeping methods. The horse will snooze lightly during the day, and most likely during the night lie down to catch up on some REM sleep.

Horses Often Sleep in Community

And they also use the buddy system even when at home in their own stall. You will often notice not all the horses are sleeping at the same time.

One thing that can disturb a horse’s sleeping cycle is moving and transport.

This has a lot to do with the buddy system. When a single horse is taken away from its friends and brought to a strange place, you will often see that they aren’t sleeping quite so openly. This is because there is no one around to keep an eye open for predators.

horses sleeping together in a group

If you’re ever concerned about your horse’s sleeping during a trip, the best thing is to check their belly in the morning. If you have your horse in an unfamiliar location, simply check them out in the morning.

If the horse has stall shavings on their belly, it means they laid down at some point to get that needed REM sleep. If there are no shavings on their belly, they had a rough night of sleep and probably won’t be at their full strength for the day. 

Do Horses Sleep Standing Up with Eyes Open?

This is another trick question. Horses are already talented in the fact that they can sleep throughout the day standing up, but they can also sleep either with their eyes open or with their eyes closed. They sometimes even sleep with their eyes kind of hooded between open and closed. 

What do the differences mean? Well, depending on the status of the horse’s eyes, it’s either having a shallow sleep or a deep sleep. If the horse’s eyes are wide open, it’s just taking a light nap. It can be jarred out of its nap at any second. 

But just like humans, rapid eye movement is critical to deep sleep in horses. Because of this, the horse needs to have its eyes closed. This generally only happens when they are lying down. It’s why people often think horses sleep with their eyes open, because they only ever see them taking a light nap while standing up, in which their eyes are either open or just half-open.   

Horse FAQ

Do Horses Sleep Lying Down?

Horses sometimes sleep lying down. They take naps throughout the day while standing up to avoid predators, but they do sometimes lie down to get REM sleep. When horses lie down to sleep, they do so usually in groups so that one horse can keep watch over the others in case of an attack. Horses do not need as much sleep as humans, and only require around 3 hours accumulated throughout the day.

How Long Can a Horse Lie Down Safely?

Horses can lie down safely for a surprising amount of time. While they will stand for most of the day to get the majority of their rest, they still need to lie down to get their REM sleep. And while this is usually done in spurts, with a horse spending about 15 hours during the day lightly resting, they will accumulate around two or four hours at night lying down.

But it’s not always done at once. Sometimes it will be a few minutes, and sometimes it will be a few hours.

A horse can be lying down for several hours before it becomes dangerous for the animal. If the horse is lying down for over four hours, there is probably an issue. It’s not in their nature to be on the ground for so long.

Do Horses Sleep on Their Side?

Horses either sleep with their legs curled under them or yes, on their sides. Many believe that REM sleep is only achieved while a horse is sleeping directly on its side. You just won’t see it happening much because they require such little REM sleep throughout the day.

Interestingly, a horse can actually suffer from sleep deprivation. If it experiences pain from trying to lie down it might avoid it, and this can lead to sleep crashing, where a horse will suddenly collapse onto the ground because it’s so tired. If you ever see this, you will know there is a problem with the horse. Horses typically circle around like a dog and gradually lower themselves onto the ground. If the horse simply collapses onto its side, this is equivalent to a person being so exhausted that they fall asleep standing up and hit the floor.

Do Horses Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Horses sleep both with their eyes open and their eyes closed. While a horse is napping on its feet, it will sleep with its eyes open or slightly closed. This indicates that the horse is having a light sleep and can wake up at any second. However, a horse will close its eyes to get REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. It can’t do this with its eyes open.

Do Horses Sleep Standing Up With a Therapy Blanket?

Horses that need to use magnetic or therapy blankets can also sleep while this is happening. It’s a great thing about the horse because they can lock their legs, they are able to stand up and get some sleep while also getting some therapy.

Source – https://compneuro.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/research/equine-sleep-and-sleep-disorders