Do Horses Sleep Standing up?
Do Horses Sleep Standing up? For a horse to remain healthy, sleep is crucial, just like it is for humans. Horses have unusual sleeping habits and traits, though. Horses sleep in many phases during the day, with the majority of these periods happening at night since they are polyphasic sleepers. The environment, social structure, age, nutrition, and familiarity with the surroundings all influence the horse’s sleep patterns. Horses have the unique ability to sleep while standing up.
How Do Horses Sleep?
The horse has been shown to go through the four stages of vigilance: wakefulness, sleepiness, slow wave sleep (SWS), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Slow and synchronized brain waves are present in SWS in horses. The brain is not actively working during this period. SWS can happen whether the horse is standing or resting back (lying on the chest with legs folded underneath).
Brain waves during REM sleep are rapid and erratic, just like they are when you are awake. As the name suggests, a horse’s eyes travel quickly back and fro while they are asleep. Your horse may blink, twitch his ears or skin, flare his nostrils, or even paddle his legs in addition to moving his eyes. The horse is in lateral recumbency, lying on his side, and is in REM sleep. All of the muscles completely relax and lose tone while a person is in REM sleep.
Most horses sleep for a total of 5-7 hours per day on average. It is commonly agreed that 15% of a horse’s entire sleep duration is spent in REM sleep. All horses require at least 30 minutes of REM sleep each day, while some get up to two hours.
Horses can lie in lateral recumbency for an indefinite amount of time, but they can’t do it for too long. The pressure caused by the horse’s weight alone inhibits blood flow to critical organs and limbs. Additionally, the lungs are squeezed, which may result in strange breathing patterns.
Additionally, the pressure may cause nerve injury, temporarily paralyzing the horse’s limbs (muscle weakness caused by nerve damage). Horses have trouble standing on all four limbs when they try to get up, which might cause secondary injury.
How Long Do Horses Sleep Standing Up?
A horse spends most of its time sleeping while standing, or SWS, as previously mentioned. The total amount of sleep is typically made up of cycles of sleep interspersed with intervals of waking. Horses have a unique anatomical structure called the stay apparatus that permits them to sleep upright. A system of tendons and ligaments known as a stay apparatus enables the horse to maintain its upright position with minimal physical effort.
This is a wonderful advantage for a prey animal like a horse so that they may easily awaken in an emergency and flee. Horses huddle together when they sleep as another kind of defense. While the others are resting, they will alternate sentries—horses that will remain upright and on guard.
Can horses suffer from sleep disorders?
Horse sleep issues are not well understood. Sleep disorders in horses, such as sleep deprivation, narcolepsy, and hypersomnia, are still being studied by research teams.
Lack of sleep, which can happen while traveling, a change in routine or environment (such as loud noises, strange surroundings, inadequate bedding), and orthopedic or neurological issues that prevent a horse from lying down are all causes of sleep deprivation. If you don’t get enough REM sleep, sleep deprivation can start in as little as 5-7 days.
A sleep disorder called narcolepsy is brought on by intense feelings and physical activity. Excessive daytime sleepiness and aberrant REM symptoms are its defining characteristics. Equine narcolepsy can result in an abrupt loss of muscular tone (cataplexy) as well as an abrupt onset of sleep.
Hypersomnia is a condition characterized by excessive sleep, however, this sleep is not restorative and typically does not contain REM sleep, which makes people feel sleepier overall. It could be a main issue or the result of a neurologic or endocrine disorder.
Lack of sleep poses the following risks to horses:
- A poor effort
- Aggressive attitude
Abrasions on the knees and fetlocks (from collapsing episodes), reluctance or difficulty to lie down, and decreased athletic performance are all signs of insufficient sleep in horses. To identify and treat a horse’s sleep problems, a comprehensive veterinary examination that includes video monitoring observations and continuous electroencephalography (EEG) is advised.