Do Horses Sleep Standing Up? How Do Horses Sleep?


The sleeping patterns of horses are a topic of significant discussion. Are they standing while they sleep? Are they in risk if they lie down to sleep? These are just a few of the inquiries that devoted equine owners have about the sleeping patterns of their horses.

It is not as simple as it sounds to get to the bottom of things. But we’ve done the research and provide you with the greatest recommendations from professionals on how your horse should sleep.

Do equines sleep on their backs?

The answer to this question relies on your definition of sleep. Similar to people, horses also sleep in various cycles or resting intensities. They may nod off, go through Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), and need Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, just as people do. Horses do dream, and REM sleep is the deep slumber during which this happens.

In the first stage, SWS, horses may stand and sleep. The horse skeletal system has an incredible capacity that allows them to achieve this. They have the unusual capacity to lock their own legs—more especially, their back kneecaps—into position, which enables their skeleton to maintain its posture without using any muscles. This is made possible by a unique system of tendons and ligaments and is referred to as a stay apparatus.

The ability of horses to rest while standing has a valid explanation. When the majority of horses were still in the wild and had little time to get back up before a predator struck, they developed an innate defence mechanism. Because of this, if a horse does not feel secure, they will never lay down.

Which brings up the following query on the sleeping patterns of horses…

Do horses lie down to sleep?

As was previously noted, horses can only slumber when standing, and they need REM sleep, much as we do. This implies that a horse has to lie down for a while in order to sleep.

Standing still prevents a horse from going into REM sleep because the muscles need to be totally relaxed. Like people who sometimes jolt awake from a falling feeling, horses also twitch and move when they sleep. REM sleep causes a loss of control over muscular activity, and even the stay apparatus cannot provide the horse with this level of relaxation.

How much deep sleep does a horse need to have on a daily basis? According to the majority of specialists, three hours or less a day is enough to induce the REM state. Unless they have a sleep condition, horses will only sleep thus profoundly in the dark, after midnight.

Experts concur that only brief episodes, often lasting 10 to 20 minutes at a time, of REM sleep take place. This is probably because of the structure and physiology of horses, which make it difficult for them to lay down for extended periods of time since lying down restricts blood supply to important organs. Generally speaking, a horse can only lie down for 45 minutes at a time.

A foal curled up on the ground.

How much sleep do horses get?

Horses’ daily requirements for REM sleep range from thirty minutes to three hours, however this only makes up a minor portion of their sleeping patterns. The majority of horses need five to seven hours of sleep per day.

Lack of sleep may have long-term negative impacts on a horse, including increased irritability, poor temper, and even hazardous behaviour. These effects may not become apparent for a few days. A horse that is sleep deprived may sometimes even pass out in strange settings, like a show. This is recorded in a good number of situations.

Numerous factors can contribute to a horse’s lack of sleep, such as stress, loneliness, noise, joint issues, insufficient space for resting, and social insecurity brought on by circumstances like a new horse being introduced to a herd or an aggressive horse nearby.

Horses who don’t get enough sleep exhibit excessive tiredness and lethargy, which negatively affects their performance and attitude.

Horses with REM sleep problem cause themselves to wake up by moving their bodies excessively, which leaves them with inadequate sleep.

Other sleep problems in horses include hypersomnia, or excessive sleep, and narcolepsy, which is the condition in which a fully awake horse abruptly falls asleep. Veterinarians should look at these issues since they may indicate neurological illness.

Sleeping, foal dreaming

Do equines go to sleep?

Horses don’t necessarily need to lie down to sleep, but they do need to spend a few 10–20 minute nights stretched out on one side in order to acquire that much-needed REM slumber. They spend the darkest hours of the night, after midnight, sleeping hard, so you may not see them lying down too much.

If a horse is lying down throughout the day, it could simply be for sunbathing; however, if this happens often or if the horse remains down for an extended amount of time, there may be a problem. If a horse is lying down a lot throughout the day, there may be disease such as colic or sleep deprivation causing this.

Similar to how newborns sleep more than adults, foals too spend more time sleeping than adult horses. Senior horses may have difficulty falling asleep due to joint problems as they age; if you feel your horse is not getting enough sleep, talk to your veterinarian.

Horses are snorers?

Yes, snoring during sleep is common among horses. While horses seldom snore loudly, some do have bothersome sleeping habits, much like people. For instance, it’s obvious that the horses in the humorous video collection below are not your typical horses.


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