Zebras can often be seen standing up while they are sleeping. This may seem a bit odd but there are some very good reasons why zebras sleep standing up which we will explore in this post.
The primary reason why zebras often sleep while standing is to be ready to take off immediately if a predator approaches. Zebras take turns when they sleep and will alert each other if there is danger and since they are already standing up, they can take off quickly if necessary.
In this post, you will learn exactly why and how zebras sleep while standing up. You will also learn that they do not always sleep while standing up and you will learn exactly when they do that and when they sleep on the ground.
Why Do Zebras Stand Up When They sleep?
The primary reason why zebras often stand up while they sleep is that they are prey animals. Several large predators including lions, leopards, crocodiles, and hyenas hunt zebras so being alert and ready to move quickly is crucial for surviving.
Standing up when they sleep allows zebras to be alert and ready to take off much faster than if they were laying down. This is important since they are preyed on by several large African predators and need to be able to escape quickly when necessary.
Zebras usually stay together in groups (called a herd, a dazzle, or a zeal) since this is much safer than staying alone. When zebras stay together, there will always be at least one zebra awake to look out for predators. If a predator approaches the herd, the zebra that is awake will make a distinct noise to alert the rest of the herd and wake them up so they can run away.
An advantage of sleeping while standing up is that the zebras can stay closer to each other than if they were sleeping on the ground. This will provide additional safety from predators since it is much more dangerous to attack multiple zebras than one.
Zebras usually only sleep when they are with the rest of their herd. Sleeping alone is simply too dangerous since it is easy for large predators to sneak up on a lone, sleeping zebra and strike before it is too late for the zebra to react.
How Do Zebras Sleep While Standing Without Falling Over?
Not many animals can sleep while standing up so this ability makes zebras somewhat unique. They do, however, share this ability with some other large mammals such as giraffes, elephants, and horses.
Zebras can lock their joints so their knees will not bend. This allows them to sleep while standing without falling over. When they wake up and need to move, the zebras’ joints will unlock, allowing them to move around freely again.
Do Zebras Always Sleep Standing Up?
Zebras sleep for around 7 hours per day but the 7 hours are very rarely consecutive since sleeping for that long can be dangerous.
As a general rule, zebras will stand up while sleeping during the day and lay down while sleeping during the night. Standing up allows zebras to be alert in case of danger and laying down allows zebras to reach REM and get a deeper, more efficient sleep.
When they are not either eating or traveling, zebras will often sleep when they get the opportunity. This usually results in several short naps rather than several consecutive hours of sleep.
Zebras do not need much deep REM sleep so the majority of their sleeping is usually done while standing up.