Getting enough sleep is a challenge for almost everyone. If you can't get at least seven hours of rest a night, cat naps are a great way to get some rest. Although cats are most commonly known as avid daytime sleepers, there is one particular bird that has taken napping to a new level. The adorable chinstrap penguin, named for the distinct black mark under its bill, has an incredible micro sleep schedule.
Instead of resting for long periods, it takes more than 10,000 naps, each lasting only about four seconds. Although micro-sleeping with such little puffs doesn't work for humans, chinstrap penguins seem to do well with this sleep cycle. When they fall from these short naps, they sleep a total of about 11 hours a day. Scientists believe that due to the extreme conditions of the islands near Antarctica, this sleep schedule may have been adapted so that the penguins are on almost constant alert for predators and protect vulnerable nests and eggs.
"It is really strange that a penguin can maintain this state continuously between wakefulness and sleep", explains co-author Paul-Antoine Libourel. "Only by continuously recording brain activity for days were we able to reveal this interesting sleep phenotype." It's hard to even tell when chinstrap penguins go into hibernation because they just blink lazily before re-emerging. Research on this species also shows that not all species depend on or even benefit from long periods of uninterrupted sleep. "Sleep offers many benefits, but we do not know if it is the same benefit for all species," adds Libourel. "And we do not know at what point we can disturb the sleep, with or without the cost of the animal."
Vladyslav Vyazovskiy, a sleep physiologist at the University of Oxford, suggests that the chinstrap penguins#039; a quick sleep cycle also helps the entire colony. While some sleep, others stay awake, ensuring that the group remains somewhat alert for danger. The researchers also found that the duration and quality of sleep varied depending on where the birds were in the colony, with the outermost birds sleeping for long periods, likely due to the stress of watching out for predators. "The quality of your sleep affects the quality of your sleep," says Vyazovskiy. "So maybe the distant birds have to be extra alert and they get tired and then sleep a little longer and deeper." While the micro-sleep schedule has proven to be a winning strategy for chinstrap penguins, it's certainly a unique fit that won't work for everyone. These studies provide more evidence of how different species adapt to specific sleep patterns to survive in an ever-changing environment.