Because penguins digest thousands of micro-drains every day


It might make someone jealous: sleep of penguins it’s about 11 hours every day. But not all at once. What is really bizarre is the fact that these birds, and especially the Antarctic pygoscelids (Pygoscelis antarcticus), they will do countless things during the day micronaps for a few seconds each. This was discovered by an international research team coordinated by the Neuroscience Research Center of Lyon, which observed a very special way of sleeping of this species of penguin that lives in Antarctica. The study was published in the journal Science.

Penguin microsleep

To study I sleep-wake cycles In these birds, the researchers used non-invasive sensors to record muscle movements, an electroencephalogram to monitor the brain’s electrical activity, as well as continuous video and direct observation to monitor the animals’ behavior related to sleep, such as closing the eyes and bowing the head. An analysis of data from 14 egg-incubating specimens on King George Island found that the species sleeps on average for almost half the day, so approximately 10 thousand naps very short, on average every 4 seconds, as experts call “microsleeps“.

Sleep type

From the analyses, the team noticed that during these naps the penguins reached the so-called slow waves of sleepnecessary for peaceful rest in humans as well. “This is the third stage of sleep, the deepest sleep you can achieve,” explains k Science Richard Jones, a neuroscientist at the New Zealand Institute for Brain Research, who was not involved in the study. “But when people have a microsleepthey never get to that stage where most of the benefits are achieved.”

Advantages of micronaps

While these may just be failed attempts at deeper sleep, scientists hypothesize that frequent naps are a way for penguins to relax while staying alert. In fact, they allow the penguins plenty of sleep rest and protect the eggs from predatorswhile the partner goes searching food for days and days. “It’s really amazing that they can maintain these micro-sleeps all the time”explained Paul-Antoine Libourel, neuroscientist and co-author of the study.

Mysteries of sleep

Even today sleep remains a mystery, and even more mysterious is how and why other animals sleep. As far as we know, we all need sleep, but there is one huge variety in sleep patterns among different animalswhich comes from hibernation months, like bears, to short sleeps that allow only half of the brain to rest, like octopuses. To know more about how different animals sleep, that’s why “it is essential to better understand what sleep is for”, Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the research, comments in Science. Not only that: the ability to study sleep Nature is especially important because much research is being done “under controlled and safe conditions and therefore could be misleading.”

Broadly speaking, this latest study sheds light on how different animals adapt their sleep to cope with stressful circumstancesemphasizing the basic flexibility of sleep, at least in evolutionary terms. “There is competition between the physiological benefits of sleep and the need to be awake and alert”, Liborel concluded. This competition can take place very differently between species, emphasizing that there is no single night sleep generally “good”.


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