To properly care for a tame one, you need to know how much sleep horses need. Have you ever seen one sleeping? Well, this is why!
Horses are typically seen grazing or galloping around. You’ll rarely find them lying down, especially when a lot is going on around them. If you don’t see your horse spending hours in the comfy sleep spot you made for them, there’s nothing to worry about! These animals have a more interesting way of getting enough rest.
In this article, I share more info on the different ways horses rest and how much sleep they need per day.
The Two Ways Horses Sleep
When they’re not eating or galloping around, horses like to rest. They do this in different ways, and knowing which method they use the most will help you determine how much sleep they need.
You’ve probably seen horses standing in a field with their eyes closed and a hind leg popped out as if they were leaning on a hip. This statue-like position is a form of sleeping, and a horse’s body was specifically designed to rest in this way.
It’s known as SWS (slow-wave-sleep), and horses choose this position to better protect themselves and quickly run away when there’s a threat closing in. While the name suggests it, this isn’t really sleeping. Horses only sleep in this position for a quick nap.
For a horse to fall into the REM sleeping stage, they need to lay down so all their muscles relax. They can’t achieve this while standing up!
Safety and comfort play a big role in reaching this stage of sleep. Domesticated horses will get to the REM sleeping phase easier than horses in the wild.
Wild horses subconsciously look for predators every second of their day, and to protect themselves and their herd, they prefer resting while they stand for faster reactions. Typically, a few horses in the herd will stand and nap while the others lay down.
Your domesticated horse will feel safe in their stall. This makes reaching the REM stage of sleeping easier for them.
How Much Sleep Do Horses Need?
No concrete studies have been done on the sleeping patterns of horses, but there are some guidelines you can use to make sure your horse gets enough sleep. Horses can’t lie down to sleep for too long, so you’ll mostly find them resting while they stand upright.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much sleep your horse needs in each stage of their life:
Foals: A foal spends almost half of their day sleeping. They rest much more than bigger horses do to help them grow. Before they’re 3 months old, foals sleep lying down and reach the REM sleeping phase more often.
Adults: Once a horse reaches maturity, they prefer sleeping while they stand up. They only sleep approximately 3 hours a day, and each snooze-sesh only lasts a few minutes.
Senior: When a horse grows older, they start sleeping a bit more again. They also prefer to lie down when resting, but not for too long since it can sometimes be difficult for them to get back up again.
Factors That Influence The Sleeping Quality Of A Horse
Horses rest best when they feel comfortable and secure. They prefer a soft spot to lay down to reach about 30 minutes or more sleep in the REM stage.
Some factors can influence the quality of your horse’s sleep. Knowing what they are will help you identify the things preventing your horse from getting some well-deserved rest.
Lack of Security
Some horses prefer sleeping around others instead of alone in their stall. When they have a companion nearby, they feel more secure and relaxed. This will help them get some REM-phase sleep.
If there’s too much noise or disturbing activities around your horse, they will struggle to fall asleep or even just take a nap. Try to ensure that your horses have free access to their stall so they can have some quiet time whenever they feel like resting.
Pain or Illness
If your horse experiences muscle or joint pain, they’ll have trouble laying down. Standing up will also hurt, and this can make resting difficult.
Sick horses also have trouble settling. If you notice your horse hasn’t really rested for a few days, it may be time for a check-up at the vet!
To Sum It Up
Horses don’t need much sleep, but if they have trouble getting the little they need, your horse can get extremely sick or injure themselves.
You should create a safe and comfortable environment fr your horse to live and sleep in to ensure they get the rest they need.
If you notice your horse struggles with sleep, you should change its environment first.
I hope this article was helpful and that you have a better idea of how to monitor your horse’s sleep patterns. If you have any more questions about how horses sleep or how much of it they need, ask them in the comments!
Why do horses sleep so little?
Horses can only reach a deep sleep when they lie down. Unfortunately, they're really big, and their blood flow can be restricted when they do this for too long. If they fall into a deep sleep while standing up, they can lose their balance and injure themselves. Horses only sleep for short periods because they spend quite some time resting while standing up.
How many hours do horses sleep in 24 hours?
Horses don't sleep that much and can survive with only three hours of sleep per 24 hours. Some horses may sleep more or less depending on their health, environment, and activity level. Foals and senior horses also sleep more than horses in their peak years.
Do horses sleep all night?
No. Horses spend their nights resting and staying awake.
Do horses really sleep standing up?
No. While standing up, horses only rest. This doesn't really count as sleep because they never enter the REM-phase in this position.