Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by Allison Price
It can be hard to track how much sleep your horse gets. Horses are polyphasic, unlike people who get all their sleep in one long snooze. Horses can sleep multiple times throughout the day and night.
Different types of sleep
An adult horse will typically sleep for between 2 and 5 hours each night. Foals sleep longer. The majority of horses spent that time in slow wave sleep (SWS). It’s like sleeping in a hammock. Horses can also sleep this way while standing up, as their anatomy allows. Horses also require REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. To achieve this state, they must lie down.
Research into Equine Sleep
It is still not clear what horses sleep like. Although there has been limited research on horse sleep, more research is needed. However, there are some facts:
- Horses spend approximately 5-7 hours each day on resting behaviour. Usually, horses sleep at night.
- Horses can achieve slow-wave sleep while standing up, but the REM stage of sleep cannot be achieved without being recumbent due to the greater loss of muscle tone during this type.
- Horses require at least 30 minutes of recumbency each hour in order to get REM sleep.
Equine REM sleep
Horses must feel comfortable and have a place to lay down in order to go to REM sleep. Because blood flow is restricted in certain areas of the horse’s body, this causes problems when it comes to getting up. Equines shouldn’t be able to lie down for too long. Horses will usually lie down for a maximum period of 45 minutes, and then experience REM sleep for approximately 20 minutes.
Horses will not lie down in unsuitable conditions like bad weather or lack of space. This will also lead to physical problems, including joint mobility issues. A horse that does not get enough REM sleep will experience sleep deprivation, which can lead to lethargy or excessive drowsiness. Horses who find it difficult to lay down may fall into REM sleep while standing.
How to Deal with Sleep Deprivation
Horses can sleep for several days without REM before they feel the effects. Consider the reasons your horse is not sleeping. There are many reasons why your horse may not be sleeping well. Here are some of them:
* Isolation – A horse left alone is more likely to feel stressed and vulnerable.
* Unsuitable area to lay – A lack of bedding or a small area.
* Noisy location – loud noises may trouble your horse
* Feeling unsafe outside – wild animals may make your horse feel uncomfortable
* Social situation – An aggressive horse or a new herd can make your horse feel vulnerable