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How Do Giraffes Sleep?

Did you know that of all land mammals, giraffes are among the species requiring the least sleep? As a prey species that needs to be on constant high-alert on the African Savanna, giraffes have evolved to sleep for as little as 30 minutes a day, although they can go for much longer if need be.

Because giraffes are vulnerable during the time it would take to get up from lying down, in the wild, they are usually observed sleeping standing up in order to detect and escape from potential predators. Giraffes will sometimes use trees to support themselves, but are mostly in a half-awake, “cat-nap” state during their sleep time.

However, in zoos, with the threat of predators removed, giraffe sleeping behaviors can look very different. Giraffes in human care are more frequently observed sleeping lying down, and can sleep up to six hours a day on average. The ability to safely recline also allows them to enter deeper sleep cycles: for example, when giraffes enter REM, they lose the ability to support their own heads and twist around to use their own rumps as pillows.

So the next time you see Calvin and Lennard strolling about in the mixed-species African Savanna habitat, take a minute to appreciate the extra hours of zzzzs our boys get in comparison to their wild counterparts!


  • Bennet, H. (2016, May 8). Ever wondered how animals sleep?. Washington Post.
  • Ferreira, B. (2016, January 22). Giraffes Use Their Butts as Pillows, and Other Weird Animal Sleep Habits. VICE.
  • Jonathan, D. (2023, February 14). How Do Giraffes Sleep?. LEO Zoo.
  • Suni, E. (2022, October 3). How Do Animals Sleep?. Sleep Foundation.

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