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Why do lions sleep so much?

If you pass by the lion habitat at midday, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll find Hondo, Azizi, and Hatari sprawled out napping on their very own version of Pride Rock. If you’re lucky, you can spot the three leonine brothers snuggling, often with four paws straight up in the air. From time to time this raises the question, “it is normal for lions to sleep so much?” The answer is a resounding yes! In short, copious amounts of beauty rest (up to 20 hours a day!) is a natural lion behavior that helps this iconic species preserve energy for when they really need it.

Unlike what many scenes in The Lion King might lead you to believe, lions are crepuscular, meaning they are most active in twilight hours (between sunset and dusk and dawn and sunrise- so “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is a bit more temporally accurate). Conserving energy during the warmer temperatures of the day gives lions an advantage over their prey, which are mainly species less active during the darker, cooler hours that lions thrive in. Additionally, like the majority of cat species, lion eyesight also improves in dimmer lighting.

Another reason lions sleep so much? Lions are carnivores and the large amounts of protein they consume takes A LOT of effort to digest. So the next time you see a lion snoozing, remember that these kings of the “jungle” (Savanna actually, but that’s a matter for a different time) aren’t just lazing around: they’re breaking down nutrients and storing up energy to dominate the food chain come evening!

Sources:

  • African Lion. San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.sfzoo.org/african-lion/
  • Lions Can Sleep 20 Hours Per Day. This Is How And Why. African Wildlife Report. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://africanwildlifereport.com/how-much-do-lions-sleep-more-than-you-expect/

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