It must be hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re an animal in the wild. Not only would the ever-present threat of predators detract from a truly restful slumber, but unpredictable weather conditions and a lack of comfortable bedding would prove something of a challenge too.
Now spare a thought for the sperm whale. Seriously, how does a massive marine mammal weighing anywhere between 35,000 and 57,000kg catch some much-needed z’s in the middle of the ocean?
The spellbinding video above shows it’s not as difficult as you’d expect. These sea-going giants simply position themselves vertically, usually near the surface of the water, and start snoozing.
While many aquatic mammals are renowned for sleeping with one eye open and alert for potential threats, the sperm whale appears to close both eyes as it falls completely and blissfully asleep.
Indeed, the sight of these magnificent creatures dangling in the deep blue yonder like huge underwater bats is so peacefully surreal, you can’t help but wonder: do they dream? Which isn’t such a far-fetched idea, as it happens: scientists from St Andrew’s University have actually observed sperm whales in a state of apparent REM sleep – previously unheard of in cetaceans.
Mind you, with their average snooze amounting to a paltry 12 minutes a pop (most often between the hours of 6pm and midnight, for some unknown reason), any subconscious meanderings a sperm whale might enjoy wouldn’t last for long. Data gathered by the researchers suggests they sleep just 7.1% of the time, making them the least sleep-dependent of all land- or sea-based mammals.
That’s what we call powerful power napping.
Be sure to nab yourself a Smith Journal volume 27, on sale now, for a cool pull-out cetacea poster by artist Kelzuki, who claims they’re a dream to depict: “When painting them you enter a kind of flow. It’s like swimming,” she says.