How Long Can A Whale Hold Its Breath
How Long Can A Whale Stay Underwater? – Again, we know that whales do breathe air, so how long can whales stay underwater on one breath? Whales can hold their breath for a very long time, and this ranges species to species. The average whale can hold its breath for about 60 minutes.

Do whales sleep underwater?

One question we are often asked is “Where do whales sleep?” While the answer to this seemingly simple question sounds innocent, it’s more in-depth answer is one that helps to provide the world a better understanding of the whale species as a whole. It goes without saying that whales sleep in the ocean, but the simple question of where they sleep also has many asking additional inquisitive follow-up questions like, do whales sleep underwater or above the water? Do they sleep while swimming or do they sleep while at rest? What else is happening within their body while they are nodded off and peacefully dreaming? When whales are sleeping, what predators lurk to find them and attack when they are not aware they are there but are aware of where whales do sleep.

“At night, when the sky is full of stars and the sea is still you get the wonderful sensation that you are floating in space.” ~ Natalie Wood One fact we know for certain is that all whales of all species, including oceanic dolphins, sleep in the same place where they swim, eat, breed, give birth, play, and our personal favorite, where they interact with passengers.

It’s no surprise that whales do sleep underwater and of course, in the ocean! We know most of you already knew this key fact but just in case you needed a reminder or are reading this information for the very first time, now you know. Since all whales and dolphins are mammals, ALL whales require air to breathe, just like us.

Many of our passenger’s first thoughts when wondering where do whales sleep is followed by how whales take in oxygen while asleep. Unlike fish who use their gills to extract oxygen from the water, whales are required to take oxygen directly from the surface to breathe. Their migrating behaviors also help us to understand their wake and sleep behaviors too.

And, because these magnificent mammals travel for long extended distances, their body composition is created with the ability to hold their breath for astonishingly long periods of time. When we think about where do whales sleep, we have to direct our attention to species like the gray whale who travels up to 12,000 miles round trip to give birth to their young.

  1. Species with vast migration patterns who spend time in sub-zero degree waters, require the ability to slow down their heart rate to be able to rest throughout their long journey both to and from home.
  2. Maybe you’re wondering if whales really do sleep underwater? Does the feeling of being weightless and the mere thought of floating in a pool or a bath while the water gently caresses your face and body make you feel a little sleepy? How about just the mere thought of what it feels like to feel the gentle rock and rock of the ocean? Well, that is what it is like for a whale too.

If you are like many of our passengers and are pondering where do whales sleep, you may also be pondering when a whale’s 24 hour sleep cycle begins and ends. All animals within the animal kingdom go through a repeated 24-hour cycle called the circadian cycle.

Unlike most dolphins who often hunt for their prey at night, most whales can often sleep throughout the night. This does not mean that they go to bed to catch some needed zzz’s at 10 pm every night after watching their favorite Netflix show and then wake up at 6 am to head off to work or school as land mammals typically do, but it does mean that they take extended breaks throughout the night to get some shut-eye and recharge to continue their migration and/or prepare for the next day of eating and nursing their young depending on the time of year.

“Where do whales sleep” is not only an important question that, through answering it, helps us learn about whale behavior, it also furthers our knowledge about whale patterns as a species. As we dig even farther into learning about a whale’s sleep behavior and question where do whales sleep, we also uncover their ability to be able to shut down half of their brain and allow for only one eye to remain closed while they are sleeping.

It is believed that they do this so that they can maintain an awareness of the world around them, potential predators lurking in the distance waiting for an opportunity to strike, and most importantly, they can remember to continue to breathe. “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure.” ― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale It is also important to note how long whales sleep when whales sleep underwater when looking to find out more about where do whales sleep.

Most people think of a whale sleeping and think they lie horizontally in the water. What you may not realize is that their extra zzz’s can happen when they are either laying horizontally or vertically. Some sleeping can occur while swimming slowly next to one another or in a small group, or maybe even floating on the surface, called “logging”.

One of the most famous photographs ever taken of a pack of sperm whales was photographed by a Swiss photographer Franco Banfi. His award-winning picture revealed a family pod sleeping vertically, highlighting the oldest females guarding the outskirts of the pod. An incredible documented moment of a truly amazing species.

This same species has been known to sleep as deep as 10 meters below the surface and for only 7% of the time. Conversely, smaller beluga and gray whales sleep for 32% and 41% of the time, respectively while humpback whales will sleep for a maximum of only 30 minutes at a time.

  • Another fact we know for certain about where do whales sleep is the critical role their diet plays in this behavior.
  • Since all whale behavior is predicated upon the characteristics of their prey, whales will sleep when the time to feed is less optimal.
  • In some locations, studies have shown that krill perform a vertical migration at the approach of dusk.

This food source is one of the most succulent food sources of both our largest visitors, the blue and fin whale, To paint this picture more easily in your mind, you can think of krill migrating as if they are lying side by side next to one another like sticks of gum in a package.

Then, multiply those packs of gum (krill) into the trillions, which then grow into the “krillion”, a coined term thanks to our friends at Pixar. When we think of where do whales sleep, we must think of their proximity to the surface. As krill lie closer to the surface at night they are in turn, making it easier for these incredibly large baleen whales to feed on them during the later hours.

If a whale’s prey is closer to the surface, this also means whales like blue whales and fin whales also take shorter dives to take in their massive 1-3 tons of krill needed each day to survive. A 2001 study conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and GREMM, showed that at night when whales sleep underwater, blue whale dives are shorter and not as deep as those made during the day suggesting that this species of whale also could be taking periods of rest during the nocturnal hours.

“If we wipe out all of the fish, the oceans die. If the oceans die, we die.” ~ Paul Watson Where do whales sleep is a question that also has us looking at a whale’s body temperature. A temp check? No, whales do not have COVID, but their temperature also plays a role in their overall sleep patterns. Lying motionless, humpback whales will rest at the water’s surface for a duration of up to 30 minutes but not much longer as they will lose too much of their body temperature when inactive if they sleep for longer periods of time.

Sadly, predators also spend their days and nights asking themselves where do whales sleep on a daily basis. A juvenile, solitary or sick whale is a copious supply of blubber and can keep sharks and other predators fed for weeks and even months (depending on the species) from a single whale’s blubber supply.

  1. A sleeping whale with an infant is a predator’s best friend.
  2. In summary, when wondering where do whales sleep it is important to remember that every breath a whale takes is voluntary.
  3. If asked, do whales sleep underwater? The answer is simple, YES they do.
  4. Their bodies shut down but only half of their mind stays at rest so that they conscientiously remember to breathe.
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Breathing near the surface where whales sleep allows them to breathe more conscientiously, meaning each and every breath counts. This is likely why all sleeping whales and dolphins will sleep at the water’s surface. A whale’s respiratory system is vastly different from ours, so when it comes to sleep, a whale’s body enables them to stay underwater for several minutes without breathing oxygen.

Which animal can hold its breath the longest?

One particular cuvier? s beaked whale was able to hold its breath for 137 minutes! Scientist established this immersion time using a satellite tag. The sperm whale is known to be able to dive for up to around 90 minutes, while most whales and dolphins can only hold their breath for around 20 minutes at a time.

How long can a whale hold its breath while sleeping?

Different species, different type of sleep – The ability of different species of cetaceans to hold their breath varies between a few minutes and over an hour. Their sleeping habits are also non-standard.Humpback whales, for example, have been found resting motionless on the surface of the water for about 30 minutes. They can’t stay like that for long though, because they lose too much body temperature when inactive. By contrast, dolphins sleep at night for a couple hours at a time. Electroencephalogram (EEG) readings on bottlenose dolphins have shown the mammals to spend an average of 33.4% of their day asleep. Researching a huge humpback or a sperm whale in the same way is an unlikely scenario. It would mean having to develop an EEG setup big enough (and a cooperative whale) to record electrical activity of the brain. In the meantime, science will have to continue to rely on discoveries to better understand how whales sleep. This article was published originally on Its content is separate from USA TODAY. : Sleeping giants: Why whales don’t drown when they nap

How long can a orca hold its breath?

The amount of time that a whale can hold its breath varies depending on the species. On average, it is about 90 minutes. Killer Whales average about 15 minutes. The Cuvier’s beaked whale is the record holder at three hours.

Do whales ever get tired of swimming?

They are neutrally buoyant so they spend no energy holding themselves up and cruising along is no more tiring to them than it is to herds of wildebeest wandering about. But they do sleep. Whales and dolphins have adaptations that allow them to swim for long periods without getting tired.

Do whales sleep with their eyes closed?

Do Whales Have Eyelids? – Harbor Breeze Cruises There are so many things that we do not know about the animals we share this planet with, and as humans, it is natural for us to ask questions about them and try to gain as much knowledge as possible. One such question is, do whales have eyelids? Whether it was a child’s mind, a shower thought, or a dinner table conversation that brought you to look up this information rest assured knowing that whales do, in fact, have eyelids! A “Look” At Whale Eyelids Whales’ eyelids are very interesting in the fact that they work with tear ducts as eyelashes would help to protect the eye in land mammals.

  • The tear ducts create a protective solution that is spread over the eye when the whale does blink.
  • This solution is so viscous that it can protect the eye for several hours unlike our own aqueous humor (fancy word for the watery part of our eye).
  • Whale eyelids are much fatter around the entire eye when compared to our own eyelids.

Because of this, the eyelids are extremely difficult to move. In fact, when sperm whales close their eyes it causes the eye to move inward instead of the lid simply covering it spherically. How Do Whales Close Their Eyes? Another very interesting fact about whales is how and when they close their eyes.

Because it is so laborious to do so, the eye typically only closes when the whale is sleeping. Whales possess the ability to put one hemisphere of their brain to sleep at a time (what I wouldn’t give for that talent!). This ability is called unihemispheric sleeping which means that whales can actually divide their sleep so that half of their brain is awake, and the other half is resting up.

This means that typically whales are, literally, sleeping with one eye open. As you can imagine, there are many advantages to this one of which is being able to stay alert and keep an eye on their pod! Looking into the Eye of a Whale There’s a basic fundamental of psychology that talks about how humans look for faces in everything: we are very social creatures and therefore are constantly looking for people and things to connect to in our environment.

  1. This is why we tend to think certain things are cute versus others depending on those qualities that are attributed to physical features.
  2. Many people have had profound experiences when they’ve been able to look into the eye of a whale.
  3. Some believe that this has to do with the fact that their eyelids are so big and give the whale that soulful look that represents knowledge and comfort in our own world.

Whales have certainly proved their intelligence and compassion or empathy like the scientist who was recently shielded from a predator by a whale and a pod of whales that adopted alone narwhal. Humans have always felt emotionally compelled by whales and their similarities to humans, like mistaking beluga whales for mermaids.

  • The Harbor Breeze Whale Watching Experience For an up close and personal experience with whales and dolphins in their natural habitat, we invite you to a and cruise with – an unforgettable trip the entire family will love.
  • We have experienced and enthusiastic naturalists aboard each and every trip that will narrate and educate you on the characteristics and lifestyles of these majestic sea mammals.

Contact us today for ticket information! : Do Whales Have Eyelids? – Harbor Breeze Cruises

Which animal can stop breath for 6 days?

Scorpions are organisms which can hold their breath for up to even 6 days. Scorpions are called arachnids, which are members of the animal kingdom’s arachnid class. Their modified lungs, which are known as book lungs, also allow them to hold their breath for long.

Can cats hold their breath?

Flexi Says: Cats can hold their breath underwater or when it is required for their survival due to the reflex action. They can hold their breath underwater for about 2-5 minutes so that in that time, a cat can easily swim to the surface. – Want to learn more? Go to Lesson Page

How long do spiders hold their breath?

The silvery coat of air bubbles caught around their body enables them to submerge for up to an hour before reappearing. So, though spiders can’t hold their breath, as such, many will survive encounters with water that leave them submerged for minutes – and potentially hours, though likely not days.

Do whales sleep every day?

For example, researchers believe that sperm whales spend only ~7% of their day sleeping, usually in short naps of 10-15 minutes at a time! This finding makes sperm whales the species that needs the least amount of sleep in the planet! Giraffes are a close second who spend around 8% of their day in slumber.

Do whales have teeth?

Whales possess a varying number of teeth, depending on the individual species. Some kinds of whales only have one or two teeth, while others might have 240 teeth or even more. Dental patterns can vary.

How do whales not sink?

Whales, like all mammals, need sleep in order to survive. But they are also air breathers, meaning they cannot become fully unconscious while in the water. There are around 90 different types of whale, which can hold their breath for around an hour or so, depending on the species.

  1. However, they usually travel up to the surface to take a breath out their blowhole every 15 minutes, and as such are never fully submerged in the water for very long.
  2. So, how exactly do they get any sleep? The short answer is, “very differently” from other types of mammal.
  3. Naomi Rose, Marine Mammal Scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told Newsweek that as a general rule of thumb, cetaceans—which are the family of aquatic mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoise s—cannot become fully unconscious or else they would drown.

“It’s an interesting dilemma for wholly aquatic air-breathers. To deal with living in the water full-time, while having to breathe air at the surface, they have evolved into voluntary breathers, as a way to prevent accidentally inhaling water at inopportune moments,” Rose said.

  1. Rose said whales consciously control their blowholes with “powerful muscles,” meaning they have to be awake and alert at all times to prevent themselves from drowning.
  2. They do not breathe autonomously, as terrestrial animals do,” Rose said.
  3. If they were unconscious, which means being fully asleep, they would not breathe and would drown.

So have solved the problem with unihemispheric sleep: that is, they shut down only one half of the brain at a time, keeping one-half conscious and breathing.” A photo shows a pod of sleeping sperm whales. These whales sleep vertically, very close to the surface. Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images Whales have some of the largest brains on the planet. Sperm whales and killer whales in particular have the biggest brain of any living mammal.

This means they can actively decide which part of their brains to use at a given time. Rose said this peculiar way of sleeping can be seen most clearly in captive whales, as they are easier to see. When whales are “sleeping” they can be seen keeping one eye closed while the other remains open. “The behavioral state is in fact known as resting, rather than sleeping, for this reason.

They continue to swim, slowly and regularly—in tight synchronous formation for social cetaceans—occasionally floating still for a few seconds, up to a couple of minutes, perhaps, often very near the surface,” she said. This sleeping technique varies slightly between species, however.

  • Rose said that some species, like sperm whales, enter a deeper sleep where they hang in groups, vertically, not too far below the surface for just over an hour before they surface to breathe.
  • Other species, such as the humpback whales, have been observed resting motionless at the surface of the water for increments of only 30 minutes.
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Humpbacks cannot sleep for much longer than this without losing too much of their body temperature. And, killer whales, who are very socially complex, never stray too far from the other members of their pod, sleeping in tight-knit groups. A stock photo shows humpback whales near the surface, taking a breath evenfh/Getty Images

How deep can a whale dive?

Whales are accomplished divers. The deepest whale dive recorded so far was made by a Cuvier’s beaked whale. A 2014 study used satellite-linked tags to follow the dives of eight beaked whales off the southern California coast. The deepest recorded dive was 2,992 metres, breaking the record for diving mammals.

How big are whale lungs?

A lung capacity of up to five thousand litres and an exhalation that reaches speeds of over 600 kilometres per hour means sighting the blow of a Blue Whale is unmistakable. Exhaling 90% of their lung capacity, the Blue Whale will surface to breath every 8-12 minutes in the Perth Canyon when feeding.

How long can a tiger hold its breath?

On average, a Bengal tiger can hold its breath underwater for about 30 to 60 seconds. This duration can vary depending on the individual tiger and its physical condition. Tigers primarily swim to move between land masses or to cross bodies of water, rather than for extended periods of time underwater.

Do whales ever get thirsty?

Staying Hydrated – Although it’s not well known how much they drink, whales are capable of drinking sea water because they have specialized kidneys to process the salt, which is excreted in their urine. Even though they can drink salt water, whales are thought to get the bulk of the water they need from their prey – which includes, fish, krill, and copepods.

Do whales ever feel cold?

How Do Whales Stay Warm? – Whales are warm-blooded mammals that can survive in water temperatures as frigid as the low 40s F. How do they manage to stay warm, even in the ice-cold waters of the Atlantic? By wearing a thick layer of fat, called blubber, just beneath the skin.

Do sharks get tired of swimming?

Home Demystified Science verified Cite While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. Select Citation Style Fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica © Richard Carey/Fotolia It is a common misconception that sharks as a species never sleep because they must keep moving to stay alive. Sharks do engage in periods of rest throughout the day, but it is much different from the kind of sleep that other animals engage in.

  • It is true that many types of sharks must keep moving in order to receive life-giving oxygen from the water passing through their gills.
  • These kinds of sharks are known as obligate ram ventilators because they draw water in through their mouths and force it out through their gills.
  • Many sharks use a method called buccal pumping, in which water is pulled in through the mouth and forced out through the gills by the cheek muscles.

Other types of sharks are able to remain stationary because they possess special structures called spiracles, which force water through their gills. Some sharks use both spiracles and buccal pumping. If any of these species were to stop swimming because, for example, they were caught in a net, they would ultimately suffocate.

Whatever method they use to breathe, sharks are able to engage in periods of deep rest while still but do not fall asleep in the traditional sense. Their eyes remain perpetually open, and their pupils still monitor the motion of creatures swimming around them. Sharks that are able to rest while stationary include the whitetip reef shark, the Caribbean reef shark, the nurse shark, the wobbegong, and the lemon shark,

The great white shark has long been a subject of interest among marine biologists because so little is known of its life processes. One big question is, of course, “Do great white sharks sleep?” In 2016, researchers studying great white sharks off Guadalupe Island, near the coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, learned the answer when they came across a female that appeared to be in a state of slumber.

Do dolphins have nipples?

NURSING UNDERWATER Nursing underwater Whales and dolphins, being marine mammals, exhibit the typical characteristics of mammals: they’re warm-blooded, breathe air, have fur (although only a few hairs or for a limited time period), give birth to live young, and produce milk to feed their offspring.

  • Calves of either whales or dolphins are able to swim shortly after birth, but are unable to hunt and feed and so are fed milk from the mother, with some species nursing for over a year! Without lips, and living in aquatic environment, you can appreciate the inherent difficulties of nursing.
  • You can also appreciate the difficulties involved in us as humans getting closed enough to really see what is happening during nursing.

Whale and dolphin calves take frequent short dives beneath the mother for nursing. Whales and dolphins do not have external nipples, instead their nipples are enclosed within mammary slits. Upon stimulation of the calves nudging, the nipple is exposed and the calf positions itself such that the nipple is at the gape of the calf’s jaw for feeding.

It is also thought that the tongue is rolled into a tube around the nipple, or rolled into a U-shape and pressed against the upper palate and placed around the nipple, and the mother voluntary ejects milk into the mouth of the calf. Milk of whales and dolphins varies considerably in fat concentration, but it is much higher than that of human breast milk.

The higher fat-content allows for fast growth; it is very important for calves to develop a thick layer of blubber due to the thermoregulatory demands of a marine environment (heat is lost faster in water than in air). The high fat content also allows the milk to travel through the water without breaking up as it is much thicker.

Baleen whales and toothed whales (including dolphins) differ in their milk content and lactation habits. Baleen whales have a relatively short lactation period (5-7 months) during which they fast, or eat very little. On the other hand, toothed whales have a longer lactation period (1-3 years), during which the mothers will feed.

Written by: Minke Tolsma For further reading:

Johnson, G., Frantzis, A., Johnson, C., Alexiadou, V., Ridgway, S., & Madsen, P.T. (2010). Evidence that sperm whale ( Physeter macrocephalus ) calves suckle through their mouth. Marine Mammal Science 26: 990-996. Oftedal, O.T.1997. Lactation in whales and dolphins: Evidence of divergence between baleen- and toothed-species: Maternal adaptation to lactation. Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia 2 : 205-230. Zoidis, A.M., & Lomac-MacNair, K.S.2017. A note on suckling behavior and laterality in nursing humpback whale calves from underwater observations. Animals 7 : 51.


Do whales have dreams?

Dreaming – We don’t know for sure whether whales and dolphins dream. Interestingly, scientists found pilot whales and sperm whales that showed Rapid Eye Movements (REM). In humans, REM is a deep sleep state associated with dreaming. Does this mean that some whales can dream? And what would they dream of? Hopefully, future research will answer these questions.

Sleeping underwater is not the most logical situation for an air-breathing animal. Yet, whales and dolphins manage to get their shut-eye with clever physiological and behavioral adaptations. So far, we know that many cetaceans either rest half of their brain or take short “cat naps” to breathe regularly.

We can only dream of what other strategies less-studied species have developed to catch their z’s.

How long do dolphins sleep for?

For reasons that scientists still do not 100% understand, animals need to sleep. Humans, for example, typically need about eight hours of sleep a day. This means we spend one-third of our lives looking like this: This apparently is King Olav V of Norway. I have no idea what the story is behind this image. I found it on Wikimedia Commons. except maybe not dressed in a tuxedo or while posing for a portrait. If you have ever snuck your iPad into your bed without your parents knowing, and then stayed up until 3:00 in the morning because you were binge-watching Bob’s Burgers on a school night, you may have noticed the next day at school that you did not function very well.

  1. Sleep is necessary for the maintenance of our brains, but scientists are still gathering evidence to figure out why we need sleep and how it is able to help us.
  2. For many animals, sleep is necessary, but also kind of dangerous.
  3. A sleeping animal is a lot less likely to notice that another animal is about to eat it than an animal whose eyes are open.
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Animals that are low on the food chain, like mice and antelope, tend to be very light sleepers. Predators that are not anyone else’s prey are usually deep sleepers, with at least one exception. Dolphins always sleep with one eye open. This dolphin isn’t sleeping, but it is cute As cute as bottlenose dolphins may seem to us, they are not cute to fish like mullets. Small fish see dolphins as giant monsters that want to eat them. Being a large predator means dolphins rarely get eaten themselves.

When a dolphin sleeps with one eye open, it is not worrying about becoming someone else’s prey. It is not even worrying about a gang of mullets beating it up to get revenge. A bottlenose dolphin’s main worry during sleep is breathing. Dolphins spend the majority of their life underwater, but they cannot breathe underwater.

Like us, they are mammals that must breathe oxygen from the atmosphere with their lungs. If a dolphin tried to breathe underwater, it could drown. Dolphins do not breathe the exact same way we do, though. For one thing, they don’t breathe through their nose. Another difference is humans are involuntary breathers (meaning we breathe all the time without thinking about it) and dolphins are not. You may have already noticed we breathe automatically if, like many 10-year olds, you have decided that you should learn how to meditate.

You may remember the first thing your meditation teacher told you to do was to pay attention to your breathing. As you did this, you may have thought to yourself, “Wow! My breathing just keeps happening.” Then you probably thought to yourself, “It makes sense for us to keep taking breath after breath without thinking about it, because our noses are almost always in the atmosphere where we can safely take in oxygen Also, who wants to go around telling yourself to breathe every 4 seconds?” And then as you kept paying attention to the breaths you took you probably thought about how ” Every Breath You Take ” by the band The Police is your mom’s all-time favorite song.

That then made you think about how you want to be a police officer for Halloween this year, and that you better get more candy than last year when you were a giant banana. And then your meditation teacher became aware that you weren’t actually focusing on your breathing, and then you failed your meditation class.

  • Dolphins are voluntary breathers, meaning they have to tell their body when to breathe and also that dolphins can’t really begin meditating by focusing on their breathing because they already do that all the time.
  • If a dolphin’s breathing was involuntary, like ours, and its brain automatically told its blowhole to breathe every few seconds, there is a good chance it would end up breathing underwater until it drowned.

Dolphins are voluntary breathers to make sure they only breathe when they rise to the surface and their brain knows their blowhole is up in the air. When dolphins come out of the water like this, they are exhaling and then inhaling. Because dolphins need to tell themselves when to breathe, they can never completely fall asleep. Instead, dolphins only let one half of the brain sleep at a time. Dolphins let the right side of their brain go to sleep while the left side stays awake to control the breathing.

Then a little while later the right side wakes up and the left side falls asleep. Dolphins need about eight hours of sleep a day, but, unlike us, their brain sleeps in shifts. The right half gets four hours of sleep and the left half also gets four hours of sleep, just at different times. The awake half of of a dolphin’s brain not only helps keeps the dolphin breathing.

How Do Marine Mammals Hold Their Breath For So Long?

It also keeps one eyeball working so the dolphin can continue to see what it going on around it while the other eyeball shuts down. The awake half of the brain can also keep the dolphin swimming. If you ever see a dolphin doing what the dolphin is doing in the GIF above, there is a chance that half of dolphin is sleeping while it swimming through the water.

How do whales sleep underwater if they need air?

Instead, they have a fascinating adaptation known as ‘ unihemispheric sleep ‘. To be able to sleep, whales shut down half of their brain at a time. Being partially awake allows them to continue breathing and be aware of their surroundings.

How do whales breathe underwater while sleeping?

Like humans, whales are mammals. They therefore have lungs and breath air at the surface. They are unable to extract oxygen from the water like fish do with their gills. Breathing in whales is “conscious”; the function of breathing in these animals is under the voluntary control of the central nervous system (CNS).

Whales choose to come up to the surface to breath in the same way that we make a conscious decision to eat so that we don’t starve! Unlike humans who continue to breath even when they’re in a deep sleep, cetaceans must remain partially awake in order to maintain a state of alertness to control their breathing.

Studies conducted on dolphins have demonstrated that only half of the brain “rests”, while the other half ensures this alertness. This technique also allows the brain to remain on the lookout for predators, obstacles and other animals in the area. The cetacean also maintains control of its blowhole, the orifice on the top of its head that is the equivalent of our nostrils.

How do whales sleep underwater?

“How do whales sleep?” is a question our whale watching guides often get during tours, and it is an understandable one – how can a mammal that needs air to survive sleep underwater? – The short answer is that they are conscious breathers and therefore sleep in different ways than land mammals (like us).

We are unconscious breathers, so our bodies automatically breathe to take in air even when we are sleeping. Cetaceans are conscious breathers, meaning that they have to make a decision on when to breathe. This might seem complicated for an animal that spends all of its time in the water, but whales and dolphins are experts and are well-adapted to spending their entire lives in the ocean.

All whales and dolphins sleep, but different species have different methods and requirements for sleep and rest. The length of sleep can vary massively between species. There are some common methods and positions for sleeping. These include simply resting quietly in the water, either horizontally or vertically, or sleeping while slowly swimming next to another member of their pod or in small groups.

  • Dolphins in captivity have been recorded sleeping for brief increments of time at the bottom of their tanks.
  • Humpback whales are often found resting motionless on the surface of the ocean while sleeping.
  • They cannot sleep for much longer than 30 minutes without risking lowering their body temperature due to inactivity.

A very common assumption is that whales sleep with half of their brain ‘shut off’ and one eye closed. The theory is that they do this to maintain an awareness of potential predators or threats that may approach. It is thought that this also allows them to remember to breath at the right time.

This behavior has been reported in many different types of dolphins, who can sleep for 2-4 hours at a time. Some dolphins sleep for roughly 33% of the day, while the larger sperm whale is thought to sleep for only 7% of the day! Boating encounters with sperm whale pods suggest that they enter a deeper sleep than dolphins.

In 2008, a small group of scientists working off the coast of Chile happened to encounter a pod of sleeping sperm whales. They were working to record sperm whale calls and were below deck with the engine off when they discovered that they had drifted right into a pod of sleeping sperm whales.

It was not until the boat accidentally nudged one of the sperm whales that they noticed the presence of the boat. This is suggestive of a deeper sleep with less acute awareness. The sperm whales swam off and resumed their sleeping. It is notoriously difficult to study cetacean sleeping behavior in the wild.

There is still much to learn about the sleep requirements and patterns of whales and dolphins. We have encountered sleeping whales before on our Whale Watching tours, though it is not common. One one of our morning tours in April, 2015, our boat came across a sleeping humpback. A pod of sleeping sperm whales. Image: © Franco Banfi/Solent News & Photo Agency : How Do Whales Sleep? – Special Tours

How come whales don’t sink when they sleep?

Where Do Whales Sleep? – In general, whales stay at the surface or close to the surface of the water while they’re sleeping. This allows them to easily come up for air when needed. Whales are also very buoyant because of the amount of blubber in their bodies. This helps them continue to float while sleeping without worrying about sinking.