TECH

Even Scientists Are Baffled By How Little Sleep Elephants Get

They are the shortest sleeping mammals.

02/03/2017 17:46 GMT

If you thought you could get by on minimal shut-eye, take stock of elephants’ incredible sleep patterns.

In zoos, the giant creatures sleep for four to six hours a night – but in the wild, they get by on just two, a new study has found.

Researchers tracked two matriarchal elephants in Botswana over several days and found they could stay away for days on end to travel long distances.

Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

It’s thought that the creatures made the epic journeys in an effort to evade poachers and lions.

When they did sleep, they mostly spent it on their feet. It was only every three or four days that they lay down to enter rapid eye movement sleep.

 Prof Paul Manger of the University of the Witwatersrand told the BBC: “Elephants are the shortest sleeping mammal - that seems to be related to their large body size.”

Smaller mammals, such as sloths, sleep for a mighty 14 hours a day.

Jozev via Getty Images

The researchers said that given elephants’ impressive powers of recall, their study called into question theories associating REM with memory consolidation.

But how the giant creatures survive on such little sleep remains a mystery. The researchers are now planning further studies to try to find out.

The ability to skimp on shut-eye isn’t elephants’ only extraordinary trait. They are also unusually cancer-resistant, with just 3% succumbing to the disease.

It’s hoped their DNA could pave the way for revolutionary treatments in humans.