How Do Ostriches Sleep? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Every organism on earth has to sleep as it is the time they get rested and recharged.

There are differences in the sleep patterns of different animals with some sleeping their eyes open, while standing etc.

Ostriches are diurnal animals and they sleep at night. Ostriches can sleep standing up, lying down or sitting.

Ostriches have been described as stealth sleepers as you do not often know when they are asleep.

This article will discuss the sleep patterns of ostriches, how long they sleep for, whether they lie down to sleep, what they do at night when a predator is near to mention a few. 

How Do Ostriches Sleep?

How Do Ostriches Sleep

There are various reports that ostriches sleep with their head buried in the ground.

However, this is not true as scholarly work has not only disproved this, it has explained how exactly ostriches sleep.

Ostriches have been said to sleep like platypuses. 

They seem to never sleep at all, their eyes stay open, although they appear to doze off from time to time.

Ostriches look alike when they are in deep sleep or NREM sleep. However, when their heads are drooping they are in another stage of sleep. 

This stage of sleep has been described as a unique hybrid of REM and other deep sleep patterns.

Researchers have shown that platypus is the only other animal to show this pattern. Other than that, ostriches can sleep either sleeping, sitting or standing up.

During non-NREM sleep, ostriches will sleep sitting upright with their eyes open.

They may look alert but in actual fact they are far gone. This is one of the reasons why they are called stealth sleepers. 

How Long Do Ostriches Sleep For?

Ostriches can get up to 10 hours of sleep at night.

This also depends on their age, season and how safe they feel in their particular location.

Most ostriches spend most of their sleep periods in NREM sleeping i.e. non rapid eye movement or deep sleep.  

At this time, though they look alert they are fast asleep. Ostriches also do not sleep all through the night.

They rouse themselves continuously over the course of the night. The reasons for this have not yet been discovered and it could be for alertness against predator attacks. 

The research also showed that there is a difference in the sleep modes of ostrich chicks and adults.

Chicks spent considerably less time in REM sleep than the adult of the species. 

Here is an article I wrote on do ostriches swim

Why Do Ostriches Sleep With Their Head In The Ground?

Ostriches, contrary to popular belief, do not bury their heads in the sand.

This myth dates all the way back to ancient Rome and is frequently used to describe a person who is avoiding their problems.

This belief is believed to have originated after noticing ostriches roosting and being harassed by predators. 

When an ostrich detects danger and is unable to flee, it dives to the ground and remains still, its head and neck flat on the ground ahead of it.

Due to the light coloring of the head and neck, they meld with the hue of the soil. From a distance, it appears as though the ostrich’s head has been buried in the sand, since only the body is perceptible.

Also, ostriches do not build nests. Rather, they bury their eggs in a sand hole. They use their beaks to inspect and turn the eggs on a regular basis.

This may create the appearance that they are burying their heads in the dirt. 

Ostriches also regularly hunt for pebbles and rocks. These are useful for grinding food in their gizzards.

Ostriches do not have teeth and as such cannot chew on what they eat. These pebbles and rocks serve as the teeth inside their stomachs.

Due to the small shape of their heads, it might look like they are burying their heads when they are hunting. 

Do Ostriches Lie Down?

Ostriches can also lay down to sleep. They often sit with their long necks laying on the ground. They can also sleep curled unto themselves.

Ostriches can sleep in different positions and most often they choose to sleep sitting upright. 

Later into the night, they start to droop and at this point they often lay their necks down to get a better rest.

What Do Ostriches Do At Night When A Predator Is Near?

Natural predators of ostriches include cheetahs, lions, leopards, hunting dogs, and spotted hyenas.

Other predators, such as Egyptian vultures and jackals, are known to prey on ostrich  eggs. Ostriches usually move around in flocks of about 10 birds with one dominant male and female.

They can also have larger groups numbering up to 100.

Ostriches will typically not sleep close to where a predator is as they will not feel safe.

There is not much information on their sleeping patterns at night but they often roost in open land with other members of their herd.

During the day, ostriches either run from their predators or flop to the ground and pretend to be dead.

Since ostriches also have impressive night vision, it is possible that they can as well run from predators if they sense danger at night.  

Also here is an article I wrote on can you ride an ostrich

Do Ostriches Sleep Standing Up?

Ostriches can sleep standing up as well as sitting or lying down. The most common way for ostriches to sleep is to sleep sitting upright.

However, they can sleep while standing as well. They often sleep with their eyes open and looking alert. 

Ostriches are not the only animals or birds who can sleep standing up.

Zebras, elephants, and cows are mammals that can sleep while standing. Some birds like owls also have this ability.

Their brain functions are quite different from that of humans and their sleep patterns are different.


It might sound weird that ostriches are able to sleep with their eyes wide open.

However, this is their reality as research has discovered. During ostriches deep sleep they appear alert and awake.

As they however move towards NREM they start to droop and will prepare to lie down.

Also contrary to the belief that ostriches bury their heads in the ground, they do not do so.

When ostriches sense danger and cannot run, they flop on the ground to blend in with the environment. 

Reports show that this works as predators often think such ostriches are dead. Ostriches are magnificent animals all around us and we hope to keep on learning about these beautiful creatures. 

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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