How Do Penguins Sleep? (Answered)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Penguins rather have quite a peculiar sleeping pattern. Instead of sleeping all night, like we generally do, they take short naps during the day time and even in the evening.

In fact, they have a very unique ability to sleep while standing up or in the water. However, they sleep for longer periods in the night when they are on the land.

I am certain the question of how these adorable and mighty birds sleep would be bugging your mind… A lot.

Here in this article, you will examine and explore the different ways on how penguins sleep.

How Do Penguins Sleep?

How Do Penguins Sleep

Penguins have different styles of sleeping.

  • Lying down to sleep:

Some large species of penguins, like the King penguins can be found sleeping on their bellies. This sleeping position strikes a resemblance to that of a swimming duck.

The sleeping penguins cover their webbed feet under their body, and raise their head up with the belly resting on the land.

Penguins often sleep in this position when the weather is quite favorable.

  • Standing while sleeping:

Many people believe all penguins sleep while standing, but not all penguins do so. It is common among Emperor penguins because they live in a very cold environment.

Basically, the idea of sleeping while standing is because their feet are naturally hard to protect them from the icy ground, and they get some sleep even while standing too.

Also, penguins incubating their eggs tend to tuck their bills behind their flippers when sleeping in this position.

  • Sleeping in the ocean:

The beauty of these flightless sea birds is their respect for the important nature of rest. Penguins spend most of their time in the water, searching for food and they use the opportunity to take some naps too!

  • Sleeping in huddles

During cold seasons, penguins gather in huddles to stay warm. They stand while sleeping together which keeps their body warmer and gives them a comfortable rest.

  • Sleeping upright while bending the head down:

This is a common sleeping position among penguins. They stand upright by tipping up their feet and balancing the whole weight on their heel.

The neck is bent in a way that their head faces down, to avoid freezing and regulate blood circulating to the head.

Sleeping upright while bending the head down is also another way to make them warm.

Related: Here is an article I wrote on how do penguins mate?

Do Penguins Sleep at Night?

Penguins have a peculiar sleeping pattern and yes, they do sleep at night. However, they don’t really sleep all through the night like we humans do.

They sleep like four minutes at a time because they are always on the lookout for predators, but at night, they sleep more frequently and slightly longer than in the day.

Why Do Penguins Sleep Standing Up?

Penguins sleep standing up simply for protection. Here’s how:

Sleep-standing is common among species like Emperor penguins, living in cold Antarctica areas and one way they can protect their bodies from making contact with the cold ice they often sleep on is to sleep while standing.

Penguins prefer to sleep while standing because it gives them a space between their body and the ground , needed to keep their body warm.

How Long Do Penguins Sleep?

Penguins don’t really sleep for many hours.

They take short naps frequently during the day and evening, usually lasting up to 4 minutes, and this is to prevent any physical harm from predators like Galapagos shark and Leopard seal.

They are also known for sleeping very deeply in the afternoon, after having lunch.

There are some exception of the time spent sleeping and that is during incubating.

A penguin who sit incubating an egg can sleep for 20 hours or more in a day to conserve energy and protect the egg as well.

Do Penguins Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Unihemispheric sleep, that is, sleeping with an eye open is common among penguins.

They sleep with their eyes open to protect themselves and their young ones from their predators.

Asides that, Science news reported that penguins sleep with just half of their brain.

This means the other half is closely keeping watch ad always alert for any unusual activity in their environment.

You can say it again – these adorable birds are every watchful!

Also check out this article I wrote on can penguins quack

Do Penguins Sleep Lying Down?

Yes, penguins do sleep lying down. In this style of sleeping, the penguin’s webbed feet is covered under their body, and the hear is raised up while the belly is resting on the ground.

Penguins lie down to sleep when their body is fine to bear the iciness of the land and when the weather is quite favorable for them.

Do Penguins Need Special Places to Sleep?

Penguins do not really require any special place to sleep. Either on land, or in water, they heed to the call of nature even if it is just for some minutes.

Some species like the Fairy penguins go to the coastline ever night to sleep for few hours in tiny holes.

Although the time penguins sleep varies, they still sleep after having lunch and it can even be in the ocean.

They can also sleep on the land, while standing or even lying down as well.

Thus, penguins do not require a special place to sleep. They can sleep in burrows, land, and even in water.

What Do Penguins Do When They Wake Up?

They simply resume their daily business, heading to the sea to feed, tending chicks or eggs and even having fun.

When penguins wake up, you find the active birds heading towards the sea where they swim for fish, eat, and swim for more dishes again.

Some penguins stay at home to tend for their chicks and eggs. Male Emperor penguins is a typical instance of a specie of penguin that stay at home to incubate eggs.

An additional thing is that penguins love tobogganing. Instead of waddling across the ice, they love to their on their stomachs and slide through the snowy land with their feet.

For penguins, its a faster and more fun way to get around.

So, what some penguins do when they wake up is to tend the eggs and chicks. Others would go to the sea, have fun, swim for fishes, sleep again, swim for more fishes and simply enjoy their day!


Penguins have strange sleeping styles. They take during day and in the evening instead of sleeping for many hours at night.

They also have a special ability of sleeping while standing up or even in the water. Sometimes, they sleep with their bills under their flippers.

Penguins, unlike humans never really sleep for a long time. This is because they fall prey to predators like Leopard seals and Galapagos sharks, so they have to ways be on the guard and remain alert.

That is why they sleep for few minutes instead of going into deep slumber. They also sleep in huddles, which gives them extra protection and provides warmth.

Another thing is that penguins technically sleep with half of their brain, while the other half remains active.

In addition, penguins do not only sleep on land. They can sleep on the ocean, and even in burrows

Generally, I believe penguins are peculiar birds and just like humans, each penguin would rather prefer to sleep in a place and in the position he or she considers comfortable, warm and most importantly, safe. 

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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