Do Horses Sleep Standing Up?

Someone once asked me, “Do horses sleep standing up or lying down?” Then I answered, “Of course, both”.

Well, it is believed that horses can sleep both lying down and standing up.

However, there is one thing you should make clear: When they stand up, they cannot get deep sleep. They just snooze.

Do horse sleep standing up?

We all know that horses are supposed to sleep standing up, right? Well, it turns out that this may not be entirely true. While horses do spend a lot of time standing up, they actually do lie down to sleep on occasion. So, how do they manage to do this without falling over? Let’s take a closer look.

How do horses sleep standing up?

In the sleeping state, their ears are back, and their eyes are closed. Their head is down, and their lower lips are relaxed.

Also, horses have specialized legs that can lock together, which allows them to be completely relaxed while standing up.

The progress of sleeping standing up in a horse is called slow-wave sleep. Normally, an adult horse needs to take rest for 2 to 5 hours per day.

>>> Check out: The best horse Standing wraps to support their legs when they are standing.

What are the stages of sleep in horses?

There are four main stages of sleep in horses:

1. lying down

2. standing up

3. slow-wave sleep

4. REM sleep

The first stage is when the horse lies down and gets comfortable. The second stage is when the horse stands up and starts to drift off. The third stage is when the horse enters slow-wave sleep, which is a deep sleep state. The fourth stage is when the horse enters REM sleep, which is associated with dreaming.

So, as you can see, horses do sleep in all four of these stages. They may spend more time in some stages than others, but they all experience them at some point or another. And, of course, the order of these stages can vary from horse to horse.

Different sleep for different ages.

Young horses sleep more than adults. Foals (up to 3 months old) spend 16-18 hours a day sleeping, and they nap several times each day. By the time they are a year old, they only need around 10 hours of sleep per day.

Older horses also get their share of REM sleep, which is the type of sleep that is associated with dreaming. Horses in this age group typically spend around 2 hours each day asleep.

So, while horses definitely do sleep standing up, it’s not always the case. They will lie down when they feel like it – usually when they’re tired. And when they do, they can rest comfortably knowing that their legs can lock into place. So, the next time you see a horse standing in the field, don’t assume that it’s asleep. It might just be taking a break!

Why they need lie down?

horse sleeping lie down

Although horses can rest standing up, horses need some time to fulfill their needs for REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in each 24-hour period.  A sufficient sleep of a horse will include grazing, snoozing standing up, and short periods of lying down to get some shut-eye.

This kind of sleep is of particular importance for horses’ health. It helps develop the nervous system, such as for creating new memories and learning.

In fact, horses do not require a lot of REM sleep, typically just in ten to twenty minutes at a time. The total REM time for a horse is only about 30 to 40 minutes in a day. Normally, young horses sleep more often and have more REM sleep than adults.

If a horse is lack of REM sleep for a couple of weeks, his health may be affected  and his behavior begins to change negatively.

But why do horses sleep standing up most of their time?

There are some special reasons for horses’ sleeping habits.

First of all, horses are prey species. They need to avoid serious threat from their predators. Sleeping standing up lets them get up more quickly to flee than laying down, so their personal safety can be ensured.

Also, horses who sleep laying down extended periods are likely to have several health diseases such as pressure sores, colic, and pneumonia.

According to research, the longer they are down, the more prone they are to reperfusion injury. As a kind of large animals, when laying down for too long, the weight of their body can prevent blood flow to several certain locations. This can cause severe health problems when they try to stand up again.

Besides reperfusion injury, muscles and nerves on the downside of the horses can be hurt from pressure.

So, because they can doze while standing up, healthy horses don’t prefer spending time lying down.

Horses’ strange sleeping habits

Interestingly, each horse will have their own individual sleeping habits. Horses are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. They can themselves choose to sleep whenever they want in a day. Therefore, each horse will have different times to sleep, and any changes we make in our horses’ schedules may also impact their sleeping routine.

Also, horses’ sleeping habits change when they become older. A foal may sleep for up to 12 hours each day, but an adult horse will snooze for only 3 hours in a period of 24 hours. When they are older, they need to get more sleep and take naps more regularly.

In a herb, there will be a guard horse staying awake to watch while others lie down to sleep. Different members of the herd will take turns as the guard horse to help the herb avoid dangers from their predators.

Horses’ sleep deprivation

There are two types of sleeping for a horse: Slow-wave and REM sleeping. The lack of any adequate sleep can result in sleep deprivation which badly affects horses’ health.

So, when your horses show any signs of sleep deprivation, there are some reasons which you should consider and solve:

  • Insecurity – a horse who feels unsafe in their environment will not have deep sleep
  • Isolation – this feeling makes a horse stressed and vulnerable
  • An unsuitable and uncomfortable place to lay
  • Pain – A horse in a painful condition may be unable to lie down comfortably.
  • External factors: weather, loud noise, light bulb wattage changes, blanket issues, window coverings, etc

Besides sleep deprivation, there are also other types of equine sleeping disorders that we should know:

Horses also can suffer from REM sleep disorders. In some situations, Horses may move in their sleep. They may move their legs or their entire bodies, then often waking themselves up. Because the horses often wake himself up, this can lead to sleep deprivation.

When it is bad for a horse to lack sleep time, it is also not good for a horse to sleep too much. An excessive amount of sleep also leads to significant problems, such as the possibility of neurological disease, hypersomnia, or endocrine disorders.

Some people misunderstand sleep deprivation with another disease called narcolepsy, but they are totally different. Sleep deprivation is resulted from the lack of adequate sleep, whereas narcolepsy is triggered by strong emotions and activities. A horse with narcolepsy can be fully awake and get involved in some physical activities when he suddenly falls asleep. This condition is most often seen in horse foals.

Understand all about sleeping habits and sleeping problems in horses can help the owners know how to take good care of their animals’ overall health.

What if a horse doesn’t get enough sleep?

Horses that don’t get enough sleep can suffer from health problems such as reperfusion injury, pressure sores, and even colic.

There are a few things you can do to help your horse get a good night’s sleep:

Make sure their sleeping area is comfortable and clean.

Give them a regular schedule and stick to it as much as possible.

Make sure they have plenty of fresh water available.

Limit their exposure to bright lights and loud noises.

If you think your horse may be suffering from sleep deprivation, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions.

Do Horses Sleep Standing Up? FAQs

What can I do if my horse is not getting enough sleep?

If your horse is showing signs of sleep deprivation, there are a few things you can do to help them:

-Check the security of their environment and make sure they feel safe.

-Isolate them from any stressful situations.

-Make sure they have a comfortable and suitable place to lay down.

-Check if they are in any pain and address any pain issues.

-Evaluate the external factors in their environment and make sure they are not being disturbed by anything.

What is the difference between sleep deprivation and narcolepsy?

Sleep deprivation is caused by the lack of adequate sleep, whereas narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that triggers sudden sleep attacks. Sleep deprivation can lead to horses becoming hypersomniac, whereas narcolepsy does not always have this symptom. Horses with narcolepsy may also move their legs or bodies in their sleep.

Are horses comfortable sleeping standing up??

No, horses are not usually comfortable sleeping standing up. They will usually only do this if they are in an uncomfortable or unsafe environment and feel they have to stay awake. Horses usually sleep lying down.

Do horses lay down in the rain??

No, horses generally do not like to lay down in the rain. They will often stand up or seek shelter when it is raining.

What is the normal sleep pattern for a horse?

Horses usually sleep for short periods of time throughout the day and night. They will usually have 2-3 periods of slow-wave sleep and 1-2 periods of REM sleep. They usually wake up for a short period of time before falling back to sleep. Horses usually do not sleep for more than 3-4 hours continuously.

Do horses prefer to sleep standing up or lying down??

Most horses prefer to sleep lying down. However, if they are in an uncomfortable or unsafe environment, they may choose to stand up and stay awake instead. Horses usually sleep for short periods of time throughout the day and night. They will usually have 2-3 periods of slow-wave sleep and 1-2 periods of REM sleep. They usually wake up for a short period of time before falling back to sleep. Horses usually do not sleep for more than 3-4 hours continuously.

Can horses get narcolepsy?

Yes, horses can get narcolepsy. It is a neurological disorder that causes sudden sleep attacks. Narcolepsy can be caused by strong emotions or activities, and it is most often seen in horse foals. However, all horses are potentially at risk for developing narcolepsy.

What are the signs of narcolepsy in horses?

The signs of narcolepsy in horses include sudden sleep attacks, paralysis, and hallucinations. Narcolepsy can also cause horses to move their legs or bodies in their sleep. If you think your horse may have narcolepsy, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

How can I tell if my horse is sleep deprived??

There are a few signs that can indicate sleep deprivation in horses:




-Head nodding

-Eyes half open

-Lip smacking

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about possible causes and treatment options.

Is it true horse never sit???

Actually, horses can sit, but they don’t do it very often. When they do sit, it is usually only for a short period of time. Horses generally prefer to stand or lie down. The only time you are likely to see a horse sitting is if they are sick or injured.


Do horses sleep standing up? This is a question that has puzzled horse owners and scientists for years. Some people believe that horses do sleep while standing, while others think they only rest their heads and chests on the ground. Studies have been conducted to try and answer this question, but the results are inconclusive. What does seem clear is that horses do sometimes nap in unusual positions- like lying down or standing up. So the next time you see your horse sleeping in an odd position, don’t be too quick to assume he or she isn’t getting any shut-eye!

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