Want more sleep? Then live like the chinstrap penguin

Chinstrap penguins are napping kings (Picture: AP)

If you’re missing the regular naps that WFH allowed, you might be inspired by the chinstrap penguin, which snoozes 10,000 times a day – but for only four seconds at a time.

That could be doable in the office surely?

Scientists discovered the astonishing micro-napping habit while trying to understand how male chinstrap penguins appeared to stay alert pretty much 24/7 while guarding their eggs.

Napping is a habit commonly seen in birds, including in pigeons, which can doze for around 10 seconds at a time.

However, the chinstrap penguin – named after the distinctive black line running underneath their beaks – has taken the art to Olympic levels.

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Chinstrap penguins live on Antarctica and islands off the continent (Picture: Getty)

During nesting season, the females leave their eggs in the care of the males while they venture off on long trips foraging for food. This means dad penguins have sole responsibility for the couples’ future chick, and must stay vigilant for seabirds such as giant petrels and skuas that will try to steal the eggs.

To better understand how they stay on guard, Dr Paul-Antoine Libourel from Claude Bernard University Lyon 1, France, and his colleagues attached sensors to 14 nesting penguins, monitoring their brain activity for 11 days.

The data revealed that the penguins took around 10,000 naps a day, about four seconds each, evenly spread throughout the day. This added up to around 11 hours’ sleep in total, but allowed them to keep a near permanent watchful eye on their eggs.

‘It was really surprising that they were always sleeping like this,’ said Dr Libourel, speaking to New Scientist. ‘It’s just a permanent state – they are constantly living between awake and sleep.’

Female chinstrap penguins leave the males incubating the eggs while they forage for food at sea (Picture: Getty)

That may sound like a terrible purgatory for most of us, but the results highlight how different species can adapt sleep to their needs – although the effects of such broken sleep is not known.

‘I think we tend to underestimate how flexible sleep can be,’ said Dr Anne Auslebrook at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence in Germany. 

‘As far as we know, all animals need to sleep, but sleep can look very different for species living in different environments.

‘One question that the study was unable to answer is whether such fragmented sleep comes at a cost.’

The study is published in the journal Science.

MORE : Baby penguins find their flippers for first ever swimming lesson at London Zoo

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