Sleep In Horses

Most of us know that horses sleep! But what do we really know about the sleep of our companions?

Horses don’t really sleep the same as we humans do, especially when it comes to rhythm. Today I suggest that you unravel the mystery that hovers around sleep in horses:


The horse’s sleep cycle is quite different from ours.

When we spend 6- or 8-hour long nights throughout the year, they spend their day and night taking micro-naps of about 15 minutes.

Horses sleep a little less than humans. In the end, they sleep about 5 hours a day, except they basically do it in 24 naps!

But why don’t they have a big night like us?

Historically, the horse has always been prey. He therefore cannot afford to sleep for several hours; in case a predator comes to attack him.

Moreover, when they are in the meadow, the horses of the same herd do not all sleep at the same time. There is always at least one individual standing guard, in order to be able to warn the herd if there is a danger!

Sleep time also depends on the age of the horse. As in humans, babies spend much more time sleeping than adults.

The horse’s sleep is also dependent on individuals! Not all horses have the same needs, some are heavy sleepers and others do not need a lot of sleep.


As in humans, the horse has 3 different phases of sleep:

1 Drowsiness

The state of drowsiness is the horse’s shallowest phase of sleep.

While dozing, the horse has the best half-closed but remains alert vis-à-vis its environment. It is not possible to dream in this phase. Heart rate and breathing remain the same as when awake.

One of the great peculiarities of the horse is that it is able to stand while dozing.

Here again, it holds this peculiarity from the fact that it is a prey and must react very quickly if a predator points the tip of its nose. When a horse does not feel safe, it does not lie down and promotes rest while standing.

During drowsiness, the horse has its head down, its eyes half-closed and it leans only on one of its hindquarters. Over the minutes, we can see that he regularly alternates his posterior support.

2 Light sleep

Light sleep allows horses to rest more. Some horses may go into light sleep when standing, but most lie down “like a cow” (lying on their stomach).

In this position, the horse allows his body to relax: his muscles relax, his breathing and his heart rate decrease.

In this state, the horse is able to detect movement around it, even though it is sleeping. It also retains sufficient responsiveness to get up quickly if necessary

3 Deep sleep (or paradoxical sleep)

Also called REM sleep, this is the deepest phase of sleep. Deep sleep represents up to 60min per day in adult horses. It is in this phase that the brain disconnects the most, giving way to dreams!

The horse is this time lying on its side. He is then totally vulnerable! A horse will only get into this position if it feels perfectly safe.

Without this phase of sleep, their condition can deteriorate quite quickly.

It is not known what a horse can dream of, but some people get agitated during this phase. We can imagine that they dream of great galloping with their friends!!