Equine Sleep Patterns from A to Zzzzzzzzz

Have you ever wondered if your horse is getting enough sleep? Here’s what you need to know.

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Equine Sleep Patterns from A to Zzzz
Researchers have determined that both environmental and physical factors can impact how much sleep an animal gets and, in some cases, a lack of sleep can be detrimental. | Photo: iStock

Your horse can run, but he can’t hide…sleep must come eventually

Sleep is like money: If you have enough, you don’t tend to worry about it. But if you’re caught short, it can haunt your every waking minute. And the same is true for your horse, to an extent.  

Horses and most grazing animals sleep an average of two and a half hours every 24 hours, if conditions are ideal and the environment is secure. Most of this sleep is amassed by “nickel and diming,” meaning horses can snooze for short periods—about 15 minutes at a time. Those minutes all add together to comprise that overall sleep total. Horses can go weeks without a full sleep cycle when needed, however, which is in direct contrast to humans who require prolonged periods of undisturbed sleep to function optimally.

“Considering how important and well-studied sleep is in humans and other species, surprisingly little is actually known about sleep disorders in horses,” notes Joe Bertone, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of equine medicine at Western University of Health Sciences’ College of -Veterinary Medicine, in Pomona, Calif. And equine sleep isn’t something people think about much

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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