How Do Penguins Sleep?

An interesting question amongst children and penguin lovers, how do penguins sleep? As a human, penguins also have the habit of taking a small nap after exhaustion of manual labor. They dive, swim and jump which naturally make their body require some rest.

These bulky beauties, unfortunately, don’t enjoy a long sleep time when they are in the Antarctic, unlike the ones in the aquarium.

They keep themselves in a vigil to avoid the threat from predators. Usually, their nap lasts for a few minutes, not more than that, no matter where they are.

They sleep for longer sessions when they are in the land during the night. Here, on this page, let us see the ways how the mighty penguins sleep.

1) Sleeping Lying Down:

Lying on the belly while sleeping
Lying on the belly while sleeping

King penguins and certain large species of penguins are found sleeping on their bellies. Their posture of sleeping will look similar to that of a swimming duck. In this position, the penguins cover their webbed feet under their body and head standing up while the belly is resting on the land.

This way of sleeping may be found when their body is fine to bear the chillness of the land.

2) Sleeping Standing Up:

 Standing Up Sleeping penguins
Standing Up Sleeping penguins

Many penguin enthusiasts believe that every penguin sleep while standing. But not every penguin’s sleep when standing. Most commonly we find emperor penguins sleep while standing since they are in the very cold land. There is a reason behind the witty sleeping position.

The feet of the emperor penguins are naturally hard protected to withstand the icy environment. They avoid getting themselves meet the chillness of the land and sleep while standing. Since their legs are in the back of their body they can stand upright even when they sleep.

3) Sleeping Standing up and Bill Tucking Behind the Wing:

While standing the effect of chillness is reduced since there is good blood circulation in the body of the penguins. As an added protection from the icy weather, they also hide their bill (beak) behind the wings. This sleeping position is also most preferred when they incubate the eggs.

Sleeping Standing up and Bill Tucking Behind the Wing
Sleeping Standing up and Bill Tucking Behind the Wing

While incubating the eggs, both male and female penguins do the job in the same standing position to give extra warmth to the eggs. They also nap in between to feel powerful for the next action that life is waiting to give them.

4) Sleeping While in the Ocean:

No matter where the penguins are, they find comfort even in water to have a nap. Most of the researchers have got an argument regarding, whether the sleeping time of penguins is more in the land or the ocean. They live in the land more often and jumps into the sea for food.

Their body gets tried in the process of searching for prey and they have a nap to energize themselves to do their next swim.

Some species of penguins stay in the ocean for long days without visiting the coast. In such a case, those penguins tend to sleep for extra hours when they are in the water.

5) Sleeping Together Standing Up:

Penguin Sleeping Together Standing Up
Penguin Sleeping Together Standing Up

The community sleeping is quite often noticed when we ought to see the penguins. There are certain reasons for this society to get together. When the penguins stand together to sleep, their bodies get warmer and soothe them to enjoy the slumber.

One more reason is that when they stand up together in a group they also feel secured from the predators. The surprising fact during the huddle is that they take to get the warmth by each one moving to the boundaries once they are done with their benefit.

These are not only the exact sleeping positions of penguins. Different species of penguins have different sleeping styles like human beings. King penguins and other large penguin species lie on bellies to feel comfortable while sleeping, the small penguin species also sleep in the burrows.

6) Sleeping Upright Bending the Head Down:

 Sleeping Upright Bending the Head Down
Sleeping Upright Bending the Head Down

The standing up and head bending down sleeping style is also a commonly noticed sleeping position of the penguins. The tip-up their feet and hold the whole weight on the heel to stand upright. They bend the neck to face the head down to avoid much chillness with increased blood circulation to the head.

By doing this they also avoid the tip of the feet touching the ground from feeling the strong chillness.

The Fact Behind Their Tolerance and Sleep Towards the Climatic Changes:

  • During winter in Antarctica, the penguins can sleep due to the easiness of the body gifted by nature. The plumage (feathers) protects them from severe chillness and also when they are in the water it serves as waterproof.
  • The penguin’s quiver when they feel over-chilled by the temperature to produce more heat and manage the condition.
  • The fat covered body helps them stay warm during winter.
  • The black plumage absorbs the heat from the sun and gives
  • Penguins also tend to regain the maximum of heat respired through the nasal.
  • During summer when the penguins feel they are over-heated they open up their flippers to release the heat and get air from outside.
  • The flow of blood in the penguins’ body is recurrent from the bottom to the top thus helping proper heat maintenance.

These natural effects support the penguins to sleep and experience ease in the Southern hemisphere.

Also to save energy when they are deprived of food the penguins sleep for a long time comparatively.

When the emperor penguins incubate their eggs during winter they also sleep nearly 24 hours to tolerate and save the eggs from severe Antarctic winter.

The majority of the penguin species can easily differentiate between the known and unfamiliar sounds. It helps them be alert when necessary. They keep their ear out for any predators sound to get them safe even when they sleep. It is the reason why certain species of penguins have a minute nap. The predators may include leopard seals, fur seals, shark, and whales.

Like humans, even penguins and other species on the earth has their sleeping style according to their comfort.

Nevertheless, the position in what the penguins sleep, it is always a cute thing to watch the wonderful creature dozing off.


Image source:

  1. Lying on the belly while sleeping by / CC BY
  2. Standing Up Sleeping penguins by Jeremy Eades / CC BY
  3. Sleeping Standing up and Bill Tucking Behind the Wing by sharonang / Pixabay License
  4. Penguin Sleeping Together Standing Up by jo3f / CC BY
  5. Sleeping Upright Bending the Head Down by Jeremy Eades / CC BY

I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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