Chinstrap penguins stay alert by punctuating their day with naps. Thing is, these naps last just four seconds each and they take as many as 10,000 of them every day. Researchers from the Neuroscience Research Center of Lyon studied a colony of the penguins living on King George Island, Antarctica. The longest sleep they measured, via electrodes implanted in the birds' brains, was 34 seconds.
The short snoozes, which add up to more than 11 hours of daily sleep, seem to be enough to fulfill at least some of the restorative functions of sleep, according to a study published today in Science[…]
Penguins engaged in more than 600 short bouts of slow-wave sleep per hour. These bouts became even shorter and more frequent when the birds were caring for eggs, perhaps because they need to be more alert while incubating, the researchers say[…]
The authors suggest that if microsleep can indeed be restorative, perhaps other creatures also rely on it to obtain rest in situations where they need to remain vigilant. "We don't know whether the benefits of microsleep are the same in penguins and other mammals [such as] rats and humans," [sleep ecopyhysiologist Paul-Antoin] Libourel says. But "the study shows that at least one species is able to sleep like this and behave normally, so I don't see why other species couldn't evolve the same sleep adaptation."