How Do Sharks Sleep: How, When, Several Facts


How Do Sharks Sleep: How, When, Several Facts

Sleep is a natural way for your body to de-stress. So we, like most animals and birds, sleep. As a result, it focuses on the question of whether the ocean’s apex predator sleeps as well.

Sharks do sleep, but not in the same way that humans do. Sharks’ sleep can be divided into a less active and deep slumber. Sharks that can’t stop swimming move into a rest period characterized by reduced activity. On the other hand, sharks with spiracles can fall asleep quickly since they can stop swimming if they want to.

This underscores the idea that sharks don’t have to swim at full force all of the time to survive. They don’t, however, quit swimming all of a sudden. Instead, to stay afloat, they rely only on the motion of their chest and caudal fins.

How Do Sharks Sleep
Image Credit: Shark sleeping in Gato Island by Tol.lynx (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia

Yo-yo swimming is another method by which sharks sleep. Sharks use this technique to swim towards the ocean bed and then “slide” back into the water without much labor. This permits them to relax and take a nap throughout the fall because they aren’t exerting as much energy.

Fascinating, isn’t it. Well, to extend this fascination, we have compiled this exhaustive post that will explore the sleeping side of sharks. We will go through all the aspects to study how sharks sleep when they sleep, why they sleep, and other related facts.

So stick with us as we carry you in the sleepy world of the ocean’s apex predators!

Do all sharks sleep?

Sharks do not sleep like humans; however, they do rest at various times during the day. Is this true of all sharks, or is it limited to a select species?

Sharks do not sleep but take restful breaks. Sharks in the pelagic regions of oceans need to swim to survive and not sleep. They, however, have rest intervals during which their brains are less active. Sharks that live at the bottom of deep waters, on the other hand, can stop moving and go in a near-sleep situation.

Sharks that go in a longer resting period can plunge to the ocean’s depths, inhaling through spiracles behind their eyes.

How do sharks sleep underwater?

Underwater is not a great spot for humans or land-dwellers to sleep. But sharks prefer deep oceans to rest or take a relaxing break.

Most sharks prefer to sleep near the ocean bed. Some of them can even bury themselves in the sand while resting. Sharks with a buccal system stop moving and enter a trance-like state, but sharks with a ram ventilation system continue to drift against the ocean current, allowing water to flow through the mouth and into the gill.

Sharks enter a subconscious state when half of their brain is at rest to “sleep.” Although most sharks have been spotted sleeping alone, whitetips have been observed sleeping in log-like stacks.

Do sharks sleep with their eyes open?

Image Credit: A shark sleeping with wide-open eyes from Maxpixel

For humans and many creatures in the animal kingdom, closing their eyes is mandatory to get some sleep. However, most fishes don’t follow this path. Can the same be stated for sharks?

Sharks do not close their eyes when they sleep. This is because they do not have eyelids. In reality, their pupils continue to monitor the activities of the organisms swimming around them, and their eyes remain open at all times.

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Even though it may seem unbelievable, sharks do not sleep as deeply as humans do. They do, however, participate in periods of deep relaxation during which they do not need to close their eyes or lose consciousness.

In fact, sharks behave like any other fish. They go in a trance-like state to take a break from swimming and hunting and relax. 

When do sharks sleep?

When it comes to sharks’ sleeping habits and patterns, one question that may emerge is when they like to sleep. Or is there any preference?

Sharks do indeed sleep when their instincts urge them to. They don’t sleep according to the Circadian Rhythm, and they don’t care whether it’s day or night. Sharks tend to oscillate between wakeful and resting periods all through the day. As a result, determining when and how much sharks sleep is extremely difficult.

In this regard, it’s worth noting that because sharks don’t sleep like humans and take several breaks, they go through many resting intervals in 24 hours.

The majority of shark species, however, tend to be nocturnal. They prefer to hunt prey during the nighttime and are somewhat lethargic during the day, like nurse sharks. This could indicate that they spend the majority of their time resting daytime.

Where do sharks prefer to sleep?

To begin with, sharks do not require any special arrangements to sleep or snooze. So, what do they do with their resting time?

According to the available statistics on shark behavior, most sharks prefer to rest in the deepest parts of the ocean. It could be close to the seabed. They rest by slowly moving against the sea stream. However, whether all sharks like to sleep or rest in the same location is unknown.

It’s tough to figure out why most sharks favor the ocean’s deepest depths. However, they may do so because those places are the least disturbed. Nonetheless, these are only hypotheses that have yet to be proven.

In this regard, it might intrigue you that whitetip sharks prefer sleeping stacked on top of each other like logs near the ocean bed. So, we can say these sharks believe in bonding!

Do sharks yawn?

Yawning is a symptom that one is fatigued and needs to rest. Do sharks yawn because they don’t sleep?

Sharks do not yawn like humans but instead open and stretch their jaws to catch and bite their prey. Then, they close their jaws again when they’re finished. This entire procedure may appear to be yawning, but this is not the case. Sharks also do not yawn because they don’t feel tired as humans. 

In this context, it’s worth noting that sharks frequently extend their mouths wide even when there’s no prey present. They do so to keep their jaws functional. In addition, a decent stretch helps to maintain jaws’ elasticity and alignment.

How long do sharks sleep?

After a hectic day of work, nothing can beat a good night’s sleep. If you’re a shark fan, you’re probably wondering if these predators slumber for long periods as well. 

The duration of sharks’ sleep is tough to determine. There is no specific rest period for them because they do not sleep but take restful pauses throughout the day. They would always take short breaks to enter a trance-like state while staying half-conscious.

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Can sharks protect themselves while sleeping?

Sharks are always conscious, whether they are sleeping or awake. They keep their jaws open to detect prey nearby, even if they become less active or catatonic.

Sharks can defend themselves while resting. While resting, they can turn off half of their brain. So, even when sharks are in profound sleep, one side of their brain stays active, and both of their eyes remain open! They can track their surroundings, thanks to their half-consciousness, and can prevent any harm.

It’s important to note that sharks lack eyelids like all other fishes. Instead, they have a nictitating membrane protecting their eyeball when they attack prey.

Do sharks stop moving when they sleep?

To keep water flowing through their gills, most shark species must constantly be moving. So, do they move about when sleeping, or do they just rest their bodies?

All sharks do not have the same need to move or swim. Some can stop moving while resting while others continue to swim. Sharks with spiracles can stop moving while resting. The spirals help in pumping oxygen-rich water through their gills. 

How do sharks sleep if they can’t stop swimming?

Certain shark species, such as Great Whites, must swim to survive. To stay alive, they must swim ceaselessly. Is it, nevertheless, feasible for them to sleep due to this?

Sharks that need to swim constantly do not go into a deep slumber state. They do, however, take restful breaks. Because sharks’ swimming muscles are controlled by their spinal cord rather than their brain, it’s feasible that they can keep swimming and sleep simultaneously.

Sharks with the constant need to swim also use the yo-yo technique, wherein they swim energetically to the top and then “slide down” in the way they wish to travel as they sink. 

These sharks’ “central pattern generators” are located in their spinal cords, allowing them to continue swimming while their brains rest.

Do sharks drown when they sleep?

Sharks never sleep for long periods. Also, they never lose consciousness, and some of them continue to swim even when they are resting.

Sharks do not go to sleep and drown. Instead, some can stop moving and prefer to descend near the ocean’s bottom and seek sanctuary in a quiet area to rest. Those who can’t stop swimming, on the other hand, keep moving with their chest and caudal fins and so don’t drown.

As stated above, certain sharks use the yo-yo swimming technique, in which they submit to the current and descend back to the desired location. They may appear to be drowning, but they simply follow the ocean current while resting.

Do sharks sleep on their backs?

Sleeping upside down can be a strange thing to think about, and probably only bats can think of sleeping that way. So let’s find out if the ocean predators also prefer this style.

Sharks do not have this resting posture. Nonetheless, some of them may slip back into the water without expending any effort to drift along with the ocean current while napping. They also turn upside down, entering a state known as “Tonic Immobility,” distinct from sleeping or relaxing.

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Sharks can only stay in this position for about 15 minutes before regaining movement. In this state, their respiration slows down, muscle contracts, and their dorsal fins straighten.

Tonic Immobility is stressful for sharks, and it affects their respiratory function. If they are kept in this condition for a long time, they may even perish.

Do sharks sleep with an open mouth?

Image Credit: A great white shark sleeping with its mouth open from Stockvault

We, as humans, can sleep with our mouths open or closed. The majority of other animals prefer to sleep with their mouths shut. This is not the case with sharks.

While resting, most sharks without the buccal pumping system keep their mouth open. This is because the only way for oxygenated water to enter and be absorbed by their gills is through their mouth. They never have the option of closing their mouth since it would kill them.

This is not the case, however, with sharks with spirals. Because the spirals can pull water through the gills when mouths are closed, they usually rest with their mouths closed.

How do hammerhead sharks sleep?

One of the unique shark species is the hammerhead. They are interesting creatures and are also endangered.

Hammerhead sharks never “sleep,” as we describe it. However, they have a lethargic demeanor during the day and are quite active at night to hunt.

How do Whale sharks sleep?

The buccal system is absent in whale sharks. They must keep moving to maintain the inflow of water across their gills.

Whale sharks do not enter a deep slumber or sleep mode, and their bodies do not remain motionless. However, they take a break, and a section of their brain enters into a half-conscious mode,’ as they continue to swim slowly.

How do Bala sharks sleep?

Bala sharks are calm and adapt well to aquariums. So, if you own one of these sharks as a pet, have you ever looked into their sleeping habits?

Like other shark species, Balas take rest pauses with their eyes wide open but do not really sleep.

How do Tiger sharks sleep?

Image Credit: A sleeping tiger shark from Hippopx

To keep water flowing over their gills, most shark species must constantly be moving. One of these species is the tiger shark. So, how do they get their rest?

Tiger sharks have been observed to enter a catatonic phase while resting, with their mouths wide open. They like to swim in the ocean surface into oxygenated currents with their mouths wide open because they can’t stop swimming. It allows water to flow freely over its gills with little effort.

How do Rainbow sharks sleep?

Image Credit: A rainbow shark in a fish tank by verawald from Pixabay

Rainbow sharks are well-known for their distinctive appearance. They are freshwater fish that are relatively small.

During the day, rainbow sharks prefer to sleep.


In conclusion, while sharks do rest, there is no solid proof that they genuinely “sleep.” They also do not sleep in the same way humans or other animals do. Instead, they alternate between aware vigilance and profound slumber, similar to sleep.

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