How Long Do Whales Sleep: Different Types Of Whale Sleep Duration


How Long Do Whales Sleep: Different Types Of Whale Sleep Duration

Whales are intriguing animals with specific lifestyle requirements. Let us learn more about their sleeping patterns.

Whales sleep for about 30 minutes at a stretch. Some whale species sleep for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at one go. This is because sleeping for longer durations will lower the body temperatures of whales, which can be detrimental to their being. Moreover, whales need to keep swimming to breathe or to escape predators.

There are several questions that people have with regards to the sleep duration and pattern of whales. Let us answer some of them.

How long do whales sleep vertically?

Whales sleep both horizontally and vertically, but the time varies for each sleeping position. Let us find out how long whales sleep vertically.

Whales sleep vertically for about 10 to 15 minutes. As per research, whales sleep in a vertical sleeping position for about 7% of their day in increments of 10 to 15 minutes. Whales, like dolphins, either sleep vertically or horizontally. They also sleep while swimming, but they slow down their movement.

Image Credits: “Whale Watching Hervey Bay Australia by eGuide” by eGuide Travel is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Sleeping vertically allows the whales to stay more alert and also helps them take in more oxygen as and when needed.

How long do whales sleep a day?

Curious to know more about how long whales sleep in a day? Allow us to take you through all the details.

Whales can sleep for a maxim of 15 to 30 minutes at a stretch. However, they sleep in phases and can nap during different hours of the day. On average, whales sleep for about 7% of their day, with the exception of beluga whales, who can sleep for up to 30% of their day. However, all whale species sleep in increments.

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The reason why whales do not sleep for longer durations is that their body temperature starts decreasing due to inactivity, which can be deadly for them.

How long do blue whales sleep?

Image Credits: “Antarctic blue whale” by Oregon State University is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Blue whales are large animals with very specific lifestyle requirements. Let us find out how long they sleep. 

Blue whales sleep for around 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch. Like most whale species, they sleep in increments of 15 minutes and spend approximately 7% of their entire day sleeping. While sleeping, the bodies of blue whales shut down, but half their mind stays awake, and that’s how they remember to breathe.

Like other whale species, blue whales move near the surface when they are sleeping. They do not need a lot of sleep, but they do sleep periodically. 

How long do humpback whales sleep?

Image Credits: “Humpback Whale” by rjshade is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Although humpback whales cannot sleep for long, they still need sufficient sleep. Let’s find out together how long they sleep.

Humpback whales can sleep for 30 minutes at a stretch. They sleep by resting motionless on the ocean surface. The reason why they cannot sleep for a longer duration is that they start losing their body heat and their body temperature falls significantly due to inactivity. 

Therefore, half an hour of continuous sleep is all that they can manage at a stretch. As such, they sleep in phases and travel all the way up to the surface of the water when they want to sleep.

How long do beluga whales sleep?

Image Credits: “Beluga whale” by Lars Plougmann is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Wondering how long beluga whales sleep for? Allow us to tell you more details in this regard.

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Belugas spend around 30% of their time sleeping. Needless to say, this is a lot of time considering how blue whales spend barely 7% of their day sleeping. Even humpback whales sleep far less. As per scientific study, one part of the beluga whale’s brain remains active when they sleep, which enables them to maintain the auditory and visual perception of their environment. 

Like other whale species, they move close to the surface when they want to sleep, and only half of their brain enters the sleeping state.

How long do killer whales sleep?

Image credits: “Killer Whale” by eschipul is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Killer whales are ferocious animals with unique requirements. Let us together find out how long they sleep.

Killer whales or orcas can spend anywhere between 5 to 8 hours sleeping. Surprisingly enough, newborn killer whales have erratic sleep patterns unlike their fully grown counterparts and show no cohesive sleep routine for at least three weeks after they are born. In this regard, they resemble young dolphins who show a similar lack of sleep pattern.

Orcas also close just one eye while sleeping, and this allows them to stay visually alert of all that is happening in their surroundings.

How do whales sleep without breathing?

Wondering how whales manage to sleep without breathing? Let us give you all the details.

Surprisingly, whales do not have to sleep without breathing for several reasons. First, their lungs have a higher capacity for oxygen and carbon dioxide, so they can exchange a higher volume of air. Second, whales sleep with an eye open, and one half of their brain remains active as well which allows them to breathe regularly when asleep.

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By keeping an eye open and with one part of their brain functioning, whales can also easily avoid any potential predators.

How do whales sleep without drowning?

It is truly intriguing how whales manage to sleep on the surface without drowning. Curious to know more? Let us take you through it.

Whales, as we have mentioned earlier, sleep with a part of their brain active and an eye open. They do this so that they can watch out for predators and keep swimming slowly. Whales sleep either vertically or horizontally, or they sleep while swimming slowly. Also, they never sleep for long durations. Most whales sleep for 10-30 minutes at a stretch. 

So, whales are never sleeping for more than a couple of minutes at a time. They have to stay alert and remember to breathe as well as watch out for predators.


It is a well-known fact that whales do not need to spend a lot of time sleeping. They merely need to spend 7% of their day sleeping, and they do that in intervals. Most dolphin species sleep during the day and hunt for potential prey at night. But, whales do not have any such pattern and can sleep at night. While sleeping, whales travel all the way up to the water surface, where they lie motionless, either vertically or horizontally.

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