Have you ever wondered how a polar bear sleeps? Do they snuggle up together to keep warm? Or do they just sleep by themselves whenever the opportunity arises?
In this article, we’ll explore everything you might ever have wanted to know about polar bear sleeping habits such as how long do polar bears sleep? And where do polar bears sleep? Let’s find out!
How Long Do Polar Bears Sleep?
So, how long do polar bears sleep in a typical 24 hour period? It turns out that they are fairly similar to humans in their length of sleeping time. The latest studies suggest that an average polar bear will spend between 7 and 8 hours sleeping each day.
However while ¼ to ⅓ of a 24 hour period is spent sleeping, polar bears tend to have a different sleep cycle to us humans. Polar bears will usually only sleep continuously for about 1 hour at a time.
A polar bear’s sleeping habits are also affected by the seasons. While their overall sleeping time remains the same, during summer, polar bears will usually sleep more during the day time as opposed to the night.
Polar bears tend to be awake at night as it can be a good time for them to hunt. Ringed seals are often out and about at night so it increases a polar bear’s chances of catching their favorite food if they are up and hunting at night time.
When Do Polar Bears Sleep?
Again similar to humans, polar bears will often sleep after a feast. Typically 60 to 100 minutes after eating, polar bears will become tired (just like us after a big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!) and have a sleep.
Where Do Polar Bears Sleep?
When it’s time for a nap or longer sleep, polar bears will dig a shallow pit in the snow. This type of pit is different to the maternity dens commonly dug and used by female polar bears to give birth and raise their young in.
These sleep pits are much shallower and more temporary. They will typically dig into the ground (snow, ice or sand) on the lee side of a ridge to give them some protection from the weather.
If it’s especially windy, even this type of pit won’t fully protect them and the sleeping polar bear may wake up to find themselves covered in a dusting of snow.
While digging a pit to sleep in is common for polar bears, they are not essential for polar bears to sleep. Polar bears have been known to sleep out in the open on sea ice or a flat surface. When sleeping on a flat surface, the polar bear will lie on its stomach.
A polar bear’s sleeping habits can be affected by its location and the type of terrain it is living in. For instance, the polar bears in Hudson Bay are thought to sleep in pits which they dig into gravel ridges or sand, while polar bears living in Svalbard and Radstock Bay usually sleep on snowy hillsides.
Hillsides are a good choice for a place to sleep for polar bears and are also commonly chosen by female polar bears looking for a place to have her offspring.
Hillsides give a good view of the area so mothers can watch out for dangers such as male polar bears who might be a danger for her cubs.
Polar Bear Sleeping Pits
There are two types of pits polar bears might dig in the ground – pits dug in beach ridges along the coast and pits dug near the edges of inland lakes.
Polar bears dig their pits in areas where they can have a nice breeze blowing which helps to keep the polar bear cool and comfortable as well as reduce bothersome insects from the pits.
A typical polar bear sleeping pit measures around 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter with a depth of around 1.5 feet (0.5 m), so it’s wide and shallow and just the right size for a polar bear!
While polar bears don’t always use pits to sleep in, they are more likely to feel comfortable and safe in a pit rather than being vulnerable and exposed on a flat surface.
Polar Bears Sleeping in Shelter Dens
A shelter den is different from a maternity den in which a female polar bear will have her cubs. A shelter den is more of a temporary structure that could be built either on the sea ice or on land.
Shelter dens might be used by polar bears during summer as a place for them to wait and sleep while waiting for the sea ice to return in the winter.
Meanwhile, during winter, they may be used as a shelter and a place to sleep. A polar bear could make use of a shelter den for 1-4 months during those long winter months.
So, just like humans, polar bears need to get regular sleep and, while they might not sleep at the same time as us, they need to get almost as much sleep as us.
Also, like humans, they like to have a safe and protected place to sleep which is why they dig pits or shelter dens. We hope you’ve learned a lot about polar bear sleeping habits. If you want to learn even more about polar bears, check out all of our other articles full of facts and information about polar bears.