Jun 21 2011

Power Sleep

Published by at 7:00 am under Bird Behavior


Is this bird sleep deprived?  And if so, how does he make up for it?

Several years ago the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology answered these questions by studying sleep in pigeons

Prior to the study, they knew that birds experience two phases of sleep — slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) — just like mammals do. 

SWS is deep, dreamless sleep during which the brain shows synchronous, slow oscillations of neurons as shown on an EEG (electroencephalogram).  SWS alternates with dreaming sleep, called REM (rapid eye movement) because the eyes move rapidly during this period even though the lids are closed.  

To study sleep in pigeons researchers prevented the birds from taking naps, something they like to do late in the day.  (I do too!)  

The pigeons were allowed to sleep normally at night when researchers learned that the birds made up for their sleep loss by more intense periods of SWS.  Their slow-wave-sleep lasted the same amount of time as before but during SWS the number of slow waves was much higher.  In other words, they slept more deeply.

Mammals do this too under similar conditions.   We all “power sleep” when especially tired.

So what did the pigeons think of this experiment?

I’ll bet it made them grumpy.

(photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) licensed via Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Power Sleep”

  1. Kate St. Johnon 21 Jun 2011 at 7:08 am

    Another thought about birds’ sleep: Birds experience REM, therefore birds dream. What do they dream of?

  2. sharon leadbiteron 21 Jun 2011 at 7:59 am

    well the pigeon probably dreams of its next french fry or maybe it dreams of the “bullseye” I seem to have on my head … ;-)

  3. faith cornellon 21 Jun 2011 at 8:46 am

    Well from my deck they may dream of filled bird feeders!!! I have now been power sleeping & it probably works. Don’t sleep well at night but during the day I fall asleep & when I waken I think its been an hour & clock says only 20 minutes & I do feel better so maybe that’s a good thing. Never thought about birds & sleep. When you watch the nests we see that the young ones sleep on their stomachs & are so relaxed. Interesting topic today.

  4. Barb Simonon 21 Jun 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Sometimes people dream about flying, so do Pigeons dream about…..walking?

  5. chicken coopson 21 Jun 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Do you think pidgeons pass on tales about the war to their grand pidgeons?

  6. Joshon 22 Jun 2011 at 8:17 am

    Pigeons probably dream about swimming, not walking. ;)

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