Migrating Birds Use Mini Naps

Okay, so far this story is only showing up on FOX News, so it may be best to take it with a grain of salt, but if this is for real, this is totally cool and I wish I could do it too!

Migrating Birds Take Hundreds of Daily Power Naps
By Ker Than

To help make up for sleep lost during marathon night flights, migratory birds take hundreds of power naps during the day, each lasting only a few seconds, a new study suggests.

Every autumn, Swainson's thrushes fly up to 3,000 miles from their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska to winter in Central and South America. Come spring, the birds make the long trek back.

The birds fly mostly at night and often for long hours at a time, leaving little time for sleep.

To find out how the birds get through these tiresome periods, scientists observed caged thrushes for an entire year, recording when and how long they slept.

They found that during autumn and spring, when the birds are normally migrating, they reverse their typical sleep patterns, staying awake at night and resting during the day.

But instead of sleeping for long stretches at a time, the birds took several naps a day, each one lasting only nine seconds on average.

The thrushes also mixed up their shut-eye sessions with two other forms of sleep.

In one, called unilateral eye closure, or UEC, the birds rested one eye, and one half of their brains, while their other eye and brain hemisphere remained open and active, keeping them semi-alert to danger.

The birds also occasionally slipped into another state, one that any college student who has ever been stuck in a boring lecture can relate to.

Called drowsiness, this state is characterized by a partial shutting of both eyes that still allows for some visual processing.

Drowsiness "is probably a state that, to some extent, grants the benefits of sleep while allowing for some of the benefits of wakefulness," said study team member Thomas Fuchs of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

By alternating between naps, UEC and drowsiness, the thrushes and other migratory birds can reap some of the benefits of sleep while only marginally increasing their risks of being eaten, the scientists figure.

"In terms of quality, drowsiness and unihemispheric sleep may be less beneficial than [normal] sleep, but it may also be safer," Fuchs told LiveScience.

The rest of the story is here.