Smartwatch implants in elephants might help us sleep better
Wearables are everywhere. They tell us how many steps we took, the calories burned and how long we slept. We don’t sleep enough, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. Scientists from Wits University are hoping that learning more about animals sleeping will eventually help us sleep better.
Professor Paul Manger and his colleagues use an Actiwatch to study elephant sleep patterns in Botswana. The watches’ bands are removed, the device is insulated with electrical tape and biologically inert wax and attached to the trunk. Manger says that the trunk is the most active appendage so if it stops moving for five minutes or longer, it is pretty safe to assume the elephant is sleeping.
With the wearable and GPS collars the team discovered that wild elephants only get two hours of sleep per day on average. Most of the time the pachyderms slept standing up, lying down for an hour or so every three or four days. This means the elephants only go into REM sleep every few days.
If there are predators around the elephants could go for up to 48 hours without sleep, using the time to walk away from the disturbance. The elephants would walk up to 30 km away to avoid danger. If confirmed, this study shows that elephants have the shortest-known sleep time of any mammal.