Reindeer can chew while they sleeping

For those in the northern hemisphere, December means our holiday festivities are in full swing. We rush around decorating, baking, shopping, hosting parties and more. With so much to do, it can feel impossible to find time for everything – including sleep! But fear not, even the hardworking reindeer or caribou of the Arctic know how to maximize their time. New research shows these iconic Christmas creatures have discovered an ingenious way to multitask that we can all learn from.

Reindeer can chew while they sleepingCredit: Pexel

Scientists from Switzerland and Norway recently studied the sleep habits of wild reindeer in their natural Arctic habitat. What they found will have you seeing these red-nosed ruminants in a whole new light. Unlike most animals, reindeer can achieve restorative non-REM sleep while still chewing their cud, one of their favorite snacks.

To uncover this hidden reindeer talent, researchers carefully observed and monitored four female caribou at Reindeer Manor nature preserve with electrodes. This allowed analysis of brain waves and discovery that signatures of deep sleep occurred even when the deer were rhythmically eating regurgitated plant matter, their primary diet.

Most remarkably, time spent chewing cud actually decreased subsequent reindeer need for recovery sleep. Managing to rest and digest raindeer chow simultaneously is a true sleep hack clearly benefiting these busy herbivores. It means reindeer can optimize foraging during the Arctic’s short summer of 24-hour daylight.

Being able to “rest their eyes” and break down nutrients in the same moment was likely an evolutionary advantage. With less accessible vegetation in winter, conserving energy year-round is key to Arctic survival. This multitasking shows how exquisitely tuned reindeer physiology has become for harsh conditions.

While focused on wild tundra reindeer, similar behavior is thought to occur in other cud-chewing ruminants. For Americans, it taps into appreciation for hardworking cowboys exemplifying non-stop work.

The study also sparks curiosity about phenomena like human sleepwalking. Do such conditions share mechanisms with multitasking sleep in reindeer? Could adapting their adaptability help treat sleep disorders?

On a cultural level, the discovery syncs perfectly with Christmas spirit. Santa’s reindeer are famously tireless pulling loads of gifts. Now we know their secret – built-in abilities to rest while active provide non-stop fuel!

This holiday season, take a lesson from dedicated deer friends. Find low-impact ways to multitask that optimize efficiency, just as reindeer seamlessly integrate grazing and sleeping. You never know – it may leave you feeling more energized!

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