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Elephant Tales

A glimpse into the elephant world, by Adine Roode

By 13th Sep 2016 No Comments

What’s the first thought that pops into your head when you think of an elephant? That they’re big, perhaps? That they walk very quietly, and despite being so huge, can disappear behind a tree or bush as if they were never there. And that sometimes, they get really annoyed at Landrovers!

But have you ever wondered what it’s like when elephants sleep? Just like any other living creature, elephants do need their rest. Here are some interesting snooze facts:

  • Yes, elephants will sometimes sleep lying down – but usually away from roads or other public areas, because they feel threatened when they are not standing up. They usually don’t lie down for longer than an hour, because their own body weight will crush their internal organs if they lie down for too long. So, like horses, they mostly sleep standing.
  • Elephants sleep for a total of four to five hours during a 24-hour period. They normally sleep for a number of short periods, rather than several hours in one go, and usually sleep before dawn or in the heat of the day.


  • One reason why they don’t sleep for long is that their poor digestive systems and massive bulk forces them to spend most of their day foraging.
  • Baby elephants do sleep for longer, though. When a baby sleeps, its mother will stand guard, watching for predators.
  • Elephants sleep in many different ways. They will lie on the ground, rest their foreheads, tusks or trunks against strong trees, or lean against termite mounts. They’ll sleep for about 30 minutes, get up and forage for a bit, lie down on their left side for about 30 minutes, switch to their right side for the same amount of time, and repeat this cycle until they’ve slept for four hours.
  • Within a breeding herd, the animals will take turns sleeping to ensure the safety of the group.
  • An elephant that lives for 60 years will sleep for about 16% of its lifetime.

Basically, elephants sleep very little. No wonder that they can sometimes get quite grumpy if something or someone disturbs them unexpectedly – we’d also be a bit antsy! Look out for part 2 of our elephant blog, focusing on some other interesting ellie facts.

Adine Roode,

MD of Camp Jabulani

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