“Yawwwn”…better go hit the log! Logging is one of many fascinating whale surface behaviours we can witness as whale watchers. Just like us, sleeping is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of our whales, without enough sleep it would be impossible for them to achieve their epic migrations and ultimately a healthy and long whale life.
Whales are known as voluntary breathers which means unlike humans they must think about breathing. When it comes time to rest our whales physically cannot fall into a deep sleep the way we can, if they did they could drown! They must remain aware of their environment at all times for predators and other dangers as well as breathing regularly.
So how do our busy whales sleep and how can they sleep safely? Although a very complex behaviour that researchers are still learning about we do understand a few things about how our gentle giants get their beauty sleep. To remain conscious of their environment, whales will “turn off” one half of their brain and slow their breathing rate to a minimum. This allows them to rest while still being able to breath regularly and keep awareness of what is going on around them.
A whale could rest for 5 minutes or a few hours depending on how much sleep he needs and what is happening in his environment. When it is time for a nap our whales usually tend to stay very close to the surface to allow regular and ease of breathing which has led researchers to call this type of behaviour logging. When a whale is logging on the surface he will be completely still with no movement so he can conserve oxygen levels and avoid attention from any possible predators in the area.
Staying so still on the surface for so long makes our whales look very similar to large tree logs floating on the waters surface! Sometimes a whale may rest just below the surface or even on the bottom in shallow waters depending on the individual and environment. Sleeping is a vitally important part of our whales lives and they have adapted to their watery would becoming the great sleeping multi-taskers, a skill that many a busy human wouldn’t mind having!