How Do Penguin Sleep? (Everything about Penguins Sleeping Habits, Routine, and Schedule)

Penguins are a very cute mystery to most of us. Since they mostly live in frigid climates where there is little or no human population, most of us don’t get to observe penguins like we do sparrows and parrots.

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

However, I’m sure you must have seen pictures of these majestic birds and wanted to learn about them.

Do penguins sleep during the day or are they nocturnal?

The sleeping time of penguins varies. They can be sleeping at all times of the day. However, scientists have observed that penguins sleep better during the afternoon or late evening. This is after their last meal of the day.

So you can say that penguins are a bit like humans when it comes to sleeping. They sleep better when they have full bellies. 

However, unlike humans, penguins don’t sleep for long periods of time in a single stretch. They prefer to take small naps. This can serve two purposes.

The first is that since they live in extremely cold areas, sleeping and no movement for long durations would mean that these penguins would become extremely cold.

The second is that sleeping in short bursts can help penguins avert predator attacks.

Related Read: How & When Do Birds Sleep? | Do Birds Sleep Standing Up? | Do Birds Dream? 

How many hours a day do penguins sleep?

Though penguins sleep in short bursts, it doesn’t mean that they don’t get much sleep. Emperor penguins have been known to sleep for up to 20 hours a day. This is not the same for all penguins. 

The number of hours spent asleep depends on the surroundings and requirements of the penguins. 

Do penguins sleep with their eyes open?

Penguins sleep with one eye open. This makes them extremely aware even as they are resting.

Since they have an eye open, they can detect signs of predators or other dangers early on and then immediately prepare to defend themselves. 

Where do penguins sleep? Do penguins sleep in the sea?

Unsurprisingly, penguins don’t need beds like we do to fall asleep.

Penguins can fall asleep in places you can’t even imagine. They may dig a burrow and fall asleep in it. They can fall asleep standing up.

Some penguins sleep on their bellies and yes, sometimes they just fall asleep while floating in the sea.

Do penguins sleep lying down or standing up?

In places that are covered with snow and ice, it is unlikely that you will see a penguin asleep lying down. This is because the more a penguin is in contact with ice, the harder it will be for it to stay warm.

Hence, in such places, penguins sleep standing up. 

Interestingly, it has been seen that the emperor penguin can tilt back and fall asleep balanced on its heels. This minimizes its contact with the freezing ice and helps them stay warm. 

In less harsh conditions, penguins can be seen asleep lying on the ground. In warmer areas, the bodies of penguins don’t have to work as hard to keep warm. 

Related Read: Why Do Birds Stand On One Leg?

Do penguins sleep on their tummies or on their back?

Penguins can sleep both on their tummies and on their backs. Larger species like the King penguins usually sleep on their bellies.

Smaller ones sleep on their back. However, this is not fixed. It depends on the size, group habits, and surrounding conditions. 

How do baby penguins sleep?

During the first few weeks of their lives, baby penguins or chicks sleep in the brood pouch of their parents.

Both male and female penguins have an insulated brood pouch between their legs. The baby penguins stay there to stay warm until they develop their own layers of blubber and feathers. 

After the first few weeks, baby penguins sleep in groups. They huddle together to stay warm and are shielded by the adult penguins to protect them from the harsh, cold winds. 

Related Read: Dreaming Of Birds | What Does It Mean? General | Spiritual | Religious – Interpretations

Penguins sleeping habits & positions | X Ways in which penguins sleep

Penguins sleep in all sorts of positions. Here, you can learn about some of the common ones – 

Sleeping in groups

Penguins almost always sleep in a group (or a rookery). When hundreds of penguins huddle together amidst freezing cold winds in sub-zero temperatures, they are able to share body heat.

Only the penguins on the very outside have to bear the cold winds. The penguins who are in the inner layers of the huddle are able to stay even warmer. 

Thus, it is not just a way to stay warm, but a survival strategy. If penguins sleep apart, they will likely freeze. 

Also, when a rookery of penguins is sleeping together, they are better protected from predators.

Smaller predators might be scared away by the huge number of penguins. If one penguin spots an intruder, it can easily signal and wake up the rest of the penguins so they can defend themselves. 

Beak under wing

Penguins sometimes sleep after tucking their beaks under their flippers. The only logical reason for this is to help the penguins minimize the loss of body heat.

By tucking their beaks under their flippers, the penguins ensure that their beaks are not exposed to the chilly air. This helps them stay warm. 

Sleeping in the water

Penguins can even sleep in the water! The miraculous thing is that they do not drown while doing so. Penguins can take short naps as they float through the water. This can help them on long journeys. 

Sleeping standing up

Yes, penguins can also sleep standing up. A penguin’s body is designed to let it sleep comfortably even while standing.

If you observe the skeleton of a penguin, you will notice that it seems like it is crouching permanently. The knees of penguins are actually higher up than the hip joint. This allows them to crouch comfortably as they sleep. 

Usually, while standing, penguins huddle together to preserve body heat. Standing itself is a way to minimize their contact with the cold, icy ground. 

Sleep in burrows

Smaller species of penguins prefer to dig burrows to sleep in. These burrows help them stay shielded from cold winds and snow.

Lying down to sleep

Penguins can also sleep lying down on the ground. They can sleep on their bellies or their backs. 


Penguins have varied sleeping habits. They can fall asleep while standing while lying down or even as they are floating in the ocean.

These birds prefer to sleep in groups and as they sleep, their main priority is to preserve as much body heat as they can.