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How Do Donkeys Sleep?

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Donkeys are unique farm animals that not only have fun little quirks about them, they also have very interesting sleeping habits. Since you may not see them snooze very often, have you ever wondered exactly how donkeys sleep?

Donkeys sleep specific ways depending on where they are and how they feel. Donkeys need a specific amount of both light and deep sleep, so it is important that they are able to get both each day. If donkeys are unable to get the right amount of sleep, it can be detrimental to their health.

The best way to keep a donkey happy and healthy is so make sure they drink water, eat healthy food, and, most importantly, get plenty of rest. It is vital for donkey owners to know how donkeys sleep and exactly how much sleep they need each and every day.

three donkeys resting in the stable

Do Donkeys Sleep Standing Up?

Donkeys can sleep standing up and it is actually the way they sleep the most often. Just like horses, donkeys are able to lightly sleep while standing up.

Thanks to a physical attribute known as the stay apparatus, the ligaments and muscles of each of the donkey’s legs holds the joints in place so that the animal does not fall while sleeping.

While standing up, however, donkeys are only able to sleep lightly and are not able to enter into a deep sleep. They have to lie down to be able to enter a deeper sleep.

Why Do Donkeys Sleep Standing Up?

Donkeys sleep standing up because as a prey animal, they instinctively need to be on alert at all times for predators, even when they are sleeping. On the farm and in the wild, donkeys sleep standing up because it is a natural instinct.

This defense mechanism of being able to stand while lightly sleeping allows the donkey to sleep so lightly that if they are startled, they can immediately wake up and begin running. It allows donkeys to get naps throughout the day without the fear of being attacked.

Donkeys that are lying down while sleeping are at the mercy of predators because it will take them time to stand up.

 donkey sleeps in a meadow with a wooden hut

Do Donkeys Sleep While Lying On Their Side?

Donkeys like to sleep while lying on their side or on their chests at some point during each day. When donkeys feel extremely safe and are completely comfortable, they will lie on their side to sleep.

When a donkey is able to lie down on its side to sleep, it is finally able to reach a deep sleep. All donkeys need to reach a deep sleep at some point during the day to keep their bodies functioning properly.

Unfortunately, lying down to sleep leaves donkeys vulnerable to potential predators, but it is something they just have to do. This is why donkeys will wait until they feel safe and protected to finally lie down to sleep.

donkey sleeps in the ground

Do Donkeys Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Donkeys sleep with their eyes partially open sometimes, however, donkeys do not usually sleep with their eyes wide open. When donkeys lightly sleep while standing, their heads will droop, their lips will droop, and their eyelids will usually close partially or completely.

When sleeping while lying down, donkeys will completely close their eyes as they enter a deep sleep. If their eyes are partially open at this time, they are still in a light sleep and have not entered REM sleep yet.

It is possible for a donkey to sleep with their eyes open completely while they are standing. If a donkey is standing completely still with its head lowered, its lip falling downwards, and its eyes all way open, it may be sleeping very lightly.

How Long Do Donkeys Sleep?

Donkeys sleep for varying amount of times throughout each day depending on what is going on. If they are lying down and sleeping, typically that only lasts for about half an hour if left undisturbed.

If the donkey is sleeping or napping while standing, it may be for shorter amounts of time but could be up to two and half hours. It all depends on the time of day, how secure the donkey feels, and how badly they need sleep.

How Much Sleep Do Donkeys Need?

Donkeys need a little over 3 total hours of sleep per day to maintain an optimum performance level. They do not need 3 hours of rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep; donkeys only need about a half an hour of REM sleep per day.

The other two and a half hours of sleep donkeys need to get each day is just light sleeping. Donkeys usually can get this just by casually sleeping throughout the day while they stand.

REM sleep is only achieved when donkeys feel very tired and completely at ease, often when they are in a safe, secure area.

donkey sleeping on the ground

5 Ways Make Sure Your Donkey Gets Enough Sleep

  1. Make sure your donkey has a safe, secure shelter where they can rest without fear of predators.
  2. Do not interrupt donkeys while they are sleeping unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Provide a dry, warm area donkeys can sleep during bad weather.
  4. Limit stressors such as aggressive animals or loud noises.
  5. Make sure they have plenty of food and clean water.

Final Thoughts

Donkeys are able to sleep while both standing up and lying down, however, they are only able to reach REM sleep while lying down.

Donkeys need to get at least three hours of sleep, including at least a half an hour of deep REM sleep, each day.

Make sure your donkey has adequate shelter so they have a safe place to rest each day when needed.


Learning about the sleeping habits of donkeys is a true educational experience. Here are the sources that were used in writing this article.