Fitness trackers are being used to study how elephants sleep

An elephant never forgets... or sleeps
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Not content to simply monitor every possible human measurable, scientists have developed activity trackers to study how elephants sleep in the wild.

Philips Actiwatch devices are being used on the animals in Botswana, with the hope that tracking their rest hours can lead to a better understanding of how humans sleep. The Actiwatch measures sleep quantity and sleep schedule variability via a very sensitive accelerometer.

Read next: The best sleep trackers and monitors

Professor Paul Manger from Wits University and his team removed the watch bands before insulating them with biologically inert wax and electrical tape and attaching them to the elephants' trunks.

By looking at activity tracking and GPS, researchers discovered the elephants slept for an average of two hours per day, with most of this coming while standing up.

The mammals would only be found lying down for around an hour every three or four days, and could go without rest for up to 48 hours if the threat of a predator or poacher was present. In order to remain safe, the elephants would walk miles away from danger.

"Understanding how different animals sleep is important for two reasons," Manger said. "First, it helps us to understand the animals themselves and discover new information that may aid the development of better management and conservation strategies, and, second, knowing how different animals sleep and why they do so in their own particular way, helps us to understand how humans sleep."

So how does this research differ from that of other elephants? Well, previous studies have shown zoo elephants sleep for around four hours per day, with this coming through standing or lying down. If the fresh findings are confirmed, wild elephants will have the shortest-known sleep time of any land mammal.

So there you have it, folks — maybe you don't need that eight hours after all. Just opt for a standing up power nap like the elephant.

Source: Plos One via

Fitness trackers are being used to study how elephants sleep

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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