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Migrating Birds Take Hundreds of Powernaps. 141

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the checking-eyelids-for-leaks dept.
Ant writes "MSNBC reports that to help make up for sleep lost during marathon night flights, migratory birds take hundreds of powernaps during the day, each lasting only a few seconds, a new study suggests. Every autumn, Swainson's thrushes fly up to 3,000 miles from their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska to winter in Central and South America. Come spring, the birds make the long trek back. The birds fly mostly at night and often for long hours at a time, leaving little time for sleep."
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Migrating Birds Take Hundreds of Powernaps.

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  • by yincrash (854885) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:20AM (#16333733)
    At 4:20 in the morning, I could a couple of power naps as well.
  • by Jamu (852752) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:21AM (#16333739)
    Flap flap flap
    Must stay awake...
    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I'm falling!
    Flapflapflapflapflap
    Flap flap flap
    Must stay awake...
    • by Firehed (942385)
      That's about what it's like in traffic too. Except replace "I'm falling!" with "Oh shit, just fell asleep at the red light again!"

      I suggest you *not* try it sometime.
    • by tttonyyy (726776)
      1. Invent Jolt-Cola for birds (I dunno, something that straps to their beaks or similar)
      2. PROFIT!
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Birds don't have money.
        • Birds don't have money.

          That that's why they keep on harrasing me in the city for food! The lazy bums should get a job like everyone else!

        • by fafaforza (248976)
          1. Invent JoltCola for birds
          2. Create a NGO for the support of migratory birts that lack funds for their basic needs, and make everyone feel bad that they wouldn't spare a dime for the poor birds.
          3. Profit!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ari_j (90255)
        I dunno, something that straps to their beaks or similar

        'e could grip i' by the 'usk!

    • by Archibald Buttle (536586) <steve_sims7.yahoo@co@uk> on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:41AM (#16334627)
      :-)

      Not all that far from the truth.

      Albatross (and related species) spend virtually their whole lives at sea, returning to land only to breed. They fish for food, but can't sleep on the sea surface because they'd get caught by preditors (some shark and whale species, sealions, etc). Their only opportunity for sleep is whilst they're flying - so they nap for a few seconds whilst they're gliding.
      • Urban legend alert (Score:5, Informative)

        by Falkkin (97268) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:22AM (#16334861) Homepage
        Urban legend -- albatrosses sleep on the surface, not in flight.

        See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albatross#Morphology_ and_flight [wikipedia.org]
        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:37AM (#16335527) Journal
          Urban legend -- albatrosses sleep on the surface, not in flight.
          Poppycock. That is obviously not an urban legend -- it's a maritime legend.

          Sheesh. When did all widely-believed falsehoods become urban legends, instead of just plain old legends, myths, etc?
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by RealGrouchy (943109)
            Urban legend -- albatrosses sleep on the surface, not in flight.

            Poppycock. That is obviously not an urban legend -- it's a maritime legend.

            On the contrary. Maritimers know their stuff about birds; it's the urban population that makes these things up. :P

            - RG>
        • Sorry about that... I had been told the albatross sleeping mid-flight thing (rather than on the sea surface) by a PhD student whose thesis was on bird migration.

          I should of course know better than to believe PhD students.

          Curiously enough she did get her PhD. :-)
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Their only opportunity for sleep is whilst they're flying - so they nap for a few seconds whilst they're gliding.

        We normally call it "micro sleep"

        You know when you're so tired that you start nodding off before abruptly jerking your head back up? That is micro sleep and it generally lasts up to 3 seconds at a time.

        I imagine birds are better at it than human pilots. Those few seconds are all it takes to go off the end of the runway, pancake during a landing, or to plow into the side of a mountain.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by aldheorte (162967)
          If you ever actually see an albatross at sea, you will know this is complete bullocks. An albatross take off is a drawn out and complicated affair with much beating of wings and windwilling of the legs. There is absolutely no way an albatross sitting on the surface could react fast enough to a predator to make an escape by getting airborne.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by shadwstalkr (111149)
        I thought they slept while they hung around the necks of old sailors.
    • Brrrrmmmm
      Yawn...Must not sleep at wheel...
      (sound of car hitting rumble strip)
      Who!? What? Oh yah, must stay awake (turns up radio)
      Zzzzz...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:24AM (#16333749)
    When I was a student I also took several power-naps during the day to make up for lack of sleep.

    They were called lectures.
    • Wish I had some points
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CortoMaltese (828267)
      I actually attended (well, sort of) a course just because the lectures were held just after lunch in a lecture hall with very comfortable seats.

      *sigh*

      I wish my office walls weren't made of glass.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)
        I wish my office walls weren't made of glass.
        Extra starch in your collars will help keep your head upright.

        Just kidding.

        Someone needs to manufacture a neck/head brace type thing that has a fake (or real) wire(d/less) headset built in so you can pretend to be on the phone while napping.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Don't worry, the academic staff return the favor during your graduation...
    • by kfg (145172) *
      I actually got a notation on a bad mid term once that I didn't get an F because the Prof figured I must have picked something up by osmosis.

      Maybe next time I'll have to try it at the back of a hall, instead of front and center in office.

      KFG
    • Hey, are you one of my students?
  • by wannabgeek (323414) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:24AM (#16333753) Journal
    I only take tens of powernaps during the day, and my boss is threatening to fire me. (True, each of them lasts longer than a few seconds ;-)
  • by Green Salad (705185) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:32AM (#16333777) Homepage
    The HR department at Electronic Arts applauds the innovation as a "best practice."
  • Atleast they stay in good shape.
  • I remember hearing about this when I was like, 7-8 years old. I'm now 28.
  • Ah shucks (Score:5, Funny)

    by novus ordo (843883) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:04AM (#16333931) Journal
    "I think what's interesting about our findings is that even animals that should be highly adapted to sleep loss cannot go on indefinitely," Fuchs said. "That a need for sleep cannot be eliminated even in these species underscores the importance of sleep for many, if not all, animals."
    I hope I'm not the one to break this to my boss...he might even try to disprove him.
  • Maybe.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l0cust (992700) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:07AM (#16333943) Journal
    Maybe the birds were getting those drowsy sessions and 'power naps' BECAUSE they were caged and being subjected to go through utterly boring and long observation periods when they would rather be flying over the ocean somewhere. Or they just closed their eyes every few minutes to curse the researchers to hell for caging them in the first place.

    But seriously, studies of this kind tend to lose credibility when they start predicting the free behaviour of species while testing them under captive conditions. Going by this logic, I can say that lions in jungle start rattling the nearest metal bars or objects they can find when they feel hungry because I observed this behaviour in a bunch of lions in the nearest zoo. I know its stretching the point a bit, and that 'some' behaviour show consistence irrespective of the state of the subject animal/bird, BUT trying to deduce migratory behaviour (out of all things) from a bunch of observational data collected from birds in cages is stretching it too far IMHO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Going by this logic, I can say that lions in jungle start rattling the nearest metal bars or objects they can find when they feel hungry because I observed this behaviour in a bunch of lions in the nearest zoo.

      You're obviously not a real scientist. A real scientist would have let the lions out of the cage before making any observations.
      • by l0cust (992700)
        A real scientist would have let the lions out of the cage before making any observations.
        Exactly. Not only out of the cage but in a sufficiently open and 'jungle-like' wild & natural environment before even trying to observe their natural behaviour. Now do you understand what I was trying to say or do you want me to go all medieval on your ass !
      • Re:Maybe.. (Score:4, Funny)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday October 06, 2006 @08:59AM (#16335153) Journal
        You're obviously not a real scientist. A real scientist would have let the lions out of the cage before making any observations.
        Which is why all that we have left are the 3rd rate hacks.
    • by viewtouch (1479) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:00AM (#16335171) Homepage Journal
      First of all, experiments I've read about have been done on birds that are flying, hence no cage.

      More importantly, though, although you must accept the inevitability of sleep, nonetheless you assume that sleep is a behavior and that behavior can be affected by a cage. Well, the view that sleep is behavior has no scientific basis, in spite of the fact that we (as do other animals) have some control over when we sleep, which is, well, totally beside the point. The fact remains that we, and all animals, MUST sleep and we cannot change that. If we don't sleep, our immune and nervous systems shut down and we die. This is true of all animals.

      The latest science indicates beyond any doubt that sleep has nothing to do with behavior but is, rather, a metabolic state (anabolism) which is, of course, cell-based and which, therefore, cannot be affected by putting a bird in a cage or by attaching a neuro-transmitter to a flying bird.

      Studies of this kind, therefore, do NOT lose credibility because it is not behavior which is being tested, but rather it is what is being tested is a simple measurement of how the catabolic - anabolic (awake - asleep) balance is maintained in birds, in particular.

      It's too bad everybody seems to think that either this is just a humorous article or that they aren't interested enough in understanding what sleep is to spend a few minutes either thinking about what sleep really is, or reading about it. Sleep is important enough that if you try to do without it you will soon be rendered useless and die. Understanding sleep can make your life better. Not getting good sleep makes your life hell, if it doesn't kill you. You can't alter the basic metabolism of life by deciding that you are somehow special and you can't understand sleep if you simply dismiss it as behavior.
    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      Well the article says that They found that during autumn and spring, when the birds are normally migrating, they reverse their typical sleep patterns [...]

      So that does suggest something going on which is not related to the caging, since they were caged and observed during the whole year.

  • Yep... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DuranDuran (252246) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:10AM (#16333957)
    > to help make up for sleep lost during marathon night flights, migratory birds take hundreds of powernaps during the day, each lasting only a few seconds

    Yep, just like my crazy uncle. But instead of gliding, he uses the cruise control.
  • Humans Too (Score:5, Informative)

    by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:11AM (#16333967) Homepage
    Humans do the same thing. The term is "microsleep", lasting from 2 to 30 seconds or so, often with eyes open. A quick search returns hundreds of PDFs on the phenomenon.

    As usual, there is a WikiPedia entry (not very useful) and this site too: http://www.sleepdex.org/microsleep.htm [sleepdex.org]

    Hmmm... people do it. Birds do it. I'll be shocked when the research is published that fish do it too.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I will be shocked when research is published that even educated fleas do it
    • You just supplied every Slashdotter with the perfect excuse for not being able to answer a random question during a lecture. I hope you're pleased with yourself.

      I am. Thanks a bunch!
    • hmm, but tell me, do educated flees do it?
    • by Calinous (985536)
      Yep, I've done this once while driving (at 1 o'clock in the night). My eyes were closing on their own will, so I decided to keep them open. And with their open, a blank out of several seconds came - I've seen nothing for several seconds, with the eyes wide open. I was scared, so I've stopped, moved around, waited some time and started again.
      • by tttonyyy (726776)
        Wow, that's interesting.

        My daughter, when she was young, would sometimes fall asleep with her eyes open. Totally freaked us out as parents, but apparently it happens. :)

        Just goes to show that having the visual data coming in doesn't necessarily keep the brain awake.
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      From TFA: "The thrushes also mixed up their shut-eye sessions with two other forms of sleep. In one, called unilateral eye closure, or UEC, the
      birds rested one eye and one half of their brains while their other eye and brain hemisphere remained open and active, keeping them semi-alert to danger."

      I learned to do this back when I was doing a lot of long-distance driving. I discovered that if I closed ONE eye, it evidently let half of my brain "take a nap". After half an hour or so, I'd be as refreshed as if I
    • "Microsleep" is so old fashioned. These days there is new technology called "nanosleep" that imparts a finer granularity to the experience of being awake. It is a subbranch of nanotechnology.
  • Not convinced (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tygerstripes (832644) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:18AM (#16334001)
    How is this different from when you keep nodding your head and waking up when you're very, very tired but doing something critical/dangerous? Hasn't everyone, to their horror, experienced this when driving? Or when you're in a lecture, your head drops, and you jerk awake with an embarrassing snorting noise?

    I wouldn't consider this to be an impressive evolved behaviour, so much as just what happens when a bird in flight is pushing itself to its limits of endurance. There just aren't many animals other than humans and avians that ever find themselves having to maintain such prolonged alertness to survive, so this is seen as a phenomenon. Try keeping squirrels on a wire over a pit of spikes or something, and you'll probably observe the same behaviour.

    • Or when you're in a lecture, your head drops, and you jerk awake with an embarrassing snorting noise?

      Noseplugs ought to fix that right up.

      Try keeping squirrels on a wire over a pit of spikes or something, and you'll probably observe the same behaviour.

      I recommend alligators for this.
      • by tygerstripes (832644) on Friday October 06, 2006 @06:29AM (#16334255)
        Don't be stupid. Alligators can't balance on a wire.
      • Or when you're in a lecture, your head drops, and you jerk awake with an embarrassing snorting noise?
        Noseplugs ought to fix that right up.
        Until you end up snorting the noseplugs into your sinus cavity. It's painful, and sometimes requires surgery to fix... or so I've heard ;).

        Sleep apnea + foreign objects lodged in bodily openings --> Bad happenings.
  • ...is that birds are on a constant exercise-regiment while the trend with humans is that they become more and more sedentary, behind their PCs, xboxes, or otherwise. I'm just saying this because some "productivity-gurus" may draw the conclusion that we should follow birds' examples. If we ditched our cars and started running everywhere, on the other hand... zzz
  • by roguerez (319598)
    Some birds never touch ground during their life. Eat, sleep, all in the air.

    http://verkiezingen2006.nl/ [verkiezingen2006.nl]
  • @#$%^ Buzzwords (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hcdejong (561314)
    How, exactly, is a 'powernap' any different from a generic nap? I expect Bullshit Bingo from the WSJ, not from scientists.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      How, exactly, is a 'powernap' any different from a generic nap? I expect Bullshit Bingo from the WSJ, not from scientists.

      Well, since the term was invented by a psychologist and is a fairly widely used term, I think it's not quite Bullshit Bingo anymore.

      There is a difference between a nap and a power nap, read the link I provided.

      I know people (my father for one) who can close their eyes, be sound asleep and snoring inside of 30 seconds, sleep for 15-20 minutes, and wake up on their own and go for another

  • Great! Now I can finally catch up on some Zzz's buring class without the prof knowing!
  • Uberman (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wooden7Dummy (935225)
    Reminds me of the Uberman sleep method.
  • I believe swifts are able to fly with half their brain asleep
  • Digg featured the same story just the other day. It was on another website, but presented the same facts. But, as opposed to Slashdot, they ran the article under the headline "Most flirtatious avatar [digg.com]". Somehow, I find that funny.
  • by giafly (926567) on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:18AM (#16334491)
    FTA, these swallows sleep for "9 seconds on average".
    If one stops flying completely for 9 seconds, the approximate distance it would fall is s = ut + 1/2at**2 [wikipedia.org] ... 0+1/2*32*9*9 feet ... 1296 feet.
    But the barn swallow typically migrates within within 100 feet of the ground [nwf.org].
    So how do they avoid crashing?
    • by giafly (926567)
      Unfortunately this is about thrushes. D'Oh! I wonder how high they fly?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      the approximate distance it would fall is s = ut + 1/2at**2 ... 0+1/2*32*9*9 feet ... 1296 feet.

      A few theories from me as an armchair scientist. If it has a way to lock it's wings it will fall slower. It will loose several seconds of direction control but maybe it has a mechanism to compensate.
    • by kfg (145172) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @07:55AM (#16334713)
      But the barn swallow typically migrates within within 100 feet of the ground .

      Even more impressive is the behavior of the Wandering Albatross which can fly for days at a time within a wingspan of ocean waves (albeit their wingspan is about 10 feet). They can do this even during a full gale.

      So how do they avoid crashing?

      They soar. Wings generate lift just because they're there and under the right conditions a bird might well increase its altitude while napping.

      As a wave moves through the air, or air moves over a hill, it compresses and rises. Thus a sleeping bird may find itself safely carried over variations in surface hight without having to do a thing. It's called "slope soaring."

      KFG
      • wings generate lift
        birds have wings
      • Not only that, but flying that close to the ocean, their wings create a "ground effect" (the same effect that allowed the Spruce Goose to lift off, but not to actually fly). I suspect all of these combine to allow the albatross to travel large distances without having to flap its wings... Waves provide energy to create a pressure differential, and the ground effect maximizes its usefulness to the albatross. Very cool stuff.
    • by hcdejong (561314)
      Preumably, lift doesn't drop to zero during sleep, so ag.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Harlow_B_Ashur (35202)
      Maybe their glide ratio surpasses that of a ball of uranium.
    • 1) As others have mentioned, during sleep the birds are probably gliding.
      2) The equation s = ut + 1/2at**2 neglects air resistance.
    • by viewtouch (1479)
      The best answer, as far as science has so far been able to ascertain, is at least two-fold. First, only half of the bird's brain is 'sleeping' (repairing itself, growing). Second, the muscles that maintain flight continue to respond even when asleep the same way that the muscles that maintain breathing respond even when asleep.
    • by loconet (415875)
      By sleeping when they are not flying.
  • Billy thrush was killed this morning when he fell asleep at the wing and flew into a 747 jet engine.

    Timmy thrush was trajically killed when he also fell asleep at the wing and flew into some power lines and was electricuted.

    Sam Thrush was killed today when he did not get enough sleep and saw what he thought was a worm on the ground and it ended up being a snake and the snake ate him.

    that is all from Thrush news...
    • by suitti (447395)
      I was out birdwatching the other day. I thought i saw a thrush, but it was just a Robin.
  • The opening of the article states that the birds fly at night, which leaves little time for sleep.

    Sure, if you discount the other half of the day.

    I have to agree with the other commenters who pointed out that this is a good example of how watching a bird take naps in a cage may not be the best kind of science. For all we know, the birds in the wild are enjoying a hearty day's sleep, completely undisturbed by pesky lab techs trying to peer into their cage and see what they're doing. You keep looking at me
  • Did Anyone RTFA? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ironwill96 (736883) on Friday October 06, 2006 @09:09AM (#16335255) Homepage Journal
    In the article it states: "Some scientists speculate that some birds might even be able to catch up on some forms of sleep while in flight, but this idea has yet to be fully tested.".

    The article is not even about sleeping while flying, they are talking entirely of the bird's sleep states during the daytime (and then the birds would fly at night). But, what do I expect? This is /. after all where nobody reads the article and makes hilarious comments anyway.
  • Its remarkable our nervous system shares several properties with bird, since the split was 200 million years ago. By evolutionary standars humans are practically cousins with mice, perhaps splitting only 60 million years ago.
    Despite this, theres evidence some birds can processes some symbols, and perform simple counting. They dont seem to have the emotional range of mammals.
  • MSNBC reports that to help make up for sleep lost during marathon night flights, migratory birds take hundreds of powernaps during the day, each lasting only a few seconds, a new study suggests.

    I know how these birds feel, though my seconds-long powernaps usually occur while reading /. even though - zzz ...

  • From Dolphin Facts [dolphinear.com]
    • How do dolphins sleep?
    • Dolphins have to be conscious to breath. This means that they cannot go into a full deep sleep, because then they would suffocate. Dolphins have "solved" that by letting one half of their brain sleep at a time. This has been determined by doing EEG studies on dolphins. Dolphins sleep about 8 hours day in this fashion.

    Damn. I wish I could do that.

  • They're just duty-cycling.
  • Reminds me of the Uberman's sleep cycle, sleep 30 mins every 4 hours, it's been on /. a few times...I don't think I can do it because I tend to go out and have drinks on the weekends...

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/4/15/103358/720 [kuro5hin.org]
  • ...funny. That sounds a lot like high school.

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine

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