A female leopard basks in the afternoon sun in Mombo, Botswana.
Though some animals have elevated the powernap to an artform (think giraffes, dolphins, and bullfrogs), most creatures spend hours at a time oblivious to their surroundings. And since it’s a scary world out there, that means sleep spots are a reflection of where an animal feels safest.
Others find safety in company. Sperm whales stick close to the pod to sleep, a dozen related females all ‘standing’ underwater to steal a few minutes of repose in the ever-perilous ocean. Ring-tailed lemurs and lion cubs both sleep in dense family cuddle-puddles, sometimes to share body heat.
But the most blissful sleepers seem to be the ones snuggled close to mom. There’s nothing like a steady maternal heartbeat to help you doze off.
We’re not sure why animals—humans included—really need to sleep. Some scientists hypothesize that sleep gives the brain a chance to process the day’s events and consolidate information into long-term memory. Others think sleep may work as a reset button, helping replenish the neurotransmitters that cells in the brain need to communicate.
Though we’re not certain why, we do know that animals dream. REM sleep has been identified in all mammals and some birds (the jury is still out on reptiles). Across species, dreaming is most frequent in young animals, possibly as a way “practice” movements like running or climbing outside of the high-stakes real world.
Check out these beautiful images of sleeping animals from YourShot photographers around the world—we dare you not to yawn.