Sleep Munching

I can’t sleep! It’s insom-NOM-NOM-NOM-ia time!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Who doesn’t love saving a little snack for later? Sometimes WAY later.

During the summer, reindeer eat ALL DAY to get ready for winter. Their stomachs have FOUR chambers, including one to store grass for later chewing. This is called rumination. But HOW do they eat ALL DAY without getting SLEEPY?

Enter Melanie Furrer and team from University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Researchers studied the brain signals of captive reindeer in Norway. They analyzed their brain activity during sleep AND during rumination.

Results? When reindeer ruminate, their brains show activity similar to sleep! Some keep their eyes open, but react less to their surroundings. A literal food coma! The more they chew, the less sleep they need! AND tired brain signals disappear after thirty minutes of rumination!

Reindeer have mastered a genius tactic: constant summer-munching for a winter-ready belly!

Life’s too short for ONLY three meals! Ruminate on THAT!

Reference: Furrer, M., Meier, S. A., Jan, M., Franken, P., Sundset, M. A., & Brown, S. A. (2024). Reindeer in the Arctic reduce sleep need during rumination, Current Biology 34, 1-7. 10.1016/j.cub.2023.12.012