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Penguin parents sleep for just a few seconds at a time to guard newborns, study shows

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Penguin parents sleep for just a few seconds at a time to guard newborns, study shows

This image provided by Won Young Lee shows wild chinstrap penguins on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)

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This image provided by Won Young Lee shows wild chinstrap penguins on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)Read More

This image provided by Won Young Lee shows wild chinstrap penguins guard their fuzzy gray chicks on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)

2 of 3 | 

This image provided by Won Young Lee shows wild chinstrap penguins guard their fuzzy gray chicks on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)Read More

This image provided by Won Young Lee shows a wild chinstrap penguin on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)

3 of 3 | 

This image provided by Won Young Lee shows a wild chinstrap penguin on King George Island, Antarctica. Researchers have discovered that some penguin parents sleep for only seconds at a time around-the-clock to protect their eggs and chicks. Sensors were attached to adult chinstrap penguins in Antarctica for the research. The results published Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 show that during the breeding season, the penguins nod off thousands of times each day but only for about four seconds at a time. (Won Young Lee via AP)Read More

BY CHRISTINA LARSONUpdated 12:09 PM MST, November 30, 2023Share

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a challenge for all new parents: Getting enough sleep while keeping a close eye on their newborns. For some penguins, it means thousands of mini-catnaps a day, researchers discovered.

Chinstrap penguins in Antarctica need to guard their eggs and chicks around-the-clock in crowded, noisy colonies. So they nod off thousands of times each day — but only for about four seconds at a time — to stay vigilant, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science.

These short “microsleeps,” totaling around 11 hours per day, appear to be enough to keep the parents going for weeks.

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“These penguins look like drowsy drivers, blinking their eyes open and shut, and they do it 24/7 for several weeks at a time,” said Niels Rattenborg, a sleep researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence in Germany and co-author of the new study.

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