You were standing there, your mind was wandering, your attention was drifting…did you just fall asleep ? Can humans sleep standing up ? If by that we mean proper, restful sleep and we mean standing unsupported then the answer has to be no. As we sleep, our muscles relax and our bodies are not designed to be self-supporting. In essence, we fall over.
That is not to say that sleep can not be found in unusual places. The Conduit remembers sleeping in an ethereal fireplace one New Year’s in the early 1990s which seems so very unlikely and uncomfortable now. However, as uncomfortable as that was, the position was supported by structures.
Some animals can sleep standing up but that is not all that it seems. Cows appear to be sleeping standing up and this has led to the famous pastime of “cow-tipping” but the truth is that cows are actually only pretending to sleep – they merely enjoy being tipped over and hope for it to happen every night. If this seems unlikely, ask yourself why, if they sleep standing up, they can often be found lying down. The answer is to build strength for a long night of waiting to be tipped.
Some birds can sleep half their bodies at a time. Take the flamingo which can tuck one leg up and put half it’s body to sleep whilst remaining alert with the other. Later, the bird will swap sides to allow the other half to catch up on some pink zees. Specially trained Buddhist flamingoes can lift both legs up at the same time and achieve a truly transcendental level of sleep but their hovering tends to upset the crocodiles with nasty results.
The dodo is believed to have aided its own demise because it was the only creature ever to have done its moving whilst asleep and only remain static when wide awake. This made it a very peaceful bird but extremely easy to catch if you were very quiet.