Bats, quoted as sleeping for up to 20h a day, are an often used example of extreme sleep duration amongst mammals. Given that duration has historically been one of the primary metrics featured in comparative studies of sleep, it is important that species specific sleep durations are well founded. Here, we re-examined the evidence for the characterisation of bats as extreme sleepers and discuss whether it provides a useful representation of the sleep behaviour of Chiroptera. Although there are a wealth of activity data to suggest that the diurnal cycle of bats is dominated by rest, estimates of sleep time generated from electrophysiological analyses suggest considerable interspecific variation, ranging from 83% to a more moderate 61% of the 24h day spent asleep. Temperature dependent changes in the duration and electroencephalographic profile of sleep suggest that bats represent a unique model for investigating the relationship between sleep and torpor. Further sources of intra-specific variation in sleep duration, including the impact of artificial laboratory environments and sleep intensity, remain unexplored. Future studies conducted in naturalistic environments, using larger sample sizes and relying on a pre-determined set of defining criteria will undoubtedly provide novel insights into sleep in bats and other species.
Chiroptera, Sleep, Social behaviour, Torpor