Equine Sleep Disorders

Some horses will have excessive movement during their REM sleep periods, moving their legs or entire bodies, and often waking themselves up.

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By: Teresa Pitman |

Despite the popular belief that they can sleep standing, horses only doze in this position and must lie down to experience important REM (rapid-eye-movement sleep). In this Horse Sport article, University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine researcher Dr. Monica Aleman discusses how horses sleep if all is well and describes some of the sleep-related disorders horses can suffer.

The most common issue, says Aleman, is sleep deprivation, typically resulting from a horse’s inability to relax and rest due to environmental factors or pain. Narcolepsy, when a horse is fully awake and suddenly falls asleep, is rare and usually occurs during physical activity. Hypersonia, or excessive sleep, can signify neurological disease. With REM sleep disorder, horses wake themselves up with excessive body movements, resulting in a lack of sleep. Diagnosis of such disorders varies and can prove difficult. Treatment also depends on the respective problem.

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