How Long Do Chimpanzees Sleep? (The Surprising Truth!)


When I first researched how long chimpanzees sleep, I was quite surprised!

Chimpanzees on average enjoy a long sleep of around 9.5 hours. Once asleep they will be sound asleep all night long.

Remember, they are similar to us humans so they sleep at night. Having said that, a lot of humans might be envious that they manage to get in a solid nine hours! [Source]

In fact, a chimpanzee loves nothing more than to settle down and have a good nap. At least you now know how they have all that energy to burn off during the day. It’s all thanks to the way in which they are so rested during the night.

In this guide, I’m going to look at exactly how long chimpanzees sleep, the method they use to sleep, and everything else connected with chimpanzees and sleep! There’s a lot to cover…

How long do chimpanzees sleep?
Chimpanzees enjoy an unbroken 9.5 hours of sleep per night on average

How Long Do Chimpanzees Sleep

All great apes get a significant amount of sleep. Here is a table that puts the 9.5 hours of chimpanzees in context with other primates:

PrimateHours of sleep (on average)
Human7
Orangutan8
Chimpanzee9.5
Gorilla12
Gibbon12.5

How Do Chimpanzees Sleep?

It might surprise you to know that chimpanzees are rather smart when it comes to sleeping.

First up they really value sleep and will spend a long time preparing for it.

They really know how to make an effective bed. They can make beds out of twigs, stones, grass, or whatever is common to the area that they sleep in.

They are also smart when it comes to choosing where to sleep, for different reasons.  

Making their own beds is both clever for sleep as well as for hygiene.

All in all, chimpanzees are very good at settling down and having a good snooze. So much so, that anthropologists study their sleep habits in great detail. 

Where Do Chimpanzees Sleep? 

Some chimps sleep in trees in what are called nests and others sleep on the forest floors.

This in itself begs a lot of questions as to why?

It has been found that certain tribes of chimps prefer ground sleeping and others still prefer nest sleeping. This is partially, and most importantly, part of their safety routine.

If there are many predators in the area then they will sleep in their nests, far away from predators. It is not easy for most predators to get to chimps that are snoring away on the very top of treetops.

In less threatening areas where there are no huge predators like leopards, for example, then they will be quite content to sleep lower down on the ground. [Source]

It might be interesting to note at this point, this would have also been the case for early humans. Some seek safety in treetops and others on the ground.

Of course, there was also cave sleeping too. 

Why Do Anthropologists Study Chimpanzees Sleeping Habits? 

Anthropologists find studying chimpanzees fascinating and have gone to great lengths to discover their sleeping habits, along with a few other things. 

Knowing these types of behaviors give scientists a glance into behaviors that are hundreds of years old and could give them more insight into ancient human behavior as well.

In fact, many innovative ideas have come from animals about how to improve our world as humans and the study of chimpanzees is no exception. You might be sleeping on a whole new different bed once you have finished reading this. 

Chimpanzee sleeping - anthropologist research
Researching chimpanzee behavior such as sleep helps anthropologists find solutions to human issues and problems

What is So Special About Chimpanzees and Their Bed-Making Abilities? 

Sleep research is an ongoing science and one researcher that was studying sleep in chimps decided to use a bed they had left up a tree in East Africa. 

Koichiro Zamma tested the bed and woke after having the most rested sleep he had ever experienced. So what made this bed so special?

 The bed was an intricately woven item that included soft leaves, twigs, and other forest materials shaped in such a way as to cradle the body.

It was perfectly shaped to make the body feel comforted, comfortable and secure. Plus there were no sharp pressure areas that one can experience from sleeping on human beds.

It was a masterpiece of how to relieve pressure on the body among other things. 

The bed is so revered it is on show at the Kyoto Museum as the Evolution Bed. 

Zamma noted that the bed was so intelligently made that the legs of the bed are made to cling to the treetops in such a way that it will rock gently in the breeze just like a cradle. He now makes special evolution beds for sale to people who want to get a good night’s sleep. 

You might want to look more into this if you are struggling with sleep!

This explains why chimps get such a good long sleep as opposed to their closest relatives who often survive on six and a bit each night. This is apparently the length of time most people survive on in the UK and USA. 

Whose Beds are Cleaner – Those Of Humans Or Chimps? 

Scientists decided to study the cleanliness of monkey beds against human beds and came up with some surprising results.

Chimps might be famous for poo-flinging contests but when it comes to clean beds they won over humans. 

So, how did this happen? 

Human beings live in their own homes which are known by scientists as ecosystems. Within these ecosystems, they produce and maintain their microbes and bacteria.

Human beds contain far more bacteria and matter, such as fecal matter than our counterparts.

It was found that because chimps made their beds fresh each evening they did not hang onto unhealthy bacteria as human beds do. Humans do not build new beds each night, that would be exhausting!

The result is that there is plenty of microbes and bacteria feeding off the leftover skin cells, and other matter left there from a nights sleep.

Plus, chimps use what is in their environment which is typically self-cleaning as opposed to humans who live in a constructed environment that relies on human cleaning and human cleanliness. Which can be at times, overzealous. 

When a chimp is still a baby it will sleep with its mother.

The mother will spend the time creating the perfect bed and this takes time. Delicately weaving and fixing twigs to form a bendy mattress as discussed above.

The baby will in its first months of life cling to his mother’s belly. This is for suckling purposes, safety purposes, and also sleep.

In time, once the chimp is old enough he will also begin the very clever process of bed-making to get a good night’s sleep. 

Once on the bendy mattress high in the treetops, a chimp will cling to his mother’s belly and also enjoy a very long sleep. 

Chimps can sleep in different environments
Chimps are able to sleep in a versatile range of situations and environments

Should I Keep a Chimp as a Pet? 

When you understand their sleeping habits, which are so specialized, and the way chimps are socialized then you would start to understand that keeping a chimpanzee as a pet is not the greatest idea at all. 

Chimps need special care and that is normally from its family!

There are very strong exceptions to this rule, but generally, chimpanzees are not great pets. They certainly need the influence of their peers to grow up properly as a chimp.

This is partly because they are so intelligent. 

They also need to stick around their mothers for at least five years, to grow up correctly, this is a lot like humans in many ways. 

Chimps Stick to Their Mothers – They are So Important. 

Most chimps will hang around their mother until they are young adults.

This way they learn basic chimpanzee behaviors which set them up in the wilds. They also learn how to socialize with other chimps during this phase.

This process is an integral part of chimpanzee development. They learn their ways of communicating both verbally and physically and they also learn to make their beds, feed themselves and meet other chimps and reproduce effectively. 

Basically, chimpanzees make lousy domestic pets.

If kept in a domestic setting, it will not be plain sailing as when they are older they have an innate desire to dominate so they will start to dominate a pet owner.

They will become domineering and demanding and also cause issues in the home.

Once this happens if their handler is not trained sufficiently then the pet owner will not want to keep the chimp and he cannot be saved since he has no idea how to live in the wilds. 

It’s important to note too, that many older female mothers are killed to remove their babies so that they can be sold. This is why owning a chimp is often illegal in many countries. 

A Lot of Chimps Will Outlive Their Owners 

People who have acquired chimps as pets might not understand that a chimp can live in captivity for nearly 60 years.

When it comes to the time for rehoming, a chimpanzee reserve will be less likely to take the pet because they do not have any of the behaviors necessary for rehoming into a more natural environment and would not get along with other chimps. 

Also, their care falls without the normal range of vet care. It is a more specialized field of medicine so pet owners might find themselves in a position whereby they cannot correctly look after their pets. 

There are Times When Humans Need to Step in

The only exception to this rule is that the chimpanzees are orphans and taken in by specialists that understand chimp care.

This way they are socialized correctly and can survive with other chimpanzees in a wild environment. There are, luckily, chimp sanctuaries that are there for chimp care with acres of grounds and handlers that are experts in chimpanzee care.

Because these sanctuaries need a lot of room, acres of land, trees, and other chimp delights, they are not easy to construct and cost a fair amount of money and space. Plus, the care of educated handlers. 

If you love chimps the best thing to do with them is to love them correctly.

Probably the best route is to admire chimps in their natural environment or help out at a sanctuary for chimpanzees as a volunteer. Or donate to help with their care as opposed to owning a chimp as a pet.  

If you are a keen advocate for chimpanzees you can get involved with reputable organizations like the Jane Goodall foundation for example.

The Goodall foundation focuses on the life preservation and health of chimpanzees and getting involved in its mission is very rewarding for many chimpanzee lovers. 

They are very endearing as babies and a lot like human babies too! Always remember they grow up and become quite different, much like humans do. So the best bet for your beloved chimp is to allow them the freedom of the wilds. 

That way they can continue to get a good solid night’s sleep!

Brigitte Cave

Bridgitte grew up on a farm and eventually spent 5 years on Mahe Island in the Seychelles during her teen years. Her time living on a farm was spent mostly around animals including dogs, cats, cows, horses, and all sorts of fowl (chickens, ducks, and geese included). You can find out more about Bridgitte at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/ Bridgitte is a keen horse rider and has competed in many showjumping competitions. She loves writing about pretty much all animals, and particularly dogs, cats, small mammals, horses and reptiles.

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