Most people are familiar with the large, black, hairy apes known as gorillas, but perhaps you’re wanting to learn more. You may be wondering about things such as their sleeping patterns and average lifespans. Where do gorillas sleep, exactly, and how long do they sleep each night? How long do they usually live, both in the wild and in captivity? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Gorillas Sleep?
Gorillas sleep in nests that they build for themselves. The nests are made of plant materials and are usually on the ground, though sometimes gorillas build their nests in trees instead.
Each night, gorillas build a new nest by pulling branches of shrubs together and weaving in softer plant materials, such as leaves and grasses. When they build nests in trees, they must choose forked branches that will support their weight.
Gorillas generally sleep alone, though very young infants will sleep with their mothers for a couple of years. Once their mothers have new babies, the young gorillas will begin to build their own nests and sleep alone.
Gorillas usually begin building their nests about an hour before dark, though nest building usually takes only a few minutes. Once they bed down for the night, they don’t leave the nest again until the next day.
Gorillas don’t reuse old nests, even though they rarely travel far from the previous night’s nest within a day. As mentioned, they construct a new nest each night.
Because they build new nests every day, scientists can count the number of new nests in an area each day to estimate gorilla populations.
Other great apes, including chimps, orangutans, and bonobos, also create nests for sleeping in. However, they usually construct their nests in trees, while gorillas usually bed down on the ground.
Check out this video to see how gorillas build their nests:
When Do Gorillas Sleep?
Gorillas are diurnal, meaning they are typically active during the day and sleep at night. They require many hours of sleep each night.
Some gorillas, especially young ones, also take naps during the day. Instead of reusing the previous night’s nest, they will build new day nests for resting during the daylight hours.
Gorillas live in social groups led by dominant males known as silverbacks. Though they all sleep in separate nests (except for mothers and their young), they build their nests close to each other for safety.
How Long Do Gorillas Sleep Each Night?
Gorillas enjoy their sleep, and they seem to need plenty of it each night. Just how long do they sleep, on average?
Most gorillas sleep straight through the night for about 12 hours at a time. Young gorillas may sleep for even longer periods.
These younger gorillas learn to build nests by watching the adults and mimicking them. They receive extra practice by building day nests for taking naps.
Adults sometimes build day nests as well.
Gorillas that nap during the day receive more sleep than usual. Still, though, the average amount of sleep a gorilla receives is around 12 hours in any 24-hour period.
Again, they receive most of this sleep at night, as they are generally active during the day.
How Long Do Gorillas Usually Live?
Gorillas have respectable life expectancies in the wild–they typically live for 35 to 40 years. However, this lifespan increases when they are kept in captivity.
Captive gorillas can easily live 50 years or more. This is because all of their needs are provided for when they are in captivity, and they are not subjected to environmental threats such as poaching and habitat loss, which often diminish their life expectancy in the wild.
Some captive gorillas have lived into their 50s, and some have even reached 60 years old. A few have grown even older.
The oldest captive gorilla on record lived at the Columbus Zoo until she died in 2017. She was 69 years old at the time of her death.
Gorillas are diurnal animals. They sleep for about 12 hours each night in nests that they build for themselves.
Gorillas rarely travel more than a mile from their previous nest on any given day, but they always build a new nest each night.
For this reason, scientists can easily make estimations about the number of gorillas in specific family groups as well as overall populations.