Baby whales, dolphins thrive on insomnia

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Human infants, like most mammal babies, sleep a lot. But researchers have found newborn bottlenose dolphins and killer whales do just the opposite – they stay awake and are active virtually 24 hours a day for the first month of life.

Their mothers manage with only a little more shuteye than the newborns.

The behavior, reported Thursday in the journal Nature, is at odds with the rest of the mammal family and upsets conventional wisdom that lots of sleep is critical to childhood development.

”Somehow, these seafaring mammals have found a way to cope with sleep deprivation, facilitating rather than hindering a crucial phase of development for their offspring,” said Dr. Jerome Siegel, a neuroscientist at the University of California-Los Angeles.