The effect of altering routine husbandry factors on sleep duration and memory consolidation in the horse.

The study aimed to determine whether changes to the nocturnal environment would impact upon the nocturnal behavioural profile (and associated sleep states) of stabled horses, and whether this might affect cognitive function due to the known benefits of sleep on learning and memory. Horses spent significantly less time lying down during sub-optimal bedding and lighting conditions (bedding depth 5cm and lights left on overnight), indicative of reduced sleep (specifically rapid eye movement sleep). Reduced recumbency and associated sleep state duration appeared to be compensated by increased duration of standing sleep states (associated with non-rapid eye movement sleep). Reduction in sleep duration appeared to have some effect on cognitive performance, although results were inconclusive. The study helps to highlight how common equine husbandry practices may be adjusted to facilitate opportunities for sleep. Further study is required to determine the impact of sleep reduction and disruption on cognition and performance.

Greening, L., Downing, J., Amiouny, D., Lekang, L. and McBride, S., 2021. The effect of altering routine husbandry factors on sleep duration and memory consolidation in the horse. Applied Animal Behaviour Science236, p.105229.

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