How do birds rest? Do they all rest the same way? The world of feathered miracles includes sleep or rest. Birds are resting at all times of the day-and night. Diurnal birds are those that sleep at night and are alert during the day. Nocturnal birds are opposite, asleep during daylight and awake and active after sunset.
With no bed to rest their body and maintain the resting position, birds have astonishing methods of sleeping while perched or standing. A perched bird rests its body weight on its feet which grip a branch. The weight of the bird’s body cause the muscles of the leg to force the tendons on the feet to close in a grip that holds. It does not need to use its brain to remember to keep the grip. Waterfowl like the resting geese in the photos will actually stand on one leg. They tuck beak and one leg into their feathers to maintain body temperature. Now for the truth that astonishes the mind! Waterfowl can sleep with half of their brain alert; even with one eye open. It is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS). (1) “Uni” or one, hemisphere or one half, one hemisphere of the brain rests, the other is alert. The geese in these photos will be able to spring into the air in an instant if danger threatens. A low flying eagle, a predator from near shore will not have an advantage on a goose at rest.
There is another truth about bird rest that is not astonishing, it is staggering! Unihemispheric slow wave sleep is possible for birds in migration. They can sleep and fly at the same time! Using USWS a bird can navigate long distance migrations and sleep in flight. Biologists believe that the Alpine Swift can stay in the air for up to 200 days without coming to earth. (2) Think for a moment about rest for this miracle, it must occur while the bird is in flight.
While there may be people you know, who say they can sleep with one eye open; it is an impossibility for humans. Humans do not need this special skill like birds do. Only birds can control USWS.
Another characteristic involves regulation of the bird’s body temperature. Call thermogenesis, (3) it happens when the bird at rest fluffs its feathers to conserve body heat. Shivering does it too. Some birds, those that live in cold climates, have ability to actually lower body temperature and conserve energy while they sleep. The Black-Capped Chickadee is an excellent example. Lowering body temperature is called torpor. It may be compared to hibernation over-night. Once more, humans do not need thermogenesis or torpor. Hooray! we have houses and blankets.
Till now we have been thinking about physical rest-in birds. What about us? We need physical rest, regularly with both eyes closed. Our health depends upon it. Humans need another rest; soul rest. It is just as important as physical. Sometimes we try to live without this rest. Some may live most of our lives without this rest. It is possible. But it’s not God’s best for humans.
A very fair question is, “How do I find this other rest?” We cannot fully rest, even physically unless our soul is at rest. Jeremiah, a prophet in the Old Testament wrote, This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16) A search for soul rest puts every human at a life crossroad. Choose the soul rest direction over the others, even when look better. How does one discern? How does one ask where the good way is?
The Bible shows both “ancient paths and the good way”. It is living-alive, there is no other book in the world like it. It is God’s word. Read the Bible to find both the ancient paths and the good way. In God’s Word find rest for your soul.
Psalm 62:5 tells us this, Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Rest for your soul and mine also requires hope. God is our hope. He is the One who sent us Jesus, the Savior of the world. Jesus is the soul rest seeker’s perfect solution. The words of Jesus are better than any I could write. Jesus said, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
We need two kinds of rest. Physical and soul, for the first there is sleep. God made it, made us able to need it and sleep. God also made our souls. He is the only One, the only Source where we can find rest for our souls. Since He can create a bird brain that can 1/2 sleep and be 1/2 awake think about how perfectly trustworthy He is at giving human beings rest for their souls. Physical rest lasts for hours. The soul rest Jesus gives lasts for eternity. This is real rest-lasting rest.