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YES, THEY DO - but not in the sense we understand sleep. Research conducted by James and Cottell into sleep patterns of insects (1983) showed that ants have a cyclical pattern of resting periods which each nest as a group observes, lasting around eight minutes in any 12-hour period. Although this means two such rest periods in any 24-hour period, only one of the rest periods bears any resemblance to what we would call sleep. Mandible and antennae activity is at a much lower level (usually up to 65 per cent lower) than during the other rest period in one 24-hour period, indicating a much deeper "resting" phase. Basing and McCluskey in 1986 used brain activity recorders on black, red, and soldier ants to determine whether the deeper resting period constituted actual "sleep". A steep decline in brain wave fluctuations supported the "sleep" hypothesis in black and red ants, but surprisingly showed a higher level of brain activity in soldier ants in a deep resting phase.
At least one species of ant sleeps. In the July 2009 edition of the Journal of Insect Behaviour, Deby L. Cassill, Skye Brown, Devon Swick and George Yanev published an article entitled 'Polyphasic Wake/Sleep Episodes in the Fire Ant, Solenopsis Invicta'.
In that article, Cassill et al. found that fire ants do sleep, although the amount of sleep an individual ant had varied by caste. Workers had an average of 253 'sleep episodes' a day, but each lasted an average of only 1.1 minutes, for a total of approximately 4.8 hours of sleep overall. By contrast, queens only experienced 92 sleep episodes, but each lasted an average of 6 minutes, for a total of 9.4 hours of sleep overall.
In addition, the study found that fire ant sleep was unaffected by light or darkness, and that queens experienced periods of 'rapid antenna movement' sleep. The authors suggested this 'RAM' sleep might be equivalent to vertebrate REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Yes, ants do sleep. Just like humans, ants need the energy sleep provides.
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