A remarkable new study has found that trees exhibit the never-before-seen behavior of seemingly 'sleeping' at night.
A team of researchers in Austria and Finland discovered the strange nocturnal activity by using advanced laser measurement techniques to scan birch trees during overnight hours.
The innovative investigation showed that the branches of the trees dropped by nearly four inches during the night.
In order to ensure that their study was not hindered by other variables, the researchers only conducted the experiment on windless nights and during the solar equinox, so that the length of time was relatively even between trees.
And by using laser scans instead of a photographic study, they were able to avoid exposing the trees to light which could have possibly played a role in how their targets reacted.
As to why the trees seem to dramatically 'sleep' at night, experts have offered a few possible suggestions.
One is that the lack of photosynthesis in the dark causes the internal water pressure inside the trees to drop and, thus, make the branches less rigid.
Another more tantalizing possibility is that the trees purposely droop their branches at night because the darkness eliminates the need to keep them upright as they would during the day to obtain sunlight.
Whether the 'sleeping' is consciously performed by the trees or a biological process remains a mystery and researchers hope to conduct more studies to see how widespread the behavior may be.
Although future studies may be enlightening as to the odd activity, we can't help but feel a bit of sympathy for the trees, because everyone knows how unnerving it is to feel like someone is watching you while you sleep.
Source: New Scientist