Turtles are enchanting, fascinating creatures. You can find them all over the world, in every climate imaginable. They come in hundreds of different kinds, each with its own unique appearance, needs, and habits.
Many kinds of turtles also make great pets. They require unique habitats and care but are less high-maintenance in many ways than more common household pets like cats or dogs. And most children love them, making them an excellent choice for a family pet.
Our human fascination with turtles leads people to ask many questions about their sleeping habits: Do turtles sleep? When and where do they sleep? How long do turtles sleep, and can they sleep underwater?
Do Turtles Sleep?
Yes, turtles sleep, but their sleep is very different from ours.
Their sleep is more of a resting period when their metabolism temporarily slows.
Turtles also often take naps throughout the day.
If turtles do not receive an appropriate amount of sleep every day, it can affect them just like it affects humans and other species. Going a long period without sleeping is a sign of illness, and the turtle should be taken to see a vet.
The same is true if a turtle sleeps too much.
And do turtles close their eyes when they sleep?
Yes, when turtles sleep, they close their eyelids and are very still.
When Do Turtles Sleep?
Most turtles are diurnal, which means they sleep at night and are active during the day.
To aid your pet turtle in establishing regular sleep patterns, turn off the lights in its habitat at night.
Since turtles need UVB, it makes sense that most would sleep at night so they can bask during the sunlight hours.
A few types of turtles, such as certain box turtles, green turtles, stinkpots, and common snapping turtles, are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active at night.
Where Will Turtles Sleep?
Wild turtles often sleep near piles of rocks as camouflage.
They will also burrow into holes or sleep under thick vegetation to hide from predators.
Freshwater turtles bury themselves in sand or mud to hide. Semi-aquatic turtles usually dig a hole in a marshy area for hiding purposes. Sea turtles find underwater structures to hide underneath or, in deep water, float on the surface.
Captive turtles have no such need for protection, so they will often sleep in their basking spots or basking platform. They also may bury themselves in the sand, float in their water, or crawl under structures in their habitat.
Some turtles will return to the same spot every night to sleep, while others will change their sleeping spot from time to time.
How Long Does A Turtle Sleep?
Different turtles need different amounts of sleep, depending on age, activity level, and type.
Baby turtles require much more sleep than adults. Very active turtles will need more sleep than their more sedentary counterparts.
If you have a pet turtle, chances are you have a red eared slider. These turtles can sleep up to seven hours every day, and this is primarily at night.
In fact, if your pet turtle is sleeping during the day, this may indicate illness.
Aquatic turtles generally need four to seven hours of sleep per night. Larger land-dwelling turtles spend most of their time sleeping since they require significantly more sleep than their aquatic cousins.
In the wild, turtles also hibernate for weeks or even months at a time when the weather is cold.
While hibernation is not necessary for captive turtles, they still may sleep more in the winter than during other seasons.
And if you’re worried about their food situation, find out how long turtles can go without eating here.
Do Turtles Sleep In Their Shells?
Most pet turtles retract into their shells to sleep.
This is an instinct for protection, as the hard shell serves to shield and sometimes camouflage the turtle. Turtles do not come out of their shells, but they do shed shell plates.
However, sea turtles are an exception to this rule. Since they have soft shells, retracting into them wouldn’t provide a lot of protection.
Can Turtles Sleep Underwater?
Many turtles do sleep underwater.
Turtles, however, have much slower metabolisms and can go for a long time between breaths when they sleep.
Some types of turtles, like painted turtles, can even draw the oxygen they need from the water.
Types of turtles that are commonly kept as pets, such as map turtles, painted turtles, sliders, musk turtles, and mud turtles, often sleep underwater and can go without breathing for 5 hours or more.
Most turtles will occasionally surface during their sleeping hours to take in oxygen, then go back underwater to continue their slumber. This is also true for most sea turtles.
Box turtles, on the other hand, do not sleep underwater. They prefer to burrow into sand or sleep in their basking area.
Can A Turtle Sleeping Underwater Drown?
Turtles are in no danger of drowning in their sleep.
Their metabolism slows dramatically while they sleep, and they naturally surface for air periodically.
The only way a turtle will drown is if something blocks it from rising back to the surface when it needs to breathe.
Turtle Sleep And Hibernation
Just like us, turtles need to sleep regularly.
In some ways, their sleeping habits are similar to ours – most of them sleep at night, and they like to find a comfortable place where they feel safe before they drift off.
To help your pet turtle sleep properly, you can make sure there is plenty of water in its habitat at a comfortable temperature. Provide plenty of sand and structures to make your turtle feel safe and sheltered.
Turn off the habitat lights at night to encourage your turtle to tuck itself in and get some rest.
We all need a good night’s rest, including our shelled friends.
Tortoises are another story – find out all about the best tortoise enclosures here. You’ll also learn about some of the funny habits of those funny creatures!