Do Turtles Sleep At Night?

Do Turtles Sleep With Their Eyes Open

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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I can bet you have caught your turtles dozing off during the day. These pets also seem to be napping after dark. It might confuse owners and create a misconception about the sleeping routine of turtles. Allow me to clear things up.

Turtles are active during the day but have a complex sleeping pattern. Primarily, all turtles sleep at night. Sometimes, green sea turtles hunt after dark and sleep during the day. Turtles often bask at night to stay warm. Being active at random times leads to an irregular sleep pattern in turtles.

Confused? Keep reading. I hope the article will be a help.

Key Takeaways

  • Turtles are primarily dirunal but can adjust to a night life if necessary.
  • These repritles can breathe and sleep underwater.
  • Turtles can see in the dark.
How Do Turtles Sleep Underwater

When Do Exactly Turtles Sleep?

Mostly, turtles sleep after the dark. But apparently, turtles have a complex sleeping habit. Let me explain.

We have categorized animals into 3 groups based on their activity timeline or sleep pattern. Such as, diurnal, nocturnal, and cathemeral.

The diurnals are the ones who are the most active during the day and spend the night sleeping. Most members of this animal kingdom, including humans, belong to this division.

Next comes the nocturnals. They sleep through the day and hunt at night. Yup, owls.

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Even though we have some knowledge about diurnals and nocturnals, we know so little about cathemeral. These animals have a flexible activity pattern that changes according to external factors.

Turtle SpeciesAverage Sleep TimePreferred Sleep LocationActive Hours
Red-eared Slider12-14 hours/dayUnderwater at bottom of tank or basking areaDaytime
Snapping Turtle14-16 hours/dayUnder mud, plants or rocks at bottom of waterDaytime
Box Turtle8-12 hours/dayBurrow underground or hidden in leaf litterDawn and dusk
Sea TurtleVariable, often surface restingFloating at surface or seafloorDaytime while migrating, feeding

They can sleep at night for a few months and switch to a daytime napping routine if necessary.

Now, the question arises as to which category our turtles fall in. The answer is **Drumroll** in all three.

Don’t give me that look. I am not kidding. Those who think turtles are strictly diurnal, let me explain.

Most turtle species we are familiar with, including the freshwater turtles, are diurnal. They wrap up all their activities in the evening and sleep at night.

Nocturnal activities are mostly observed in sea turtle species. For example, green sea turtles sometimes hunt after the dark. Besides, most marine turtle species nest during the night following the lunar phase.

Researchers got some shocking news in a recent study on freshwater turtle’s basking activity. They have caught many species coming out of the water after night. What has led to such behavior?

Experts blame the waterbody temperature.

According to them, the water might be staying warm at night, which interrupts the turtle’s sleep. So, the creature comes out of the water or its sleeping cave after dark to cool off.

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This is a typical example of cathemeral behavior as a turtle is changing its routine due to an external factor.

Till now, I told you the views the experts share. However, I have a personal opinion that can clash with these points (No blame to the researchers). In my knowledge, turtles are dirunal. They show cathemeral behavior only when the situation demands it.

Just because green turtles are seen outside hunting after the dark does not make them nocturnal. I guess such activities should be considered under the cathemeral category, too.

While most turtles sleep at night on land or in shallow waters, some deep sea turtle species have been found to hibernate underwater for months at a time. A recent study using tracking devices found that green sea turtles will occasionally take short breathing breaks at night while sleeping underwater.

baby turtle close up
Owner: Stephenie Ciprian

What Is An Ideal Sleep Pattern Of Turtles?

As mentioned, turtles are primarily diurnal animals. If you ever see a turtle, catching its breath or taking a stroll at night, just remember that it is temporary.

Turtles mostly follow a circadian rhythm, a behavioral change that follows a 24-hour time frame. Generally, the activity changes depending on light and darkness.

Turtles will be the most active during the daytime because of the raised temperature and warmth. Yes, your turtles might take a nap. But that does not count as a deep sleep.

However, the creatures will enter a deep sleep as the light goes out. They will sleep for 4 to 7 hours. Nighttime is assigned for sleeping as the temperature drops by a few degrees. This helps the turtles slightly slow their metabolism and spend the night on low oxygen.

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Where Do Turtles Sleep?

Turtles are definitely not picky when it comes to choosing a bed. They can sleep underwater or on land.

However, turtles feel the most vulnerable while taking a nap. There is always a risk of an unpredictable attack.

This is why turtles choose a place that can camouflage them and keep them protected.

Some turtles sleep burrowing in the mud or leaf litter while others hide in the rocks. They often retract themselves into shells when napping.

Well, many of my pets doze off on the basking dock. I guess this is a sign that they feel secure in their habitat.

How To Check If Your Turtle Is Sleeping?

Here is a table listing signs that a turtle is sleeping:

SignDescription
Slowed or Shallow BreathingBreathing will be very slow and shallow, almost imperceptible.
Lack of ResponseThe turtle will not respond to stimuli like light tapping or noises near the tank.
Eyes ClosedThe turtle’s eyes will be fully closed.
Retracted LimbsAll four legs will be retracted fully inside the shell.
Still PositionThe turtle will remain perfectly still in one position.
Shell TouchGently touching the shell may elicit no response.
Resting PlaceThe turtle chooses a hidden, sheltered area like the bottom of the tank.
Can Turtles Sleep Outside The Water

Can Nocturnal Turtles See in The Dark?

Let it be a sea turtle or a freshwater turtle. Evidence shows that the species leave their habitat after dark if necessary. But how do they manage to execute any activity at night? Can they see in the dark?

Yes, turtles can see at night and no, their vision is nothing like cats or dogs.

Well, you can compare their night sight with ours. Their eye mechanism allows them to adjust to the blackout. It means the longer they stay in the dark, the better their visions get.

At one point, turtles start to spot things even from a distance. Of course, you can not expect great detailing. But the creatures can differ in their shapes and patterns.

Turtles have weak peripheral vision. So, roaming out at night is a huge disadvantage for them. The chances of falling victim to predators are higher after dark.

Before You Go

Can you spot similarities between human and turtle sleeping habits? Yes, we both sleep at night and our vision in the dark is quite similar. What about snoring? Do you think these reptiles snore? Read the attached article for detail.

Do Turtles Snore? How & Why?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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