Do Turtles Sleep? [How Long, Where, How]

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

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Turtles are docile reptiles. They might be slow, but they can be quite active in their enclosure. But sometimes, you might have seen your turtle getting still on the land or under the water. As a new turtle owner, you may wonder if the turtle is asleep, sick or drowning! So, do turtles sleep? 

Both aquatic and land turtles sleep. They can sleep for many hours a day. How long a turtle will sleep depends on its age, species, and activities. Environmental factors like light and temperature also affect their sleeping pattern. 

In this article, I will tell you everything about sleeping turtles. By understanding the sleeping pattern of turtles, you can know when your turtle is resting and when it is ill. 

How Long Do Turtles Sleep For? 

Most turtles sleep 4 to 7 hours at night. They even take naps for 20 to 60 minutes when they are basking. Again, it mostly depends on the turtle’s species and age. 

Aquatic turtles can sleep underwater for hours and come to the surface for a few seconds to breathe in oxygen. So, do not panic if you find your turtle sleeping underwater for hours. 

Age is another factor that affects a turtle’s sleeping time. A baby turtle will sleep longer because they remain quite active while they remain awake. Adult turtles will require less time to rest, but as they get older, they will sleep longer. 

Some Factors That Affect Turtle’s Sleeping Patterns

Apart from the species and age of the turtles, some environmental factors affect their sleeping pattern. Sleeping is necessary for turtles the same way it is for us. Controlling these factors is essential for maintaining your turtle’s sleeping cycle. 

The lighting of the Enclosure

When you set up the lighting system in the turtle’s tank, you must consider the natural light cycle. Most turtles are diurnal. They remain active during the daytime and sleep for hours at night. So, your pet turtle’s sleeping cycle should be the same. 

You do not have to worry much about turtles in an outdoor enclosure as they get natural light. But turtles kept indoors do not get natural light. Then how can they differentiate between day and night? 

Owners have to set up a white bulb light that provides UVB light to the turtles during the daytime. Then turn off the light at night. This way, a pet turtle can keep pace with the natural light cycle. Without the white light bulb, your turtle’s sleeping pattern will get affected. It can severely affect their daily activities. 

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The Temperature of the Habitat 

The temperature inside the turtle habitat plays a crucial role in its sleeping pattern. The heat affects how much a turtle may sleep. 

Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. Naturally, they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Turtles need a warm temperature to stay active. 

But when the temperature gets too low, the turtles will sleep more. Therefore, you must find out the ideal temperature for your turtle and maintain it to keep them healthy.  

Availability of Shelter and Space for Sleeping 

The decoration of the habitat can affect your turtle’s sleeping pattern. Turtles need places where they can rest properly. 

In the wild, turtles are the most vulnerable when they are sleeping. To protect themselves, they hide in places to avoid the prying eyes of predatory animals. Land turtles need shelters or soft substrates to hide. The aquatic turtles will dive into deep water to sleep safely. 

Besides, aquatic and land turtles, both will need a basking platform to take a nap under the UVB light. 

You must provide shelters for your pet turtle. Add some rocks, logs, and caves on the land and in the water. The turtle can use them to retreat whenever it wants. 

The basking platform should be space enough for the turtles to take a nap while warming up. The lack of these accessories can cause irregular sleeping patterns in turtles. 

How Do You Know If Your Turtle Is Sleeping?

Experienced turtle owners can tell when their pet turtle is sleeping. New turtle owners may get concerned seeing their turtle lying still. It is understandable, as a sick turtle can become inactive. So, how do you know if your turtle is sleeping? Here are some ways to tell:

  • Your turtle has been active during the day. But at night, you find it inactive. It means the turtle is sleeping.
  • A land turtle will hide in a shelter or burrow in the substrates. 
  • An aquatic or semi-aquatic turtle will go underwater and become still for hours. 
  • Most turtles will close their eyes to minimize light exposure. 
  • During sleep, many turtles tuck themselves inside their shell for protection. However, softshell turtles or snapping turtles cannot get inside their carapace. 

Turtles have a unique sleeping pattern. For example, aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles may come to the surface every 45 to 60 minutes to breathe in oxygen and get back to sleeping underwater. Thus, turtles are not completely inactive for 4 to 7 hours. 

There are some exceptions, like the painted turtles and the sea turtles. They can stay underwater for hours without coming out for oxygen. These turtles have a unique ability to absorb oxygen from the water through their cloaca. 

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Is It Normal For Turtles To Sleep Underwater?

It is absolutely normal for aquatic and many semi-aquatic turtles to sleep underwater. In fact, some species of turtles, such as the musk, mud, and painted turtles, can sleep 4 to 7 hours underwater. Sea turtles can hold their breath for hours as well. 

When the turtles sleep underwater, they slow down their metabolism. So, they require less oxygen. As I have mentioned before, some turtles can even take in oxygen through their cloaca, which is the organ they use for defecating and reproduction. 

Do Turtles Sleep On Water Or Land?

Land turtles will sleep on the land, and aquatic turtles prefer to sleep mostly in the water. Land turtles prefer to spend most of their time on the land. Hence, they also sleep there. Land turtles, like the box turtles, may hide under rocks and tree logs. They may also hide under leaves or burrow in moist sand while sleeping. 

On the other hand, aquatic turtles can sleep underwater for hours. They come to the land to bask in the light. During basking, they may take a nap for about an hour. 

When Do Turtles Sleep? 

Most turtles are diurnals, meaning they remain active during the day and sleep at night. So, your pet turtle may sleep at night if it is a diurnal reptile. 

However, there are turtles, like some Asian turtles and alligator snapping turtles, that are nocturnal. They sleep in the daytime and stay awake at night. Then again, all turtles take a short nap in their basking area. So, turtles can sleep at night for hours and also sleep for some time during basking. 

Do Turtles Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Turtles have eyelids like us. When they sleep, they close their eyelids to reduce the light exposure. This is one sign showing your turtle is actually sleeping. But there can be some exceptions. 

In some rare cases, some turtles may not close their eyes during sleep. Their eyes can be half open. Many map turtle owners have claimed to see map turtles sleeping with their eyes open. Turtles may also keep one eye close while the other one open or half open

Do Turtles Get Inside their Shell During Sleep? 

Many turtles get inside their shells during sleep because they feel safer this way. Their shells can be quite hard. Even the sharp teeth of predators cannot crack them. 

Not all turtles sleep inside their shells. For example, sea turtles and other softshell turtles do not get inside their shells as they are not strong enough to protect them. Besides, the shape of their carapace prevents them from tucking their head inside. 

Where Do Turtles Sleep In The Winter?

During winter, most turtles go into brumation. Their metabolism slows down, and it becomes hard for them to survive without adequate food. They also become easy targets for predators. 

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So, most freshwater aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles dive deep under the pond or lake and burrow themselves in the mud. Some semi-aquatic turtles and land turtles dig into sand or piles of leaves. Thus, the turtles keep their body temperature warm enough to survive the cold winter days. 

How Long Do Baby Turtles Sleep?

Baby turtles can sleep 4 to 10 hours depending on the turtle species. Their body is not fully developed. Moreover, when they are awake, they remain quite active. So, they need more rest to regain their energy. 

Baby aquatic turtles can hold their breath longer than land turtles. They can sleep for such a long time as they can sleep underwater and on land.  

Why Is My Turtle Sleeping A Lot?

As you can see, turtles can sleep about 4 to 10 hours a day. This is normal for turtles. But have you noticed your turtle sleeping more than 10 hours a day? 

Sleeping is necessary for turtles to stay healthy and stress-free. However, if you find your turtle sleeping more than it usually does, you should be concerned. 

Turtles usually sleep longer when the temperature gets low. Their tendency of going to hibernation gets triggered. 

So, always take the temperature of the turtle enclosure and the surrounding area. The average temperature for aquatic turtles should be 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and for land turtles, it should be 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Check the water heater of the water tank. Controlling the room temperature is also important. Always keep a thermometer nearby to check the temperature of the turtle tank. In case the problem continues, take your turtle to the vet as soon as possible for a health check-up.   

Do Sea Turtles Sleep on Land? 

Sea turtles are aquatic species. They spend most of their life in the sea. They sleep underwater or float on the seawater surface. People rarely found sea turtles sleeping on the land. 

This is because sea turtles avoid sleeping on land, as they can be the target of many predatory animals. Sometimes they are seen close to the seashore. They will keep half of their body outside the water and sleep on rocks or corals. 

Conclusion 

Do turtles sleep? By now, you must have got your answer with details. If you are concerned about your turtle’s sleeping pattern, research its species and sleeping habits. Different species of turtles have different sleeping habits. 

Maintaining a natural sleep cycle is crucial for a turtle’s mental and physical health. Always provide lots of fresh water and control the temperature to ensure your turtle gets its required sleep. Do not forget to turn off the lights at night for your turtle to have a good night’s sleep. 

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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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