How Long Do Turtles Sleep?

Can Turtles Sleep In The Dark

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

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A turtle can sleep for 7 months. Are you a little surprised? Well, turtles never fail to amaze us with their fun and weird facts. Compared to most other animals, turtles own a different yet interesting sleeping pattern.

A turtle sleeps around 4 to 7 hours a day. Depending on the weather, turtle’s age, and health condition, the snoozing period may extend to 9 to 10 hours. While hibernating, the sleeping continues for 3 to 7 months.

If you are interested in learning more about turtle’s sleeping patterns, this article is the piece you need. I will answer almost everything about a turtle’s sleeping habit.

How Long Do Turtles Sleep?

You already know a turtle sleeps around 4 to 7 hours. The sleeping hours of these pets can vary depending on the species, age, weather, and physical health. In hot weather or raised temperature, turtles can not sleep peacefully for several hours. On the other hand, on a chilly or grey day, your pet may sleep for more than 7 hours.

When it comes to age, the young and babies prefer doing activities than sleeping. They will sleep around 1 to 4 hours a day. And the rest of the time, you will find them swimming or playing inside the enclosure. Find out more interesting facts on baby turtle’s snoozing by clicking here.

The adult turtles on the contrary sleep for more than 4 hours. The older they grow the more they sleep and become less active in daily tasks. Apart from the sleeping time, the turtles often snooze on the basking dock. You will find them taking a nap several times a day.

What Are The Turtle’s Sleeping Hours?

When do turtles sleep? The answer lies in the species. Some turtles sleep at night while some prefer staying awake in the dark. They are called nocturnal turtles. For example, green turtles.

The green turtles, and similar species, spend their night roaming around and hunting their prey. During the daytime, you will find these turtles in deep sleep. Well, moving, hunting, or protecting themselves at night is not a big of a deal for these species. It is because turtles can see in the dark. Click here for more details.

However, most turtles in captivity and the wild are diurnal. It means they divide the whole 24 hours period into two cycles, day and night. During the day time, these turtles complete all their tasks and daily activities. When the sun sets or you turn off the light, these pets relax their muscles and prepare for sleep.

All the most popular pet turtle species, for example, red eared sliders, softshell turtles, painted turtles, box turtles, musk turtles, etc sleep during the nighttime.

How Do Turtles Sleep?

A newbie who hasn’t observed a sleeping turtle may get confused about their sleeping pattern. For example, do turtles sleep in their shells? Or do turtles sleep with their eyes open?

You know turtles are a wild species. So, they nurture an instinct of self protection. They tend to sleep in such a pattern that they can shield or run away from any danger. The hard shell may work as a protection, but why not staying alert? This is the belief of the turtles.

Most of the hard shelled turtles sleep retracting their legs and head in the shell. So, in a sense, you can say turtles sleep in their shells. But the soft shelled turtles, especially sea turtles can not retract to their shells. As a result, they have to sleep keeping their heads and legs out of the shell.

In a captive situation, the turtles may sleep extracting or retracting to the shell. If the pets feel secure, they will keep their legs and heads out. In the wild, turtles adopt different techniques to protect themselves from predators. For example, camouflaging.

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Camouflaging is a method where turtles blend into nature. They throw dirt or mud on their shells and pretend to be a log or pile of mud. Surprisingly, it works.

Now comes the most asked question. Do turtles sleep keeping their eyes open? The answer is no in most cases.

Turtles are one of the fewest animals that have eyelids. And having eyelids means you can use them to eliminate the extra light from the environment. Turtles do the same. They close their eyes while sleeping to avoid the brightness. Closing eyelids also relax their muscles and helps in having a sound sleep.

Turtles even close their eyes when they feel stressed or take a rest or a nap. Some turtle species will still sleep opening their eyes, but it is a rare case.

Do you know your turtle may not be sleeping yet its eyes are closed? This can be a sign of an eye infection. Find out more details by clicking here.

Where Do Turtles Sleep?

A turtle will fall asleep anywhere it feels comfortable. It can be underwater, on the basking dock, among the small vegetation, or on the water surface. Each turtle has a preferable spot to sleep in and they do not switch to another place easily.

Where a turtle will sleep, it depends on their species. For example, red eared sliders sleep at the bottom of the tank or pond. The map turtles look for small vegetation and soft muddy places for snoozing. Again, the painted turtles will bury themselves with mud or dirt at the bottom of the pond while sleeping.

Sea turtles tend to sleep in deep water. If they are near the shore, they will probably hide among the rocks to take a night’s sleep. Do not think all turtles sleep in the water. Terrestrial turtles, like box turtles, sleep in dry areas. Some turtles sleep on the basking docks too.

How Do Turtles Sleep Underwater?

You know turtles snooze for almost 4 to 7 hours and sometimes 9 to 10 hours. How do they manage to stay underwater for too long? According to stats, an average turtle can stay underwater for 45 minutes while continuing daily activities. For the sea turtles, the time extends to 2 hours.

A turtle can not stay underwater for 7 or 8 hours with one breath. It has to come to the surface to replenish its lungs, even during sleep. That is why experts compare a turtle’s sleep more like a resting period. But while snoozing, these pets manage to stay underwater for hours with one breath. How?

While sleeping, turtles slow down their metabolism. So, their heart rate and energy wastage drop. And eventually, their oxygen consumption gets limited. The less a turtle uses oxygen, the longer it can stay underwater.

Are you wondering about turtle’s underwater breathing? Most turtles are bi-modal breathers or in simple words, they can breathe in both air and water medium. Their bodies are biologically programmed for this task.

Imagine the breathing system of a softshell turtle. They are one of the rarest turtle species that can fulfill their 100% oxygen requirements even in water. In the throat, they have small tissues with blood vessels. The surface of the pharynx is great for oxygen absorption. This type of breathing is called pharyngeal breathing.

Similarly, all other turtle species switch to their unique underwater breathing technique during sleep. It helps them exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide from the water. Want to know more about turtle’s underwater breathing? Click here.

Can Turtles Sleep In Dark?

Many turtle owners get confused about whether they need a night light for their turtles or not. I have already mentioned that turtles sleep with closed eyes so that they can avoid the brightness. It means these pets prefer sleeping in the dark. The lesser the brightness, the more relaxed your turtles will feel.

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I have observed my turtles for a long time. They fall asleep 10 or 15 minutes after I switch off the light of the room. One or two of them may roam or swim lazily. But soon, they fall asleep too.

I think this is quite the story for all turtles. Yet some turtles may have other sleeping habits. Of course, you can not predict the turtles, as they are weird. Experts believe lights or brightness may irritate the pet’s eyes and mess with their sleeping cycles.

Turtle owners sometimes set up night light inside the enclosure. They do it for several purposes. Such as,

  • The new turtles or baby turtles may tend to escape the tank in the dark. They do it out of curiosity and for fun. Owners set up a low powered light inside the enclosure to observe the position and activities of the pets.
  • The hatchlings require heat at night. So, vets and experts suggest installing a night light inside the tank.
  • In severe cold, turtles may hibernate in lack of warmth. A night light can provide heat to those turtles who sleep on the basking dock.

So, setting up a night light won’t do any harm if you choose the right one. Infrared or night viewing lights are perfect for turtle’s sleeping hours. It is because these bulbs do not give off any brightness but provide a considerable amount of heat. The red or blue lights also work for the turtle’s night cycle.

Check this article to get the best night light for a turtle’s enclosure.

Hibernation Is The Longest Sleep For Turtles

I have previously mentioned that turtles can sleep for 7 months. Many of you might have doubted me. But trust me, it is a fact.

Have you heard of the turtle’s hibernation process? It is similar to the sleeping of a turtle. A turtle is an ectothermic species. It can not generate heat and so rely on the environment for warmth.

When the temperature drops due to the winter, the turtles slow down their metabolism to cope with the environment. They become less active, drop their heart and oxygen consumption rate. The pets go for a long sleep for the whole winter.

Turtles usually hibernate at the bottom of the tank for 3 to 7 months. The period depends on how long winter lasts in your region. Now you know the underwater breathing techniques of the turtles. So, you may not have any doubts.

Do Wild Turtles Have Different Sleeping Patterns?

Imagine the environment of a wild and a captive turtle. The wild turtles always stay in the fear of attack from the predators. This intuition haunts them in their sleep too. So, they snooze in such a manner that they can be always prepared for the worst. For example, by retracting to the shells or camouflaging.

This does not mean a captive turtle does not have the fear of sudden attack. It lies in their genetics. With time, they may feel secure and safe in the enclosure and sleep more comfortably. But it does not mean these pets will not take any precautions.

The captive turtles also sleep retracted to the shells when they feel insecure. In some cases, you may notice the exceptional sleeping habits of wild turtles. For example, the lakeside turtles get used to human contact. And so, they sleep comfortably in the open area.

Turtle Is Always Sleeping: Why?

Adult or old turtles love to sleep. But does it mean they will sleep all day and night? Of course not. If your turtle is always taking a nap or keeping its eyes closed, then you must give it your full attention.

A turtle will sleep more than usual in 3 cases. Such as,

  • If the turtle is hibernating
  • If the pet is sick
  • If there is no proper tank heater and heating lamp in the enclosure

You know in the cold season, turtles hibernate to cope with the environment. The hibernating process is similar to a long sleep. If your turtle is in hibernation, it will sleep at the bottom of the tank burying itself with mud and dirt. The sleep may last for 3 to 7 months. The turtle will barely get up and come out for drinking water.

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A sick turtle tends to sleep more than usual. Chronic diseases cause fatigue and lethargy in these pets. So, the turtles will take longer rests. However, sometimes eye infections lead to puffy and closed eyes. It may seem like your turtle is sleeping, but in reality, it can not open its eyes. Usually, bacterial attack or poor water quality is responsible for your turtle’s eye condition.

Tank heater and heating lamp, both are essentials for a turtle tank, especially during the cold season. Without proper warmth, the pet will become slow and sleep all day. This is undoubtedly unhealthy.

If your turtle sleeps more than usual, then determine the cause first. Even if it is hibernating, consult with a vet. Hibernation can be a stressful process if the pet is not prepared for it. Also, regular check up is mandatory. Apart from these, make sure the habitat is perfect for your pet’s well being.

Turtle Is Not Sleeping At All: Reasons And Solution

I know turtles love sleeping. But in some conditions, turtles may not get sufficient sleep. For example,

  • Too much brightness in the room may irritate your turtle’s eyes. It can also mess with their sleeping cycle. Keeping the lights on at night may lead to sleep deprivation in turtles.
  • Who does not prefer sleeping in a quiet place? It goes the same for turtles. If you do continuous chaos around the turtle’s enclosure during its snoozing hour, the pet will not sleep.
  • Turtles can not stand too hot temperatures. If the enclosure temperature rises for some reason, the pet will refuse to sleep.

Sleep deprivation is not only dangerous for humans but also the turtles. They will stress out more often and become lazy. What is that solution? You have to create a perfect environment for them to sleep. In the next section, I will describe how you can make your turtle sleep peacefully.

How To Create A Perfect Sleeping Environment For Turtles?

Providing the turtles a perfect environment to sleep is really important. Here is how you can do it:

  • Place the turtle terrarium in a quiet place. Make sure no outside noise can annoy the pet.
  • Turn off the light in the room around 7 to 9 pm. This will initiate a biological alarm in the turtle’s mind and it will go to sleep maintaining the schedule. You can set up a night viewing light to observe the pet and for providing the heat. Apart from this, the UV bulb and heating light should be turned on at least 10 to 12 hours a day.
  • Do not let the children or guests irritate or play with the turtle when it is sleeping.
  • Lower the tank water heater temperature to a few degrees. This will help the pet hold its breath a little bit longer.
  • The water quality also affects the turtle’s sleep. So, set up a water filter inside the enclosure. Also, make sure the pH level does not bother the turtle’s eyes.
  • Put a layer of a substrate at the bottom of the tank. Also, plant small vegetation and place some small and big rocks inside the enclosure. Most turtle species prefer sleeping among vegetation.
  • You can provide a cover over the tank. Turtles may try to escape in the dark. The lid will ensure that your pet is inside the terrarium.

A turtle will wake up when its sleep is over. Do not force the pet to get up. If you think the turtle is sleeping more than usual, consult a vet.


Most owners overlook the sleeping habit of the turtles. If you want your turtle to be healthy, it must get sufficient sleep every day. A new pet may not get a sound sleep at first. But if the environment is safe and welcoming, soon the turtle will adjust to the new life.

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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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