Most Common Sea Turtle Sleeping Questions Answered!

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

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Sea turtles are one of the most fascinating reptiles in the world. They spend most of their life in the sea and rarely come to land. Their mysterious life in the sea makes people wonder about them. The most common sea turtle questions are about how and where sea turtles sleep. 

Like any other animal, sea turtles also need to sleep to perform daily activities. These amazing reptiles have developed a habit of sleeping underwater for hours. How sea turtles stay underwater for so long often baffles people. 

In this article, I will answer the most common sea turtle questions. So, let’s learn more about sea turtles and their sleeping habit!

Where Do Sea Turtles Sleep? 

Sea turtles are aquatic animals. So, it is not surprising that they sleep in the water. Sea turtles like the Green and Olive Ridley turtles have been seen sleeping under rocks and coral reefs. They are even seen resting on the sea bed.

They may sleep in deep or shallow water. Sea turtles usually sleep underwater and not on land for safety reasons. Since sea turtles are very slow on land, they can become easy prey to many predators. But in the water, the turtles are much faster and can escape easily from predators. 

Besides, most sea turtles prefer solitary life than staying in groups. So, they choose to rest underwater where they are not disturbed.

How Long Do Sea Turtles Sleep?

Sea turtles can sleep up to 11 hours a day, depending on the sunlight exposure. Interestingly, they can sleep or nap underwater for 4 to 7 hours! 

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How long a turtle can hold its breath underwater depends on its stress level. The less stressed a turtle feels, the longer it can stay underwater. This is how sea turtles manage to hibernate underwater for months. They find a stress-free environment and slow down their metabolism to hibernate.  

Can Sea Turtles Breath Under Water? 

As sea turtles live primarily in the sea, many people think they can breathe underwater. But it is not true. So, how can sea turtles sleep underwater for such a long time?

Sea turtles cannot breathe underwater. But they have this amazing ability to hold their breaths for up to seven hours, depending on their situation. 

A stress-free and calm sea turtle can stay underwater for 4 to 7 hours without coming to the surface. However, when a sea turtle swims in the water, it comes to the surface for a few minutes to breathe in oxygen. Then dive into the water again. An active turtle can come to the surface every few minutes for oxygen. 

How Do Sea Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Now, the question is how sea turtles can hold their breath and stay underwater for so long. Sea turtles have changed their body over time. Their adaptations have made their respiratory system efficient in holding breath for hours underwater. 

Here is how sea turtles can sleep underwater for hours:

Large Lungs

Sea turtles have larger lungs compared to other reptiles. They can take in more oxygen when they come to the surface and hold their breath for hours because of their lungs. 

But they can store oxygen for long hours only when they are calm. When a turtle gets panicked, its heart rate increases. A stressed sea turtle will use up its stored oxygen too soon. This is why many sea turtles die within some time after getting caught in a net or other obstacles. 

Controlling Oxygen Level 

Sea turtles have this fantastic ability to control oxygen distribution in their body which helps them to sleep a long time underwater. Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. They depend on their surroundings to regulate their temperature. Similarly, they can adapt their body according to the environment. 

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When sea turtles dive into the water, they know they must conserve the oxygen in their lungs and use it efficiently. Their life depends on it. When they sleep, they slow down their heartbeat to lessen the use of oxygen. Their heartbeat only once every 9 minutes. They slow down their metabolism, enabling them to stay for hours in water. 

Cloacal Respiration 

Sea turtles hibernate underwater for a few months during winter. During this time, they do not come out of the water to breathe oxygen. So, how can they survive this long time without oxygen? Well, the answer will amaze you. 

During hibernation, sea turtles take oxygen from the water through their cloaca. In simple language mean they breathe through their butt. Since the turtles become almost motionless, they can survive on the little oxygen they get under the sea. 

What Time Do Sea Turtles Go to Sleep?

Sea turtles sleep up to 11 hours is about half a day. When sea turtles sleep depends on the light exposure and the temperature of the water. Most sea turtle species sleep at night. But they may take a nap during the day. 

During the daytime, sea turtles may nap in shallow water near the seashore. They do not fall into a deep sleep. They remain alert about potential danger. But as the night approaches, they will move to deeper water to have a deep sleep. 

Do Sea Turtles Sleep Out of Water?

Sea turtles are seen sleeping mostly in the water. They are rarely seen resting on the land. But the land is also very important for sea turtles for many reasons. 

Sea turtles will come to the beach to find a mate and reproduce. They build their nests on sandy beaches. During this time, they may take a nap on the seashore. So, you might find sea turtles lying and resting on the beach once during spring and summer. But they only sleep on land when they feel there is no predator to hunt them. 

Do Sea Turtles Breathe When They Sleep?

Sea turtles cannot breathe through their mouth when they are underwater. They can hold their breath for hours for their lung capacity. Thus, they can sleep underwater without breathing. 

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However, sea turtles can breathe through their cloaca during hibernation. They do not have to come to the surface to breathe in air. For example, Green and black sea turtles can absorb dissolved oxygen from the water through their skin and cloaca.  

How Is Sleeping Important for Sea Turtles?

Sea turtles need to sleep for many hours a day. How much a sea turtle will sleep depends on its daily activity. And a sea turtle can be quite busy. 

Here is how sleeping is essential for a sea turtle:

Conserving energy and reenergizing: 

Sleeping is crucial for a sea turtle’s health as it can swim in the sea for hours. Since sea turtles have to swim for a long time, they conserve their energy by sleeping. Also, after long hours of sleeping, a sea turtle must sleep to reenergize. 

Maintaining a healthy immunity system: 

Sea turtles must have extended hours of sleep to maintain their immunity system. Like humans, sea turtles that have a sleeping problems can become sick. 

Reducing stress and the risk of disease:

Sleeping helps a turtle reduce stress levels and the risk of developing stress-related diseases. It also helps a turtle to fight against infectious diseases. 

Boost metabolism: 

Sea turtles need to sleep to boost their metabolism.Turtles must perform various bodily functions like physical growth and reproduction. A sea turtle with low energy cannot participate in the mating process, which can affect the future number of sea turtles.   

Maintaining hormonal balance: 

Seaturtles need a good night’s sleep to keep hormonal balance. An imbalance of hormones can cause a lack of hunger, eventually leading to a lack of energy. 


Hopefully, this article has answered your sea turtle sleeping questions. Sea turtles sleep a lot, and they need it for valid reasons. As they spend most of their time in the sea, they have enabled themselves to sleep underwater. They can sleep in shallow and deep water, on the sea bed, or under a coral reef. 

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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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