Tortoise Sleeping Guide: Duration, Habits & Patterns

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

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Tortoises love to sleep! I mean it. Let these creatures have a sound sleep, and they will act like the happiest pets on the earth. But unfortunately, most owners have little knowledge about the sleeping habits of a tortoise.

Tortoises are diurnal, which means they stay active during the day and sleep all night. Usually, a baby tortoise sleeps around 19 to 22 hours, and the young and adult tortoises sleep about 12 hours a day. The habitat environment always influences the sleeping habits and hours of a tortoise.

Do not miss the following article if you want your tortoise to have uninterrupted sleep. I will discuss the healthy sleeping patterns of tortoises and all the inconsistencies you might face as an owner.

Tortoise Sleeping Guide: Duration, Habits & Patterns

You surely can not ignore the importance of sleep in tortoises. I mean, of course, these creatures enjoy sleeping for hours. But is it just pleasure?

No. Like all other animals, tortoises require a sound sleep to function their body. A sleep-deprived tortoise will have low immunity and fall sick too often.

So, how many hours should a tortoise sleep to have a healthy life? Or where exactly should a tortoise sleep? Well, find these answers in the upcoming subsections.

How Many Hours Does A Tortoise Sleep?

A baby tortoise sleeps 19 to 22 hours a day, and even sometimes, the hatchling might sleep the whole day. On the contrary, an adult tortoise sleeps around 12 hours a day.

See, while a baby tortoise sleeps all day, an adult one only sleeps half a day. I know a 19 to 22 hours sleep sounds too much. But the tortoise hatchlings require this rest to develop their health.

Many researchers believe that this long sleep is a genetic behavior for baby tortoises. In the wild, these hatchlings can not roam around because of their tiny physique. They fear running into a predator. So, the babies spend most of their days sleeping.

But yes, when the hatchlings start growing up, their sleep hours reduce. The young and adult turtles will hunt down the prey during the daytime and rest at night.

Even though you raise your tortoises in a captive environment, you can barely change this sleep habit.

Now, an adult tortoise might not always sleep for 12 hours. The duration extends or reduces depending on the habitat environment.

Is sleeping fewer or more hours healthy for the tortoises? Of course, not. Even though 19 to 22 hours of sleep is okay for a baby, your adult tortoise should cross the 12 hours sleep limit.

If your tortoise is not sleeping healthy, you need to determine the cause and solve it immediately.

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Where Should A Tortoise Sleep?

Tortoises are wild animals and barely care about the place they are sleeping on as long as it is secured. These creatures generally sleep on the enclosure substrate, rock, between deep vegetation, or in holes.

It is true that tortoises do not care about their beds. But yes, it is always nice to have a perfect spot for sleeping.

It has been observed that turtles and tortoises also sleep in the same space every day. So, you can build up an excellent habit in these pets by providing them the perfect spot for napping.

Tortoises will sleep anywhere as long as the spot fulfills the following requirements,

  • The space is secured and free of predators.
  • The temperature of the spot is well maintained, not too hot or too cold.
  • There should be absolute darkness while the tortoise is sleeping. The pets might tolerate the faint trace of lights, but intense lighting messes up their sleep cycle.

Tortoises sleep peacefully if they find the perfect spot. Many tortoise species have their own preferences when it comes to choosing a sleeping space. Here are the possible bed options for the tortoises,

1. Substrate:

Tortoises might sleep on the substrate without any support. Natural soil is an ideal substrate for a tortoise enclosure. But make sure it contains no pesticide or chemical.

See also  Baby Tortoise Diet & Feeding Guide For Beginners

Other than this, sterilized soil is also a good option as it kills any bacteria or germ. Other choices are coconut coir, peat moss, sphagnum moss, soil and coconut coir mix, cypress mulch, orchid bark, coconut husk chips, etc.

2. Rock:

I bet you have seen the cute pic of a tortoise sleeping on the rock. These creatures often use rocks as support.

3. Holes:

Many tortoise species, for example, Gopher tortoises, prefer digging up their habitat. These tortoises might use the tunnel as a sleeping spot too. You can provide the captive turtles with layers of the substrate. So, the tortoises can burrow if they want.

4. Deep Branches:

Each individual tortoise species has its own preference for sleeping spots. Many tortoises love taking naps amidst deep branches. The bushes camouflage the tortoises, keeping them safe from predators. Also, the plants become the source of their meals.

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When Should My Tortoise Go To Bed?

I have already mentioned that tortoises are diurnal species. They will play around all day and require a thorough rest at night. But will your tortoises sleep on their own during nighttime?

If you are talking about wild tortoises, then yes. These creatures will go to sleep right after the sun sets down. According to a report, the activity rate of turtles and tortoises during the night is around 20%. It means these reptiles spend their nights sleeping, and in rare cases, they might stay awake.

Now, in captivity, the sleeping pattern of a tortoise can get interrupted. If you keep the tortoise in a chaotic room or keep the lights on 24/7, the pet will hardly have a sound sleep. This is why the experts suggest maintaining a sleeping routine and keeping a few things in order. Such as,

  • Turn off the UV and heating light right after the sun is down. Make sure the UV lamp is on for 12 hours a day.
  • The enclosure should be totally dark because tortoises feel comfortable sleeping in pitch black. It also builds a sleeping habit among the pet tortoises. Another thing, tortoises and turtles sleep with their eyes closed. So, any bright light will mess with their sleep.
  • In the wild, the temperature drops by a few degrees during the night. You can do the same thing to ensure the sound sleep of your tortoise.

In short, tortoises sleep after sunset. In captivity, you have to turn off the enclosure lights so that the tortoises get sleepy.

How Do Tortoises Sleep?

Each tortoise has its own preferred sleeping style. While some torts sleep in their shell, retracting in their legs and head, others sleep relaxing their body.

Many tortoises use their burrow as a sleeping den and go in the hole when it is bedtime. Tortoises often use rocks or any other object to support their heads while sleeping.

You can not predict your tortoise’s sleeping position. These reptiles will sleep however it pleases them.

Why Is My Tortoise Always Sleeping?

Tortoises generally sleep more than usual due to a cold habitat temperature, improper lighting and enclosure arrangement, and sickness. Mental stress and dehydration can also be responsible for your tortoise’s oversleeping mode.

The exact sleeping hours of a captive tortoise are unpredictable as many factors are influencing it. Generally, an adult tortoise will sleep around 12 hours, and the hours might extend up to 22 hours for a baby. The reasons that mess up with your tortoise’s healthy sleeping hours are,

  • Cold enclosure temperature
  • Improper lighting
  • Dehydration
  • Health issues

Let’s talk about these factors in more detail.

1. Cold Habitat Temperature

Tortoises are cold-blooded species and require external heat to keep their bodies warm. What happens if the temperature drops?

Well, tortoises slow down their metabolism to cope with the temperature fall. The creatures will stop eating or drinking, become less active, drop their heart and oxygen consumption rate to save energy. As a result, you will find the tortoises sleeping more than usual.

So, yes, the temperature of the enclosure controls your tortoise’s activity level and sleep hours.

The ideal temperatures for tortoise enclosure are,

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Cool side: 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit

Warm side: 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit


On Both sides: 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit

The temperature differences make the tortoises realize bedtime. If you maintain a cool temperature during the day, the pets will be dozing off the whole day.

However, make sure the enclosure temperature never falls below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, the pets will hibernate. Generally, the tortoises start preparing for the process if the temperature drops under 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. The Lighting Arrangement Is Poor

You can not ignore the role UV exposures have in building the health of a tortoise. While UVA rays keep the tortoises calm and active, the UVB exposures are responsible for their stable bone and shell structure. Also, the UV rays have a direct link to the metabolism of the tortoise.

Tortoises have to be in the presence of UV exposures for 12 hours a day. Otherwise, the pets will have a messed up metabolism and interrupted sleep cycle.

If your tortoise is sleeping for more hours, maybe it is because the pet is not getting enough UV rays. You have to check the sources to determine the exact cause.

In the wild, tortoises bask outdoors, where they soak the natural UVB and UVA rays coming directly from the sun. This is also an option if you are raising your tortoise in an outdoor enclosure. But, in the case of an indoor habitat, you have to set up an artificial source of UV rays.

The UV bulbs are a perfect choice if you have an indoor tortoise enclosure. While buying a UV light for your tortoise habitat, consider reading through the package label. Avoid the models, which include full-spectrum or sun-spectrum, as they provide a negligible amount of UV.

Which intensity UV bulb should you install in your tortoise habitat? It totally depends on the tortoise species.

While desert tortoises, European and Mediterranean tortoises prefer 10 to 13% UV lights, the tropical ones settle for much less power. Consult with an expert or the store salesman before making the purchase. However, you can manipulate the bulb intensity by increasing or decreasing its set up height.

Remember, UV bulbs do not last forever. The efficiency of these lights decreases with the usage time. Generally, a high-quality UV bulb offers excellent service for 6 to 12 months, but you should not take any risk. Replace the old UV light with a new one once in 6 months.

Setting up a heating lamp and UV light in the enclosure might hurt your aesthetic feeling. In that case, go for the combined bulbs, which offer both heat and UV rays. Mercury vapor bulbs are an excellent example of such lights.

UV lights in the tortoise habitat should be turned on for 12 hours and off for the rest hours. Keep it off after the dark and on during the day. The whole process makes the tortoises understand the sleep and active cycle. Hence, the poor UV quality disturbs their sleep cycle.

Given the plethora of options available in the market, it is challenging to find the best UV light for your tortoise. But do not worry. I am making the purchasing process easy for you. Check out this article and get the on-point information you require to make the right decision.

3. Your Tortoise Is Not Consuming Enough Water

Tortoises are not a big fan of swimming or playing in the pond. Yet, they require water for drinking and soaking their bodies. If the tortoises do not get enough water, they will be dehydrated.

Dehydration leads to lethargy and other health issues. As a result, you find your tortoise dozing off most of the time.

You can solve this issue by building a shallow water source in the habitat. The pets will go there and use the water as per need. Provide fresh water every day and clean the bowl once or twice a week.

4. Check Your Tortoise’s Physical Health

What if your tortoise habitat is top-notch quality, you are maintaining the environment properly, and still, your tortoise is sleeping more than usual?

The pet tortoise is possibly suffering from physical or mental issues. I will talk about mental health in the next section. Let’s discuss the physical condition first.

Health is everything for the tortoises. You will find these creatures sleeping more hours and sitting in a lazy pose when they get sick.

Tortoises can fall victim to many diseases. Some potential illnesses are,

  • Respiratory disease
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Bone and shell disease
  • Parasites, etc.

You need to treat your tortoise immediately if it is showing any signs of illness. Here are some common symptoms of sickness,

  • Runny nose
  • Swollen and puffy eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping more hours
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss or gain in a short time
  • Loose stool
  • Soft shell

I suggest you take your tortoises to the vet once or twice a year for a regular check-up. This way, you can prevent any potential health issues in your tortoise.

5. The Tortoise is Going Through Stress

Stress messes up with the sleep cycle of humans, and the same happens with tortoises. These creatures face issues if,

  • The environment is new to them
  • Habitat set up is improper
  • They are continuously getting disturbed by the surrounding
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Once you resolve the issue, the tortoises return to the usual sleep routine.

Do Tortoises Sleep In Water?

Tortoises do not sleep in the water, but turtles do. Turtles are aquatic or semi-aquatic species, and can hold their breath for almost 4 to 7 hours. So, sleeping underwater is not a big deal for them. On the other hand, tortoises are more adapted to the land and swim less often.

If you put your tortoise in water, it will float. However, in deep water, tortoises might drown. So, you can not expect these creatures to sleep there.

You might notice your tortoise spending time in the water, and they do it to stay hydrated. Tortoises soak their shells very often. Otherwise, their shells will get dry and flaky.

Do Tortoises Take Nap?

Have you ever caught your tortoise taking a nap in the lazy noon? I know tortoises are diurnal, and daytime is not for sleeping. Yet, these reptiles love dozing during the day. While excessive napping indicates health issues, resting for a while in a long tiring day is totally normal.

If your tortoise is taking naps more frequently, I bet it can not be healthy. Here are the possible reasons,

  • The daytime temperature is cold for the tortoise. Remember, during the day, the cool side temperature should be 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, the warm side should be 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Enclosure UV light is not working, or the tortoise is not getting enough rays. Again, it is possible that you are not maintaining the proper turn on and off time for the UV bulb.
  • Your tortoise is dehydrated.
  • Lack of airflow can also make the tortoises take more naps. The pets try to limit oxygen usage by sleeping more hours. Glass-walled habitats often fail to provide the tortoises with proper airflow.
  • A newly bought tortoise might take more naps because of stress. Once it is adopted to the home, it will sleep healthy.
  • Parasite attacks or other health conditions are also responsible for excessive naps.

Tortoise Sleeping More Hours And Not Eating: Why?

Is your tortoise sleeping more hours and showing less appetite? If yes, your tortoise may be preparing for brumation.

You know tortoises are ectothermic or cold-blooded species. They depend on external heat to regulate their body temperature. If the surrounding temperature drops, these creatures have to modify their activity to cope with the situation.

Generally, tortoises tend to slow down their metabolism, limit oxygen consumption, drop heartbeat rate and activity level while brumating. A tortoise may enter into the brumating state because it is winter. Again, the temperature drop in the enclosure might be responsible for this.

In the wild, tortoises brumate to survive the winter. It is more likely a sleeping state, and tortoises brumate among the dried leaves or hays.

However, it is not advisable to brumate a tortoise in captivity. Why? It is because brumation requires a lot of energy and pre-preparation. If you make any mistake, your pet tortoise might end up dead. Also, never brumate a sick tortoise.

So, try not to brumate a pet tortoise, or even if you do, ask a vet first.

Now, many tortoise species must go through brumation to have healthy growth. You really should check the species requirement before concluding anything.

Tortoises lose weight during the brumation process. The pets might act sluggish even after coming out of the state. You have to take the tortoises to a vet for a health check-up and feed them well.

Brumation can last for months, depending on the winter. Usually, the brumation period is from October to May.

Awaking a brumating tortoise is not challenging, but you have to do it in a few stages. You can not just raise the enclosure temperature. Instead, increase a few degrees over the weeks, and finally, the tortoise will return to regular life.

Is It Ok To Wake A Sleeping Tortoise?

If your tortoise is brumating, waking it up after 4 months is safe. If you are talking about the usual case, wake your tortoise up in case it is oversleeping.

Tortoises love to sleep and will take naps whenever they feel like it. Sometimes tortoises might sleep more than 12 hours a day. It can be the temperature or some other issues. You might try to wake your tortoise by raising the temperature.

If you poke your tortoise and it hasn’t got enough sleep, your pet will hiss at you for sure. Again, less sleep can stress the tortoises and make them sick. Hence, let the pets have enough uninterrupted sleep.

Now, if you have a tortoise, do not wake it up before 4 months. However, the brumation period might be short, depending on the region. So, you better talk with a vet.

If you wake your brumating tortoise early, it can be unhealthy and harmful for the pet.


Like all other animals, sleep is essential for tortoises too. An adult tortoise sleeps for 12 hours, but the babies might sleep for 19 hours or more. If your tortoise is sleeping more than the healthy limit, you should determine the cause and eliminate it. Your tortoise will be fit if it gets enough sleep every day.

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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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