Do you have one of those rabbits who never seem to go to sleep? Sure, they loaf around or sprawl out sometimes, but they’re not actually sleeping. While some rabbits are quite comfortable flopping over on their side, many rabbits are able to snooze even when they look wide awake.
Rabbits tend to be light sleepers. They will take many short naps throughout the night and day instead of getting one long resting period. Sometimes these naps will be only a few minutes. But pet rabbits that feel safe in their home environments are sleeping for longer periods of time.
Rabbits have been obliged by prey animals to adapt their sleep habits so that they will more easily become aware of danger very quickly. This means it can be difficult to recognize when a rabbit is sleeping in the first place. You might not even know your rabbit is sleeping or not. Let’s take a look at the sleep habits of rabbits, and understand how to tell when a rabbit falls asleep based on some very subtle behaviors.
How much sleep do rabbits need?
Studies have found that rabbits will get around eight and a half hours of sleep in a day on average. However, a rabbit that feels very comfortable and safe in their enclosures will often get even more sleep (closer to 10+ hours a day). Rabbits don’t get 7-12 hours of sleep all at once. Instead, rabbits are known for taking mini naps throughout the day. Maybe they’ll get a few longer sleep sessions every once in a while too.
Not all of this is deep sleep, though. Rabbits are able to drowse off for very short periods of time to help them fall asleep. During these light drowsy periods, rabbits have the ability to snap back to reality very quickly. They can become aware and take off running in only a handful of seconds.
Even rabbits in a night of deep sleep are able to return to wakefulness pretty quickly. Periods of deep sleep are typically longer than their light sleeping sessions. Even in this state, a rabbit’s senses are able to transmit signals to their brains so they will be able to snap back into reality very quickly.
Do rabbits sleep at night or during the day?
Rabbits are not active at night (nocturnal ) or active during the day (diurnal) animals. Instead, they are classified as crepuscular. This means that rabbits are actually active around the dim light hours of dawn and dusk.
In the wild, being crepuscular gives rabbits a good advantage over some of their main predators. such as hawks (diurnal animals), hunt during the daylight hours, and can’t see as fully at night. And such as owls (Nocturnal animals), have trouble seeing before the hours of darkness. Rabbits are able to limit their confrontations with both types of predators by being active in the hours between light and darkness.
This does not mean that rabbits are only active during dusk and dawn, though. Rabbits often have occasional short bursts of energy during the day between some of their longer sleep sessions. So rabbits do sleep during the day and at night, but generally not straight through. They will take many quick naps interspersed with active periods for playing and eating.
Do rabbits need darkness or a night light to sleep?
I don’t advise using a night light or trying to cover your rabbit’s entire enclosure and put them in whole darkness. The best thing you can do to help your rabbit keep a natural sleep schedule is to give them as much natural light (sunlight) as possible.
Because of their crepuscular nature and their tendency to take naps all day long, rabbits are already capable of sleeping with the light on, in darkness, or anywhere in between. Instead, keep them in a room that receives (sunlight) natural light. Their sensations will keep them on a regular sleep schedule. Rooms with sunlight are also good because you can open a window to give your rabbit access to UVB rays that will help them from becoming Vitamin D deficient.
Can rabbit sleep with their eyes open?
You might think your rabbit will not fall asleep because they never close their eyes, but in reality, they’re sneaking a quick nap right in front of you. Rabbits often do, and can, sleep with their eyes open and closed too, but usually, rabbits will only close their eyes when they are sleeping if they feel very comfortable and safe.
Rabbits have the ability to keep their eyes open for long periods of time because they have a transparent, thin membrane, named the third eyelid, over top of each of their eyes. This third eyelid does the job of shielding it from debris and dust and keeping a rabbit’s eye moist. Your rabbit doesn’t have to blink very often because the thin membrane of the third eyelid does most of the work.
Rabbits keep their eyes open because their light receptors will keep working and sending signals to their brain as they are sleeping. This is very important in the wild. If a predator approaches, the signals will still reach the rabbit’s brain. They will be able to snap into motion much quicker than if they had their eyes closed. It’s one of the ways rabbit anatomy helps them be an amazing survival species.
Pet rabbits in our homes are much more likely to feel safe. It’s more common to see them nodding off with their eyes half-lidded or even closed completely. This is a sign that your rabbit feels safe and happy at home.
Can you train your rabbit to sleep at night?
Because rabbits are not diurnal like we humans are, they often have some active moments during the night. For some rabbits, this means that they loudly shake and chew the cage bars to get your attention during certain points during the night. It would be much more convenient if a rabbit could learn to sleep through the night as humans do.
Actually, you can’t teach your rabbit to sleep through the night. It’s something that’s just not in a rabbit’s biology. They are made to have short naps interspersed with some moments of activity. However, Here’s how to help your rabbit be less noisy during the night:
- Give your rabbit enough exercise during the day: the best way to keep your rabbit from getting restless overnight, you’ll want to make sure to play with your rabbit for long enough or give them enough exercise during the day. Try to give them some time out in the evening to have fun so that they’ll be more likely to calm down overnight.
- Keep a schedule: To keep your rabbit from waking you up a little too early is to keep them on a consistent schedule. When a rabbit knows exactly what time you’re going to get up and feed them, they’ll start to get excited and active at that same time every day.
- Make sure their home is large enough: Some rabbits get angry, frustrated, and stressed because they don’t have enough space when they have closed away in their cage for the night. Make sure your rabbit’s enclosure is 3 to 5 times the full length of your rabbit so they have enough space to be joyful even when they can’t be out in the house.
- Give them toys: Rabbits can easily get bored, so you want to give them some toys to amuse themselves while you are sleeping. You’ll probably want to avoid toys that have loud clacking pieces or bells, but there are a lot of cardboard, wooden, or natural options that can be fun for rabbits to chew on and toss around.