When Do Reptiles Sleep? (Explained and Quick Facts)

Reptiles are a common sight in our everyday lives outdoors. But here is where it gets more interesting. Unless you rear reptiles, you rarely walk into them sleeping. This begs the question. Do reptiles ever sleep?

Reptiles experience periods where their activity levels are significantly reduced, mirroring sleep in mammals. These periods vary across reptiles and the season. For example, ball pythons can sleep as long as 23 hours, while some turtles rarely sleep more than 7 hours daily. On the other hand, Leopard geckos can sleep uninterrupted for 12 hours. Unlike lizards, snakes don’t have eyelids and commonly sleep with their eyes open. This makes it challenging even to tell when they are awake.

Sleep is quite an interesting topic to investigate in reptiles. You may want to know how snakes and lizards sleep, how many hours they sleep, and if they even enjoy sleeping at all.

How about we dig in to learn more about these?

How Many Hours Do Lizards Sleep?

Like humans, lizards experience their peak activity levels during the day, preferring to rest in the evening.

Of course, the number of hours a lizard will sleep depends on the season, precisely the accompanying weather conditions.

Generally, a healthy lizard will sleep at least nine hours a day during summer and spring. Some lizards could sleep up to sixteen hours during these seasons.

As typical of outdoor animals, lizards experience decreased activity during winter. In the peak of the winter season, lizards can sleep more than twenty hours in a day.

How Do Lizards Sleep?

Lizards experience similar sleep phases as we humans do. We undergo several sleep cycles when we sleep, varying between four to five cycles in most people.

These include slow-wave cycles commonly interspersed with rapid eye movements (REMs). Each cycle can last anywhere from an hour to an hour thirty minutes.

The lizard experiences similar cycles when sleeping, but the length is way shorter. Therefore, while humans may have a maximum of five sleep cycles in one night’s rest, a lizard can experience hundreds of rapidly transiting sleep cycles.

We will learn more about this down this guide.

Do Lizards REM Sleep?

Lizards experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REMs were previously perceived as exclusive to birds and mammals within the scientific community.

But a revolutionary team of German researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt changed this after investigating brain activity in sleeping bearded dragons.

This research was conducted on five bearded dragons with electrodes integrated into the brains of these lizards as they slept. These electrodes significantly picked out waves that denoted varying sleep cycles.

Specifically, the researchers observed the sleeping bearded dragons undergoing REMs, slow-wave sleep, ripples, and sharp waves.

This was identical to the REM experienced in humans, only that the cycles in the sleeping dragons were more rapid.

There is yet substantial proof on if lizards dream (as humans do) when they enter such REM sleep states.

However, why lizards undergo REMs when they sleep is yet to be established scientifically.

Do Lizards Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Unlike snakes, lizards sleep with their eyes closed. Most lizards have their eyes furnished with movable lids.

But not all lizards completely shut down when they sleep.

A team of researchers at the Department of Ecology & Organismal Biology at Indiana State University made an interesting discovery called the one-eye anomaly.

They found that some iguanas sleep with half of their brain yet fully active. This was observed in lizards with their two eyes fully shut.

By preserving activeness in that side of the brain, these reptiles (despite supposedly sleeping) with their eyes shut can react speedily to changes in their environment.

This capacity is critical in helping these lizards evade predators that attack them when sleeping.

Do Lizards Like to Sleep?

There is one established fact: at least 95% of humans enjoy sleeping. This is not criminal either, given how mentally refreshing sleep is and its importance to our health.

That said, much is not known if lizards derive any recreational value from sleep as humans. But lizards have to sleep too because it is fundamental to their wellbeing.

As in most animals, sleep is critical in lizards for regulating hormone production, controlling energy levels, and even discarding metabolic wastes from their brains.

Nevertheless, a sleeping lizard is exceptionally vulnerable to predators. This explains why lizards strive to minimize their periods of sleep when exposed or during active daylight hours.

Do Snakes Actually Sleep?

Yes, snakes sleep too. But you would rarely notice because their eyes are not shut when asleep.

Why, you may ask?

Snakes, unlike humans, don’t have eyelids. This means there is no layer draping the eyes when they sleep.

While we have lids, snakes have brille. This is a disc-shaped scale covering – fairly transparent – that protectively sits on their eyes.

The brille on each snake’s eyes is not movable, meaning it can’t shut off the snake’s eyes when it sleeps. The best a snake can do when it sleeps is to close its retina.

How then can you tell if a snake is actually sleeping or awake?

The truth is, you can’t tell from a distance unless you are a snake connoisseur. Most times, it is a guessing game.

If a snake is unnaturally still for a long time, it is probably sleeping. But this is not always correct, either, as the snake could be relaxing but awake.

The best way to know if a snake is sleeping or not is to physically disturb it (slightly) and see if it responds promptly.

Again, this is dangerous, especially for snakes in the wild.

Should a wild snake be awake and you probe it, it may interpret that as invasive and launch an attack on you in self-defense.

How Many Hours a Day Do Snakes Sleep?

A snake’s sleeping hours vary with its species and the season. Generally, a snake can sleep up to 16 hours in summer and spring.

However, snakes can spend as many as 20 hours of the day sleeping in winter.

When the snake sleeps commonly depends on its species. We have snakes that are active in the day and passive at night. The opposite is true for other species.

Snake breeds like vine snakes, hognosed snakes, and racers tend to sleep more at night. In contrast, species like night snakes tend to sleep more during the day, preserving their activeness for night hours.

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