1. Do rabbits sleep?
Yes, rabbits do sleep. On average, rabbits sleep about 8 and a half hours a day. However, a rabbit that feels safe and comfortable in its surroundings will sleep even more (up to 12 hours a day). Rabbits are not nocturnal or strictly diurnal animals.
Rather, they are classified as crepuscular. This means that rabbits are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. In the wild, this gives rabbits a slight advantage over their main predators.
Nocturnal animals, like owls, have a hard time seeing during the daytime. And diurnal animals, like hawks, cannot see well at night. By being active during these times, rabbits can avoid being preyed upon by both types of predators. Therefore, rabbits sleep both at night and during the day.
Many rabbit owners believe that their rabbits never sleep or they have never witnessed it. Some rabbits seem to always be awake. They run around and play or sit still with their eyes wide open.
In reality, all rabbits do sleep. Rabbits sleep in two major time slots (from late morning to afternoon and during mid-night), as well as take short naps throughout the day. Rabbits prefer to sleep in shorter intervals rather than all at once.
During these short sleeping stages, rabbits can quickly wake up. They can sense and run in just a few seconds. Their senses can send signals to their brain so they can quickly become active again.
It’s easy to mistake a sleeping rabbit for an awake one, especially when they are in a comfortable position. To add to the confusion, rabbits often sleep with their eyes wide open.
2. Do rabbits sleep with their eyes open or closed?
Typically, rabbits sleep with their eyes open. However, they can also close their eyes when they sleep, but usually rabbits will only close their eyes when they feel very safe and comfortable. Rabbits learn to sleep with their eyes open as a self-defense mechanism. In the wild, sleeping with open eyes gives rabbits two advantages:
- Deception: Predators are more likely to attack a sleeping rabbit because they are less alert and can’t escape.
- Better defense: Their sensory organs continue to function and send signals to their brain while they sleep. If a predator approaches, the signals will still be sent to the rabbit’s brain. They will be able to respond to movements much faster than if their eyes were closed. This is one of the ways rabbits have become astonishing survivors.
Because rabbits are prey animals, they tend to remain alert in most environments. Their instinct tells them that predators can appear at any time. Pet rabbits may often nod off with their eyes half-closed or even closed completely. This is a sign that the rabbit feels safe and content at home. However, some rabbits still prefer to sleep with their eyes wide open.
Rabbits sleep with their eyes open for a long period of time because they have a thin, transparent membrane called the third eyelid over each eye. This third eyelid functions to keep the rabbit’s eyes moist and protect them from dust and debris. Rabbits do not blink frequently because the third eyelid does most of the work. You can read more about “Interesting Facts About Rabbit Eyes” to learn how amazing they are.
3. How to tell if a rabbit is sleeping or awake?
Because rabbits sleep with their eyes open, it can be difficult to tell when a rabbit is sleeping or awake. A relaxed, alert, and intelligent rabbit can look similar to a deeply asleep rabbit. However, there are some subtle signs that can indicate when a rabbit is sleeping.
– Paused nose twitching
A rabbit’s nose usually does not twitch when it is asleep. The more vigilant a rabbit is, the faster its nose twitches. When a rabbit starts to feel sleepy, the twitching motion will slow down. It may even stop completely while the rabbit is sleeping, but it can still twitch very slowly.
A rabbit’s nose twitches more as a way to stimulate its scent gland and sniff the world around it. When a rabbit goes to sleep, it doesn’t need to pay much attention to the world around it. It no longer needs to expend extra energy to keep its little nose active.
– Rested ears
When a rabbit is asleep, its ears will hang loose against its back. Regardless of the position of the rabbit’s ears, they will not move when the rabbit is sleeping. If you notice your rabbit’s ears swiveling around to sounds in the room, then it is likely awake. You can also gauge the mood of a rabbit through its ears. You can read more about understanding rabbit ear language for instructions.
When rabbits sleep, they may have spasms in their feet, ears, mouth, eyelids, or tail. This is when you know a rabbit is in a deep sleep. A rabbit’s mouth will start twitching, and they will grind their teeth slightly, much like they are trying to eat something tasty. If they lie down or flop on their side, their legs kick or make digging motions.
– Slow breathing: Normally, rabbits breathe very quickly. But when a rabbit is sleeping, its breathing will slow down. Rabbits don’t need to take in as much oxygen when they are asleep, so their entire body can relax while their breathing slows down. When a rabbit is lying flat and sleeping, its breathing will be so slow that it’s hard to notice.
Not all rabbits snore, but many do. They may make soft purring noises or even loud snoring sounds while they sleep. Like humans, some rabbits snore even when there is nothing wrong with their health. But for others, it could be a sign that they have some respiratory issues. If a rabbit snores, especially if it just started snoring when it didn’t snore before, you should take it to the vet for a check-up.
4. Rabbit sleeping positions
Another way to tell if your rabbit is asleep or not is to pay attention to the common sleeping positions of rabbits. There are three main sleeping positions that rabbits usually choose. Which sleeping position is favored will depend on both the rabbit’s personality and sense of safety. The three most common sleeping positions for rabbits are as follows:
a. The loaf position
You may see rabbits sleep in this position quite frequently. It’s when they tuck their hind legs beneath their body and hunch down in a way that makes them look like a loaf of bread. This is a very safe position for rabbits. It keeps all their vital organs beneath them, and with this position, they can stand up and run much faster than from other sleeping positions.
Many other animals, like cats, also sleep in this position. With cats, this position has a similar meaning to rabbits. You can see more about cat sleeping positions and their meanings here.
When a rabbit feels relaxed and drowsy, they often lie in this position and tuck their ears against their back as they start to sleep. They can also sleep with their ears upright. This is a position that is hard to tell if the rabbit is really sleeping or just sitting comfortably.
b. The sprawled position
Your rabbit will lie stretched out in front, hind legs extended, and tail stretched out behind. The front legs can be stretched straight out in front or can be folded back. The rabbit will keep its head straight up or resting on its front paws.
Like the loaf position, rabbits often fix their ears against their backs when they start to feel drowsy, but they can also sleep with their ears up. A rabbit lying in this position always looks very comfortable. If it lies in this position next to you, it can also be a sign that it trusts you.
c. The tilted position
If a rabbit sleeps in the tilted position, it means that it feels completely at ease in its environment. They tend to be less reactive to outside stimuli in this position and go into a deeper sleep. Typically, rabbits sleep with their eyes closed in this position.
How do rabbits sleep?
Most rabbits prefer to sleep in the loaf position. This makes them feel safer because they can quickly get up and run in case of danger. This doesn’t mean that the rabbit is scared of you, but rather it is in a state of high alertness. A rabbit sleeping in either the sprawled or tilted position will be more relaxed. These are positions that your rabbit may close its eyes completely when sleeping.
The temperature in the room also plays a role in how a rabbit sleeps. When it’s hot outside, rabbits are more likely to sleep in the tilted or sprawled position to help cool down more quickly. Likewise, in winter when it’s cold, you’ll see rabbits sleeping in the loaf position. This position reduces the surface area for heat to escape and helps maintain a better body temperature.
Rabbits do not sleep on their backs. Never try to lay a rabbit on its back, as it will scare the rabbit and make it believe it’s being attacked.
Some rabbits do not sleep much when humans are around. Sometimes, pet rabbits may take months or even years to feel comfortable enough to sleep around you. That’s why you should always ensure that your rabbit has a private and safe place to retreat to.
5. How to train a rabbit to sleep at night
In the wild, rabbits spend much of their time in burrows underground. They are not completely dark during the day as light seeps through the burrow entrances. Rabbits rely on the natural light cycle to know when to sleep and wake up. They will sleep through the darkest part of the night and the brightest part of the day. When the sun rises or sets, they will become more active.
You don’t need to turn on a night light for your rabbit. However, you should not block out the light from entering your rabbit’s sleeping area during the day. Exposing rabbits to too much or too little light can cause stress and confusion. It’s best to let the rabbit decide when and where to sleep. If possible, provide your rabbit with a room that receives natural light. This helps the rabbit have access to UVB rays to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.
Because rabbits are not active during the day like humans, they often have some nighttime activity periods. And when rabbits are awake, they can be quite noisy. They like to dig, play, run around and nibble on everything, including the bars of their enclosure. This can disturb your sleep. It would be much more convenient if a rabbit could learn to sleep through the night like a human.
Unfortunately, you can’t force a rabbit to sleep at night as it goes against their natural biological clock. There’s no way to override a rabbit’s natural biological clock and force it to sleep at night. The only thing you can do is limit the noise they make by playing with them before bedtime, removing any noisy toys, not confining them to the enclosure, and keeping a consistent routine for them.
Rabbits need about 8 hours of sleep each day. If your rabbit is not getting enough sleep, it could be a sign of a health issue. Rabbits sleeping too much is also a concern and you should take them to the vet. Rabbits sleep with both their eyes open and closed, but usually, they will sleep with their eyes wide open, making it difficult to tell if they are awake or asleep.
You can identify the signs of a sleeping rabbit through their body language, such as their breath slowing down, their nose not twitching, their ears relaxing, and the possibility of snoring. They may also lie tilted, sprawled, or sleep in the loaf position. Rabbits usually sleep deeply between noon and midnight.
Typically, rabbits sleep when you are awake and are awake when you are asleep. And when they are awake, they can be quite noisy and cause a lot of fuss. This can disrupt your sleep. You can’t force a rabbit to sleep at night as it goes against their natural biological clock. The only thing you can do is limit the noise they make by playing with them before sleep, removing any noisy toys, not confining them to the enclosure, and maintaining a routine for them.
- “How to Know Your Rabbit is Sleeping” – The Bunny Lady
- “How Do You Know When a Rabbit Is Sleeping?” – Rabbit Care Tips