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How Long Do Turtles Sleep?

How Long Do Turtles Sleep?

Turtles are truly fascinating creatures. They have even spawned an entire franchise like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was arguably a big part of our childhood, and something many of us watched before going to sleep. 

Talking about sleep…

How long do turtles actually sleep?!?

In this article, we’ll be delving into this age-old question that has weighed almost all of our minds – especially the children in us.


How long do turtles sleep usually?

Turtles don’t necessarily go into a deep sleep like us humans. Most of the time, it’s a long rest that has a few breathers in-between hours. Traditionally, sea turtles go to the bottom of a lagoon and sleep there for about 2 to 3 hours. More recently though, it has been noticed that turtles go underwater to sleep for about 4 to 7 hours – occasionally rising to the surface to breathe.


What determines a turtle’s length of sleep?

The variations between lengths of sleep time are usually dependent on other factors. Some factors include the temperature of the turtle’s water, the lighting, the time of day, or even its species. 

Sometimes, turtles can stay underwater for long periods because of a low water temperature. This ensures that they would have a slower metabolic rate that gives an ample amount of oxygen.


How do turtles spend their time before going to sleep?

Recently, it was revealed that a large portion of a turtle’s year is spent foraging around shallow waters during the day and returning to deeper waters during sunset to rest. This had some connection to the fact that their sleep and rest patterns do have a connection to the temperature of the water. 

Turtles take naps while the sun is out, perhaps in the hopes of conserving energy. It becomes somewhat similar to how children usually take naps in the afternoon especially after a meal.

To veer a bit from the topic of sleeping, it’s worth noting that turtles rest for almost around 11 hours a day. This is usually to conserve the oxygen they have in store for other things, such as foraging.

When, however, temperatures in their habitats would become cooler, they would dive for longer and use less oxygen. 


How does lighting and time of day affect a turtle’s sleep?

Turtles’ sleep patterns are also very dependent on the lighting and time of day. Generally, most species of turtles choose to sleep during a part of the night. They may primarily sleep at night, though there are instances where they are known to rest during day time. 

It’s like when we take a nap. More often than not, turtles (specifically the green turtle) only go to shore to nest. But, I have found that a population of green turtles in Maui, Hawaii, usually climb on shore to rest under the sun. 


What can we do to ensure our pet turtles are getting enough sleep?

Pet turtles are commonly known to be diurnal. This would mean that turtles do most of their activities during the daytime.

So, to add to what I’ve mentioned with lighting, owners should ensure that the lights in a turtle’s habitat are turned off during their sleep time. 

I also recommend that lights should be on and off for 10-12 hours, respectively.

This makes sure that their normal body cycle is functioning properly. The turtle’s sleeping habits become alarmingly close to a person’s – except maybe for sleeping underwater.

Speaking of underwater, although almost all species of turtles sleep underwater, they all have their own unique locations.

For instance, sea turtles are found to either sleep in deep water or at the bottom shoved under rocks close to the water near shore.


How does species and location affect a turtle’s sleep?

There is a notable difference in the locations where hawksbill and green turtle sleep in. These locations affect the sleep time due to differences in temperature and light. 

As you may now know, turtles sleep in relation to the temperature and the amount of light they’re getting since it also depends on the oxygen they need. The hawksbill is usually squeezed in a crevice or cave in the reef. 

The green turtle, on the other hand, mainly looks toward a sandy bottom that overhangs a coral head. Although they both sleep at night, it has been noted that the hawksbill sleeps longer than its green turtle counterpart. 

There have been instances where divers have attested to the green turtles wedging themselves under ledges close to reefs and other rocks. This is not uncommon when people go underwater to see turtles.

Maybe these locations have some bearing on how long they sleep, such as with the hawksbill. After all, it might be something connected to how much light they get. 

Usually, turtles go to rest when it’s a little warmer outside. This has some connection to how much energy they use and conserve, which might translate to how much they sleep during the night. 

I also find it interesting to see that turtles can almost be quite similar to people, especially children. In the afternoon, after they forage, they rest purportedly to conserve energy. 

Some people, such as me, are like this. There are times after I eat, that I have to either rest or sleep to gain some energy. Maybe, down the line, we have more in common with these cold-blooded creatures than we initially thought.


Frequently asked questions about the turtle’s sleep pattern


Do turtles’ sleeping patterns change with the season?

The length at which turtles rest or sleep depends on the season. When the waters are warmer, turtles tend to rest a bit more. If, however, the waters are cooler such as during winter, they sleep less. This has something to do with energy conservation.


Can turtles drown when they sleep underwater?

Turtles are biologically manufactured to know when they need to surface and catch a breath.

Normally, no, turtles will not drown no matter how long they sleep underwater. The isolated cases when they might drown are if something is preventing them from surfacing such as a net, or if there were any other obstacles.