Sleep is important for all animals as it is a way of recuperating energy. Some animals sleep in very obscure ways such as the dolphin that only rests half of its brain at a time, sleeping with one eye open. There’s even some suggestion that some animals, like the bullfrog, don’t sleep at all but merely rest.
Table of contents
But what about rabbits? As a bunny owner, you may have wondered how your rabbit sleeps and what its sleeping habits look like. When it comes to bunny sleepy time, there’s a lot of interesting information to be discovered.
So, get cozy and snuggle on down as we discuss everything to do with a sleeping rabbit that you could ever wish to know.
One of the most common questions from new rabbit owners is when do rabbits sleep? There are plenty of people who believe that rabbits are nocturnal, but they aren’t! Rabbits are crepuscular animals and this isn’t a term that many people are familiar with so allow us to explain.
Whereas diurnal animals wake during the day and sleep at night, nocturnal animals are opposite and wake during the night, sleeping through the day. But crepuscular animals combine both of these habits and are awake at different points during the day and night. These animals are most active at dusk and dawn.
The reason for this in rabbits is because they are prey animals. Predators, regardless of whether they are diurnal or nocturnal, wouldn’t usually be active at either end of the day so by doing most of their activities at these times, rabbits are afforded the greatest protection.
As well as knowing about when your rabbit is sleeping, you may have wondered how long do rabbits sleep for? If you want to know do rabbits sleep a lot then you might be surprised by the answer. It would almost appear that rabbits are at rest for most of the day and this is because of that crepuscular nature we talked about.
Some rabbit owners fall into the belief that their bunny is nocturnal but this isn’t the case. It only appears that way because of how much they sleep. It largely depends on the individual rabbit but generally speaking, they could sleep up to 12 hours a day. You would be hard pushed to find a rabbit that slept for any less than 7 hours a day, that’s for sure!
There has been research into the length of time that a rabbit sleeps for each day. A figure that is commonly thrown around is 8.4 hours but this scientific research showed us that a lot of adult rabbits sleep for as many as 11.4 hours on average every day. However, it’s only around seven to eight hours of this time that the rabbit would be in a state of deep sleep.
But these sleep hours don’t usually happen all in one go. In the wild, rabbits are incredibly vulnerable prey animals. This means that they need to be constantly on high alert and ready to run at a moment’s notice. If they can’t, then they’d almost certainly be attacked.
While there may not be this kind of threat for domestic rabbits, their natural behaviors and instincts are exactly the same as their wild cousins. It’s for this reason that your bunny is probably a very light sleeper who will disturb at the slightest noise. Typically speaking, a rabbit will have much shorter bursts of sleep compared to a human.
One of the most fascinating things about a rabbit is that they have three eyelids. They have the regular upper and lower lids that many animals have but they also have what is known as a nictitating membrane.
This membrane is clear and covers the eye so that the rabbit does not need to blink as much. When you’re a vulnerable prey animal, even losing sight for a fraction of a second could put your life at risk. But the main function of this nictitating membrane is to keep the eyes moist. When we blink, this is a way of moistening the eyes but rabbits don’t need to do this.
What’s more interesting is that they can also make use of this nictitating membrane while they are asleep. You see rabbits can sleep with their eyes open which is beneficial to them in two ways. Primarily, it creates the illusion of being awake so a predator would be more cautious about attacking. Moreover, the rabbit will be alerted to any sudden movements that could be a threat and will be able to react more quickly.
That said, domestic rabbits will sometimes be seen sleeping with their eyes closed or partially closed. This is largely when they feel comfortable enough doing so. So how can you tell when your bunny is sleeping soundly? Well, there are some pretty giveaway signs. Let’s take a look.
When rabbits sleep, they are very still and you won’t notice any movement at all. What’s interesting is that they will drop off to sleep in a variety of positions so while you might think your rabbit is doing one thing, they could just be sleeping.
Moreover, when a bunny is snoozing, his or her ears will be in a relaxed position. Rabbits put their ears up when they are paying attention to something or listening out for sounds. However, there’s no reason for them to do this while they are sleeping, which is why the ears relax. The only time that this might not be the most reliable way to tell if the rabbit is asleep is when looking at a lop as their ears will always be in this position.
You’ll probably have noticed how much your rabbit’s nose twitches but when it is asleep, this stops. What’s more, sleeping rabbits breathe much more slowly than when they are awake so you can check their breathing to help determine this.
Finally, you may find that your rabbit is snoring. Just like humans, blockages in the airways or inconsistent breathing can cause a rabbit to snore. This is perfectly normal for some rabbits and it can be kind of cute too!
The scientific study we touched upon earlier relating to the length of time that rabbits sleep also yielded some other interesting information. The research showed that for around a tenth of the time they were asleep, the rabbits were in what is known as paradoxical sleep. This could be compared to the REM sleep experienced by humans which is when we would dream.
If you observe your bunny while he or she is sleeping, you may notice them performing certain actions. These might include kicking, grinding the teeth or twitching. All of these could indicate that the rabbit is having sweet dreams so don’t worry if you see them behaving in this way.
Unlike dogs and cats, rabbits don’t really need a bed. It is possible to buy a bunny bed but this is more of a novelty for the owner than a practical solution for the rabbit. I once had a bunny bed for my rabbit and he used it as a litter tray while resting in…you guess it, the litter box. Go figure!
That said, you will need to provide your rabbit with somewhere comfortable and soft to sleep. There are plenty of bedding materials on offer in pet stores but even something as simple as some extra hay can do the trick. Some people also like to include a blanket or a towel for the rabbit to rest on especially if the hutch is kept outdoors.
It can be really tempting to bring your rabbit into bed with you and snuggle up for the night. However, this probably isn’t the best idea for either of you. If you want to think selfishly for a moment, we won’t judge you. But we’re all the same; we want as much uninterrupted sleep as possible and sleeping with a rabbit in the bed isn’t going to allow for this.
You see, rabbits have much shorter sleep cycles so while you want to be dozing off, your rabbit might have other ideas. It’s not uncommon for rabbit owners who take their buns to bed to wake up in the middle of the night to a little face booping them to wake up.
But you also have to think about the safety of your pet. Rabbits are far smaller than us and they are incredibly delicate animals. And yes, that applies even if you’ve got a larger breed like an angora. So, when you’re snoring away and potentially roll over in your sleep, there is a risk that you will roll onto your bunny and do it some harm.
You and your rabbit probably won’t make the best bed buddies in terms of what you need to sleep. Rabbits have fur and so they don’t need all the blankets and covers that humans use when in bed. While you might be comfortable all snuggled up, your bunny won’t be as happy. These differing needs can make it difficult to share a bed.
What’s more, you must think about the fact that rabbits, while generally clean animals, are still in fact, animals. They are known to mark their territory with urine and if they want to let everyone know that this is their new spot, you may find your bed wet and stinky.
Finally, if you have a high bed, there is a risk of your rabbit falling from it and injuring themselves. Moreover, an eager rabbit might make an attempt to jump down from the bed again resulting in an injury. It’s probably best to spend some quality time with your rabbit and go your separate ways when it comes to bed time.
Rabbits may have different sleep patterns to humans but one thing that is similar is that they do not hibernate . This applies to both wild rabbits and those kept in captivity. However, if you notice that your rabbit has become very inactive and appears to be sleeping a lot, this could be down to a health condition so it’s important to have this checked out by your vet.
Often, fatigue and sleeping a lot will be accompanied by other symptoms such as loss of appetite and weight loss. If you notice any of these, you must take your rabbit for a medical assessment as soon as possible.
Rabbits have largely different sleeping habits to humans including the fact that they are crepuscular animals. Instead of being active either at night or in the day, bunnies will do most of their day to day activities at dusk and dawn. They’ll then spend between eight and twelve hours sleeping or resting.
Rabbits often sleep with their eyes open which is a protective adaptation for these prey animals. Keeping a rabbit as a pet means providing them with somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep and monitoring their sleep patterns, reporting anything out of the ordinary to your vet.