Let me paint this picture for you. You go to the pet store to find a new friend for yourself or your family. Because you are not sure, the pet store owner convinces you to buy a rabbit because ‘they are quiet, can form really strong bonds and require really small space’ They also said that ‘bunnies have the same vibrant personality that dogs and cats have.’
Convinced beyond measure, you buy two rabbits. You also buy all the necessary equipment necessary for their general welfare.
Now you have two new bunnies to keep your company and add some character to the house. But soon enough you find out that these two bunnies never seem to sleep.
This happens on the first day. You’re worried but not enough to be startled. It is by the third day that you begin to get scared. Your fears intensify one night when you see them, stand still in a corner (on all fours), seemingly staring into oblivion. You begin to wonder, ‘Did I buy a demon rabbit? Will they eat me in my sleep? And random thoughts.
Because of the lockdown rules, you are unable to go to the vet or a priest (to drive the demon away from your cute bunny). This then forced you to go to Google and type in the search bar with trembling fingers, ‘do rabbits sleep with their eyes open?’ and that has led you to this post.
There is also the off chance that all of that didn’t happen and you are just worried that your rabbit doesn’t seem to sleep.
Do not worry, because this article will allay all your fears and worries and answer all the questions you may have about the weird sleeping behavior of rabbits.
Do Rabbit Sleep With Eyes Open Or Closed?
If you are worried that your rabbit does not sleep, you are not the only one that thinks so. A lot of rabbit owners strongly believe that their pets never sleep or if they do, they have never witnessed it. This seems to be the pattern for them. Eat, Run Around, Sit Still with Their Eyes Open, Repeat.
So, it is not weird if this vicious cycle makes it seem that they never sleep.
However, the truth is that your bunny sleeps. They have two large sleeping periods throughout the day. They also take regular naps throughout the day because they prefer to sleep in short bursts.
The answer to the question of this subsection depends largely on the personality of your rabbit. The level of safety it feels also plays a major role in this.
Bunnies that do not feel safe will sleep with their eyes open.
However, this does not seem to make sense of how their eyes don’t dry out when they seem to be opened all the time.
The reason is that they have what is known as a nictitating membrane. It is basically a translucent film that they can blink across their eye to keep it moist. This is why it is also known as a ‘third eyelid’.
Why Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Bunnies sleeping with their eyes open is a defense mechanism that has been wired into their DNA. In the wild, Rabbits are on the lower end of the food spectrum. Sleeping with their eyes open has two advantages:
- It gives the illusion of them being awake. This way, predators are less likely to make the bunnies their next meal if it seems like they are awake.
- Light reaches their eyes faster if their eyes are open. This will make it a lot easier for them to know and react if something is coming for them.
Because rabbits are prey animals, they always remain alert even when they are not in the wild. A predator may be lurking around to make them their next lunch or dinner. In other words, your bunny may not sleep with its eyes closed until it feels like it is safe around you.
Some rabbits may still sleep with their eyes open even if they trust you. Don’t be creeped out. That is just the way they are.
How To Tell If Your Bunny Is Asleep
It can be a bit difficult to tell if your bunny is asleep. (Well, obviously they sleep with their eyes open). Because of this, it can be difficult to distinguish a rabbit that is just relaxing from one that is in deep sleep.
So, if you think that your rabbit never sleeps, you are in the wrong. However, it is important to know when your rabbit is asleep. This is because distortion in their sleeping pattern may be a sign of illness or stress. According to research made by the Dental Research Journal, rabbits that are in pain find it difficult to sleep.
So how do you know if your bunny is asleep or awake? Thankfully, there are a few indicators you can look out for to help you know if your bunny is asleep or just resting.
- Look at their noses. When rabbits are asleep, their noses don’t usually twitch. However, when they are alert and awake, their noses twitch a lot
- Check their breathing rate. Rabbits breathe a lot slower when they are asleep. Be as careful and quiet as possible because they can wake up if they get startled.
- Rabbits dream and when they do, different parts of their body twitch. If their legs, ears, mouth or eyelids move erratically, they may be fast asleep.
- Rabbits may also snore when they are asleep. Not all bunnies do this. But imagine how weird it will be to hear your rabbit snore while its eyes are wide open.
- Your bunny’s ears get relaxed when they are asleep. If they are sticking up, they are as alert and awake as ever.
The truth is that rabbits may not sleep much around you during the first few months or years of being your pet. Don’t be worried, make sure that they have a place private and safe to sleep in when they need to catch some Zs.
When Rabbits Sleep
When it comes to sleeping, rabbits are neither nocturnal nor diurnal. Instead, they are crepuscular. This means that they are always active during the mornings and evenings. This, just like the way they sleep with their eyes open, is an evolutionary mechanism that is born out of the need to be safe.
This is because dusk and dawn are when the sun is lowest is in the sky. As a result, visibility is low. Rabbits are active during this period so that they can easily hide from predators.
Your pet rabbit is less likely to get eaten by a predator than a rabbit in the wild. Regardless, the instinct is still present.
As stated earlier, rabbits have two large sleeping periods. The first period is between the late morning and early afternoon. The other one is in the middle of the night. In between, they nap once in a while. So, to answer the question, ‘do rabbits sleep at night?’ Yes, but they do not sleep all night long.
How Many Hours A Day Does A Rabbit Sleep?
Rabbits, just like human beings, average about 8 hours of sleep per day. However, unlike most humans, rabbits do not sleep all 8 hours at a stretch. They have two sleep periods; one in the afternoon and the other in the middle of the night. They also have nap times in between.
Common Bunny Sleeping Positions
You can also tell when your bunny is sleeping by watching for their common sleeping patterns. There are 3 main positions your rabbit may sleep in. They include;
Rug: The rabbit lies stretched out on its front with its back legs sticking behind. The paws in the front are always tucked up.
Loaf: In this position the rabbit literally looks like a loaf of bread. It ill be hunched up with all our legs tucked underneath.
Flop: The rabbit rests on its side and its feet stick out at the front.
The most popular out of all these sleeping positions is the loaf. Your rabbit feels more secure as it can easily escape danger in this position. If you startle your rabbit while it is asleep, it may run fast in a bid to escape from imminent danger. However, this does not mean it is scared of you.
The other two positions are more relaxed. Also, your rabbit may sleep with their eyes closed when sleeping in this position.
Never make your rabbit sleep on your back. It will cause it to panic because it will think it is being attacked.
Do Rabbits Sleep In The Dark?
They do not have to sleep in the dark because they naturally sleep at night and during the day. Rabbits are just as comfortable sleeping in the light as they are in the dark.
In the wild, rabbits spend most of their time in large holes underground. These holes aren’t always dark during the day because light gets in through the burrow entrance.
Also, rabbits use sunlight to determine sleep time. It is not necessary to leave light on for your bunny at night. However, do not prevent light from reaching their sleeping spot during the day. Just leave their chosen sleeping spot the way it is.
How To Make Your Rabbit Sleep In The Dark?
Ideally, rabbits get really noisy when they are awake. So, if they are awake at night, you may not be able to sleep yourself. In other words, your rabbit may not go to sleep when you need it to.
However, there are some things you can do to make your rabbit get more sleeping hours at night.
Make your rabbit do some exercises before it is time for it to sleep. This way it will get too tired to stay up all night.
Do not leave it in a cage. Rabbits get bored when they are in a closed space. Then, they resort to digging, chewing and other noisy behaviors to kill boredom. When they are left alone to roam around at night, they are less likely to make a lot of noise at night.
If you must put it in a cage, Put a blanket over the cage. This will help your rabbit stay calm and understand that it is resting time.
Take away their noisy toys at night
Create a routine for your rabbit so that it knows how to differentiate sleep time from playtime.
In this article, we have answered the question that may have plagued the minds of many bunny owners across the globe. Most bunnies sleep with their eyes open. We also learned that this behavior is a function of evolutionary patterns. In the wild, rabbits are prey animals. Sleeping with their eyes open helps them stay alert enough for escaping predators. It could also trick predators into thinking the rabbits are awake. This makes it less likely for the rabbits to get killed by predators in the wild.
This behavior is still prominent in domesticated rabbits. This is why most of them sleep with their eyes open. They may sleep with their eyes closed when they feel like they are safe around you but do not bank on this. You can ever fight and win their natural instincts.
In this article, we also discussed the sleeping patterns of the rabbit. Just like humans, they sleep for about 8 hours daily. However, they do not sleep all 8 hours at a stretch. Instead, they have two large sleep periods; one in the early morning and another in the middle of the night. They also take naps during the day.
This also a result of their natural proclivity to being safe from predators.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and that you have learned something useful.