As soon as you get a pet rabbit, you will notice that they have a weird sleeping schedule. If your bunny tends to sleep during the day and stays up at night you’ve probably assumed that rabbits are nocturnal animals. But is that really the case?
Are rabbits nocturnal? No, rabbits aren’t nocturnal, they are crepuscular. This means that rabbits are most active around dawn and dusk. While a bit active during the day and night, rabbits are usually sleeping in the afternoon. This type of schedule keeps rabbits protected against both nocturnal and diurnal predators.
Understanding how your rabbit’s sleep schedule works can help know when is the best time to feed and exercise your pet. Keep on reading to find out more!
As mentioned above, rabbits are crepuscular animals meaning that they are the most active at dawn and dusk (source). While this schedule might seem strange to us, it’s a clever survivor tactic that helps rabbits avoid most of their main predators.
Diurnal animals, such as hawks have poor night vision, while nocturnal predators such as owls can’t see well during daylight.
Being crepuscular allows rabbits to minimize encounters with both diurnal and nocturnal predators by being the most active in the hours of dawn and dusk.
However, this doesn’t mean that rabbits, as crepuscular animals, will only be active early in the morning and in the latter part of the evening. Actually, it’s quite rare for rabbits and other crepuscular animals to completely sleep throughout the day and night.
Most of these animals will have several periods during night and daylight hours when they are somewhat active. It’s during these times that pet bunnies go to eat, relieve themselves, and do a bit of grooming before going back to sleep.
While both wild and domesticated rabbits are crepuscular animals, their daily schedule and activity differ to some extent. Let’s see how!
Wild rabbits aren’t nocturnal, they are prey! During the long process of evolution, wild rabbits become crepuscular as a way to survive.
In the wild, rabbits are the most active in the early morning hours and later in the evening. Most often, wild rabbits sleep during the day and night.
This schedule allows wild rabbits to sleep and stay hidden during the day when hawks, foxes, and other daylight predators are active (source). And being active only during dusk in the evening gives wild rabbits a chance to stay hidden from owls that see well only when it’s pitch dark.
Since being crepuscular is a survival tactic, you would think that pet rabbits would live like they want to, considering that they are safe from predators. Surprisingly, that’s not the case.
To make things even more interesting, several studies failed to determine whether or not rabbits are crepuscular in captivity.
According to these studies, pet rabbits base their sleeping schedule on the amount of noise in the area. For example, if you are often at home during the day, your pet rabbit will likely be less active due to all the noise you are making.
However, if you are often at home during evenings and nights you’ll find that your pet bunny is more active during the day when you aren’t around.
With that being said, there are clearly ways to influence your rabbit’s behavior when they are kept as pets. Of course, every rabbit is unique, and while in the wild they can’t be anything else but crepuscular, there are ways you can influence their behavior in captivity.
How Long Do Rabbits Sleep for?
Most rabbits sleep around six to eight hours throughout night and day, but they can function well with only a couple of hours of sleep. And if a rabbit feels comfortable and relaxed with you they might even sleep up to 10 hours a day.
But unlike most people who like to sleep through the whole eight-hour period, rabbits usually take many short naps during the day.
Don’t be surprised to see your rabbit take several quick naps throughout the day, and just occasionally sleep more than an hour straight. This is completely normal rabbit behavior and not something you should be worried about.
Do Rabbits Need Light at Night?
Since rabbits are neither diurnal nor nocturnal, leaving a light on for your rabbit during the night might seem like a good idea. However, rabbits don’t need light sources to maintain a healthy sleeping schedule, nor do they need help finding their way in the darkness.
If you let your rabbit outside their cage during the night, you might want to consider leaving some light though. However, instead of leaving a bright overhead lamp on for the entire night, use a dim lap to provide some illumination.
Please note, several studies have shown that rabbits kept in constant darkness or light didn’t exhibit any outward signs of illness. However, those rabbits kept in constant light gained significant amounts of extra weight.
Can Your Rabbit Sleep with You?
Although your rabbit can technically sleep in the bed with you, we don’t recommend this type of sleeping arrangement.
First of all, rabbits are creatures of habit, so once you let your bunny into your bed, there’s no way to go back. If you won’t be able to share a bed with your bunny every night, don’t even try doing it.
Secondly, unless you have a giant rabbit breed, you are significantly larger and heavier than your rabbit, which puts it at risk of being accidentally smothered during the night. Don’t bring a rabbit into your bed if you aren’t completely certain that you won’t roll over and accidentally suffocate your pet in sleep.
Although they can be awake during the night and even roam outside their enclosures, rabbits aren’t nocturnal animals. Both wild and domesticated rabbits are crepuscular animals, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn.
However, this doesn’t mean that rabbits spend the rest of the day sleeping. They have several periods during daylight and nighttime when they are somewhat active. During those times, you’ll find your bunny eating, grooming, playing, and taking care of their physiological needs.
Understanding your rabbit’s sleeping schedule can help you take better care of your pet and notice if something is out of the ordinary. If your rabbit starts sleeping significantly more or less than usual, call your vet and take your bunny for a checkup.