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Gerbil Activity Pattern: Are Gerbils Nocturnal?

Gerbils are generally diurnal in the wild but do not follow a specific sleep cycle as pets. They can be highly active at night but are also found running around their cages in the morning.

Most rodents are either crepuscular or nocturnal. This helps them hunt at night and hide from predators during the day.

This raises the question. Are gerbils nocturnal, or are they diurnal?

This article discusses whether gerbils are nocturnal and talk about their sleeping habits.

Are Gerbils Nocturnal?

No, gerbils are not nocturnal. They sleep and awake at different times of the day, making it difficult to categorize them into a single group. In the wild, they are generally diurnal though, as they construct deep, dark, burrows.

Nocturnal animals are those that are active during the night.[1] 

Most rodents are nocturnal and are active after the sun goes down. But gerbils are different. They are highly active at night, but their activity isn’t restricted to the darkness.

Pet owners can also find their gerbils active during the day, which is rare in the case of rodents.

Biologically, gerbils can sleep and awake at different times of the day. Their bodies are not dependent on the circadian rhythm, unlike other rodents such as chinchillas and hamsters.

Gerbils are Diurnal in the Wild

In the wild, gerbils make deep and dark burrows. They prefer the dark, but because their burrows and tunnels are so deep, almost no light enters. 

There’s no difference between night and day in the tunnels, allowing gerbils to be diurnal.

Gerbils are Diurnal in the Wild
Image Source

Can Gerbils See in the Dark?

Yes, gerbils can see in the dark, but not when it is pitch black. Gerbils have dim night vision, allowing them to see better than humans at night. They can identify threats and forage for food in the wild where there is little light.

Their eyesight is better at seeing things far away compared to when they are near.

When Do Gerbils Sleep?

Gerbils sleep both during the day and at night. They switch in between their sleep cycles and become active after short durations.

Gerbils sleep whenever they want. They do not have a fixed sleep cycle. 

A study showed that most gerbil species are crepuscular and prefer to sleep at small intervals throughout the day.[2]

This also depends on the breed of the gerbil.

The Mongolian gerbil, which is the most common gerbil species, sleeps at frequent intervals throughout the day. 

The fat-tailed gerbil is another gerbil species that are crepuscular in the wild. Over time, this rodent has developed to change its sleep cycle in captivity.

When Do Gerbils Sleep

How Do Gerbils Sleep?

It is not uncommon for gerbils to instantly go to sleep when they wish to do so. This rapid sleep technique helps them take quick naps when they feel that it’s safe to do so. 

After a few minutes, they wake up and continue playing, jumping, eating, and chewing.

The average sleeping interval of a gerbil is around 10 to 15 minutes. They usually sleep for six hours at night and six hours during the daylight hours.

Without adequate sleep, gerbils can get cranky, making them move away from you or halt your advances.

Do Gerbils Sleep a Lot?

Gerbils sleep for almost 12 hours every day. Half of this is fulfilled at night and the other half during the day. They do not sleep in a single continuous cycle but sleep in short napping intervals that can be as long as an hour.

After a quick nap, gerbils wake up and look for food. They also start running and tunneling when they wake up.

Sleep MetricDescription
Amount of sleep10–12 hours a day
Type of sleepIntermittent sleeping (naps)
Sleep per interval10–15 minutes
Time of sleepAny time of day

Where Do Gerbils Sleep?

Wild gerbils sleep underground in their burrows and tunnels. This helps them hide from predators and protect themselves from the harsh climate of the desert.

Gerbils are small rodents that often hide in nooks and corners. In the wild, gerbils sleep in underground tunnels, which they make for themselves.

These tunnels are a safe hideout for gerbils as they help them avoid predators. This burrow also helps keep them safe from the unforgiving weather conditions of the deserts.

Pet gerbils show the same basic instinct of burrowing and tunneling. That’s why they need a large cage or gerbilarium filled with at least 10 to 15 inches of bedding. To satisfy their tunneling needs.

Pet gerbils also sleep in their houses or hideouts. 

You should install a gerbil house inside its cage and put some bedding in it. Wooden gerbil houses are great for gerbils as they can easily gnaw at them without any danger.

Where Do Gerbils Sleep

What Position Do Gerbils Sleep In?

Being social animals, gerbils sleep in large piles in the wild. Snuggling helps them feel safe and warm. Gerbils lay on their side, stand upright, or curl up when sleeping alone.

Gerbils are social animals that prefer to stay in groups. 

In the wild, they sleep with each other in a pile. It is not uncommon for gerbils to sleep cuddling each other, as this provides safety and warmth.

When they live in large groups, the varying sleep cycles mean that part of the colony is always sleeping while the others are active.

Sometimes, gerbils are rejected from the clan or are kicked out due to illness. These end up sleeping outside the pile, alone.

Pet gerbils follow the same principles if kept in groups. You can find your gerbils sleeping on top of each other inside the cage.

Gerbils sleep in three different positions:

  • Standing up
  • Curling in
  • Laying on the side

They can sleep while standing on all four limbs, no matter where they are. It happens spontaneously if they have a moment to get some rest. 

Pet gerbils sometimes fall asleep inside their exercise wheel and continue sleeping when they fall off.

How your gerbil sleeps depends on how comfortable it feels. There are other sleeping positions that are rarely seen, such as sleeping on the back, stretched out.

Why Is My Gerbil Oversleeping?

Sickness, boredom, and loneliness are the major causes of oversleeping in gerbils. If your gerbil is oversleeping, there can be an underlying medical condition that needs attention.

Gerbils sleep a lot, but unusual and excessive sleeping is not normal for gerbils. This indicates a problem. 

If you notice that your gerbil is sleeping throughout the day and night, consult a veterinarian for proper guidance.

Oversleeping in gerbils is caused by several factors:

  • Illness
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom


Gerbil with Illness

Ever felt like laying in bed all day when you were sick? 

Gerbils exhibit the same behavior. 

When they get sick, they rest more than usual. Sick gerbils tend to separate themselves from other gerbils and sleep a lot to regain their health.

Gerbils, especially older gerbils, are prone to various diseases. Respiratory problems are one of the leading causes of illness in gerbils. Use high-quality bedding to ensure that your pet gerbil remains fit.

Gerbils, like other rodents, have a highly sensitive digestive system. Several factors can make their stomach sick:

  • Sudden change in diet
  • Too much fruit and vegetables
  • Raw meat and eggs
  • Dairy products

If you want to change your gerbil’s diet, you should do it slowly. Always consult a veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet.


Gerbil in Loneliness

Wild gerbils live in large clans. They are social animals and prefer being close to other members of their species. 

This is why it’s better to adopt two or more gerbils instead of one. It keeps their interaction needs satisfied.

Gerbils are more active and happy in pairs. You should adopt gerbils of the same litter to ensure no fighting takes place. 

Avoid keeping opposite-sex gerbils in a single cage as they reproduce fast, leading to multiple litters every few months.

If your gerbil is lonely, it can start to sleep more due to a lack of activity. Multiple gerbils keep each other occupied. They also play with each other, which reduces loneliness and oversleeping.


Loneliness can also cause boredom, which leads to excessive sleeping. In the absence of other gerbils, your pet does not have much to do, so it spends its time napping in its nest.

To avoid this, install an exercise wheel and put some chew toys to keep your gerbil occupied.

You should also let your gerbil out of the cage for exercise. This reduces their anxiety and keeps them happy. Ensure that the surroundings are well-secured and safe for gerbils before letting your pet out.


Gerbils are great pets that can adapt their sleep schedule according to your needs. They need almost 12 hours of sleep every day and sleep in small intervals. They are not strictly nocturnal or diurnal but follow a nonuniform sleep schedule.

If you are looking for a pet that is adorable, sleeps during the day, and loves interaction, then getting a gerbil as your next pet is a great option.


How Can I Reduce Gerbil Noise at Night?

Keep gerbils in a separate room away from your bedroom. Gerbils are highly active during the night and make noises when playing and exploring. Put chew toys and wheels inside its cage to keep it busy throughout the night.

Can Gerbils Adjust Their Sleeping Pattern?

Yes and no, gerbils usually rest during the day and are often found active in the early hours of the morning. They can adjust their sleeping pattern according to their owner’s Sleep schedule. Most gerbil owners usually interact with their pets during the night when they come home from work. If you interact with your gerbil during the day, it can start adapting to your schedule and sleep during the night.  

Do Gerbils Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

No, gerbils do not sleep with their eyes open. They hide in their burrows and nests where they are safe from predators and keep their eyes closed while they sleep. If your gerbil is sleeping with its eyes closed, it is not actually sleeping but is resting. Gerbils who sleep with their eyes wide open are suffering from a medical disorder that requires urgent veterinary attention.

What Are Some Good Gerbil Sleep Accessories?

Gerbils are not as demanding as other rodents when talking about sleep accessories. The most important part of a gerbil’s sleep is the bedding. The substrate material should be of premium quality to ensure your gerbils gets the most comfortable sleep. Socks, tents, and sleeping blankets are accessories that are not mandatory but add to your gerbil’s comfort. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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