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Do Rats Sleep? (How, Where, and How Long They Sleep)

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Yes, rats do sleep. They sleep about 12 hours per day split into several naps. As nocturnal animals, they sleep during the day. Rats that live near places that are noisy at night, have to go out during the day to look for food or travel. In this case, these rodents sleep more at night.

Rats like to sleep. They sleep for long periods and take small naps throughout the day. 

If you have rats as pets, it can be frustrating to see them sleep during the day when you are up. Although they have a different schedule than yours, you can still spend moments together during the day, as they take part in intermittent sleeping.

In this article, you will learn how rats sleep, how much they sleep, their sleeping habits, and more.

Do Rats Sleep?

Rats do sleep. They would die without sleep as they need rest to replenish their energy. They use their energy to look for food, travel long distances, socialize, and mate.

Rats are nocturnal animals, which means they sleep during the day and are active at night time[1]. When they are active, they usually search for food and travel, but also socialize play, and mate.

If you have pet rats, it can be frustrating to see your pet sleeping while you are awake. But, keep in mind that rats take part in intermittent sleeping, meaning they take many naps during the day, usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Some rats also learn their owner’s routines and adjust their sleep schedule accordingly.

According to studies, albino rats sleep during 76% of the daylight hours. This translates into more than nine hours a day.[2]

The rest of the time, they are:

  • Awake and active
  • Awake and resting
  • Half-awake
Rats Sleeping

Pet Rat vs. Wild Rat Sleeping Schedule

Rats are social animals that live in colonies. This is why breeders and vets recommend adopting or buying at least two rats when you decide they make great pets.

They form close bonds with their owners and/or fellow rats. Pet rats will want to spend as much time as possible with the owner and adjust their sleep cycle accordingly. 

If you are a morning person, you will discover that after a while, your pet rats are also awake at those hours. Rats do this so they can interact with you as much as possible.

Common wild rats (Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus) mostly interact with their kind. Because they are nocturnal animals, they don’t have to give up their sleep cycle to interact with other rats.

The schedule of wild rats can be reversed in some cases (sleeping at night and being active during the day). This happens when they live in areas with a lot of noise at night. Rats stay hidden when there’s a lot of activity outside.

Pet Rat vs. Wild Rat Sleeping Schedule

Why Do Rats Sleep During the Day?

Rats sleep during the day because they are nocturnal. They come out of hiding at night to search for food, socialize, and mate. They can be seen during the day if something disturbs their natural cycle.

Rats sleep during the day for two reasons:

  • It helps them avoid predators.
  • They have poor eyesight.

Most rat predators are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night and are active during the day. Rats have adapted to sleep during the day to protect themselves from predators and search for food at night.

Another reason why rats sleep during the day is that they have poor eyesight but can detect ultraviolet light. 

The ratio between ultraviolet and visible light increases significantly during the early morning and at dusk. This helps rats detect traces of urine left by other rats. They use this to track each other[3]

The urine of rats becomes visible in the UV light.[4]

Low light helps rats:

  • Explore the surroundings.
  • Be aware of predators.
  • Adapt better to the environment.
  • Find food.

Related: Do Rats Come Out During the Day?

Why Do Rats Sleep During the Day

How Long Do Rats Sleep?

Rats sleep an average of 12-15 hours a day. They do so in short intervals, also known as intermittent sleeping. This interval depends on several factors such as age and sleeping conditions.

Rats sleep for about 12-15 hours a day, but they do not sleep uninterrupted.

They sleep for several hours, wake up, eat, urinate, groom themselves, and play. Then they go back to sleep.

Each individual is unique, so this sleep period and pattern are not the same for each rat. 

Rats’ sleep schedule depends on the following factors:

  • Age – Babies and senior rats tend to sleep more.
  • Personality – Shy rats spend more time sleeping than outgoing ones.
  • Sleeping conditions – Rats sleep more in a quiet environment.

Rats’ Sleeping Habits

Rats sleep in different positions like any other animal. They tend to sleep curled up in a ball when it is still light outside, and stretched out and relaxed at night. These rodents also like to sleep with their kind.

Rat Sleeping Position

According to studies, rats tend to sleep curled up in a ball with their eyes closed when it is light and stretched out with their eyes open at night.[5] 

These differences in their sleeping habits are due to their rhythm and light intensity.

Rat Sleeping Position
Image Source

Sleeping In Groups or Alone

Rats that live in groups or pairs tend to sleep less because they have companions to spend time with. Lonely rats tend to sleep more out of boredom.

Rats Sleep In Cover

Wild rats never sleeps under the sky. They always sleep with a roof over their head to protect themselves from predators. This means you need to offer your pet rats a place to sleep. 

You can use the following to build a rat hideout:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Plastic houses
  • Special hammocks
  • Plastic tunnels

Why Does My Rat Always Sleep?

Rats sleep a lot for many reasons:

  • Newborn (rat babies tend to sleep longer)
  • Old age (senior rats sleep more)
  • Sickness – the stress of the disease and pain can make a rat less active and sleep more.
  • It still hasn’t adapted its sleeping schedule to your daily routine.

If you notice your pet rat sleeping for more than 15 hours, you should take it to a vet.

FAQs

How Many Hours Does a Rat Sleep?

A rat sleeps an average of 12-15 hours a day. This interval varies from individual to individual and depends on factors such as personality, sleeping conditions, and age. Baby and senior rats tend to sleep more, as well as shy rats or those that do not live in a quiet environment.

Where Do Rats Sleep in the Day?

Most rats sleep in their nests. Some make their nests in sewers or in the ground, while others, such as roof rats, choose to build them in attics or other high places. Rats can also sleep in your house, in the basement, or in abandoned buildings.

About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

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