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Red-Eared Slider Sleeping Habits: How Do They Sleep?

Do you ever wonder how your red-eared slider spends its days? Do they sleep a lot, or are they always active? 

This post answers some of the most frequently asked questions about red-eared slider sleeping habits and helps you understand what your pet might be up to when it’s not swimming. 

We’ll also give tips to ensure your slider has a restful night of sleep.

Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep?

Yes, red-eared slider turtles do sleep. They can sleep for up to 12 hours at a time. In the winter, they sleep for weeks on end in a state of brumation.

Red-Eared Sliders don’t sleep in the same way that we do. They don’t need a lot of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep like humans.

We optimize sleep for rest, recovery, and digestion as we continue to create our own heat with internal thermoregulation.

Since sliders are ectotherms and require external heat to function, most of their essential functions happen during the day when they bask. Sleep for red-eared sliders is less about optimizing body function and more about conserving energy through the cooler temperatures nighttime brings.

During sleep, they go into a state of light torpor. This means that their body temperature drops, and their metabolism slows down. They can still wake up and move around if they need to, but they enter this state of semi-hibernation to conserve energy through the cooler periods of the night.

Quality sleep is still essential for red-eared sliders as a natural photoperiod (hours of night and day) helps them regulate themselves physically and behaviorally.[1]

How Long Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep?

As a diurnal species, red-eared sliders sleep through the dark, cool periods of the night. On average, red-eared sliders sleep for 8-12 hours.

This time differs through the seasons for wild red-eared sliders as they experience the natural fluctuation of seasons, including changing day lengths.

During the coolest winter months, red-eared sliders enter a state of brumation, and they can sleep for weeks to months.

Most owners keep the daylight hours for their pet red-eared slider steady through the year, with 12 hours on and 12 hours off schedule for their lights and heat within the tank.

How Long Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep

Do Red-Eared Sliders Sleep With Their Eyes Closed?

Yes, red-eared sliders do close their eyes when they sleep. They either sleep with their heads poking out of the water, using their inflated throats to keep them afloat or submerged in the water.

If your slider sleeps underwater, it needs to resurface for air frequently. These sliders often lower their metabolism and respiration rate while sleeping, so they only surface a few times in the night to breathe.

When red-eared sliders bask, they do so with their eyes open. This helps them thermoregulate and maintain their internal temperature.

When they are sleeping, either at night or during the day, they often close their eyes. If you see your slider turtle basking with its eyes closed, it is likely asleep.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Sleeping So Much?

If you’ve noticed that your red-eared slider is sleeping more than usual, it could be due to a few different reasons:

  • Low temperatures
  • Lack of UVB
  • Brumation
  • Illness
  • Stress

Temperature

If the tank is too cold, red-eared sliders become sluggish and sleep more. The ideal temperature for a red-eared slider tank is 75-85°F.

You can use a basking lamp to help increase the tank’s temperature if it is too cool. The basking spot should be around 90°F.

You should also check the temperature of the water. It should be between 77-80°F.

Water 75°F–85°F
Basking 85°F–95°F
Night 65°F–75°F

Lack of UVB

Red-Eared Slider Lack of UVB
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Red-eared sliders need UVB to help them absorb calcium and produce vitamin D. Without these, they become lethargic and sleep more.[3]

Provide a UVB light for your turtle and ensure that it has access to it for around 12 hours a day.

Brumation

Your red-eared slider may be going into a state of brumation. This is common in the wild as temperatures cool and days shorten.[4]

During brumation, your slider can sleep for long periods (weeks to months), and their metabolism slows down. They don’t eat or move around much.

Illness

Baby Red-Eared Slider Behavior and Health
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If your red-eared slider is sleeping more than usual and showing other signs of illness, it is best to take them to the vet.[5] 

Some diseases that could cause excessive sleep include

  • Respiratory infections
  • Inclusion body disease
  • Shell rot
  • Vitamin A deficiency

Stress

Stress can cause red-eared sliders to sleep more[6]. This is because their normal sleep is interrupted. 

Some common causes of stress in turtles include:

  • Loud noises
  • Too much handling
  • Not enough hiding places in the tank
  • An overcrowded tank
  • A dirty tank
  • A tank that is too small
  • Not enough UVB light

Why Is My Baby Red-Eared Slider Always Sleeping?

Why Is My Baby Red-Eared Slider Always Sleeping
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If your slider is under 12 months old, it may be going through a growth spurt and sleeping more to support this process. Hatchling turtles need around 12 hours of sleep each night.

As red-eared sliders get older, they sleep less.

Your baby red-eared slider may also be sleeping a lot for the same reason as adults: improper environment, illness, or stress.

A juvenile red-eared slider should not be allowed to brumate as their bodies are still growing. This process can stunt their growth.

Why Are My Red-Eared Sliders Eyes Closed While Basking?

If you’ve noticed that your red-eared slider’s eyes are closed while basking, it may be due to one of three reasons: they’re relaxed, they didn’t sleep well during the night, or the UVB light in their tank is too strong.

Relaxation

Red-Eared Slider Relaxation

When red-eared sliders are basking in the daytime, they often do so to thermoregulate their bodies and raise their internal temperature.

If the basking spot is warm enough and your turtle feels comfortable and relaxed, they may close their eyes.

As a prey species, red-eared sliders are highly alert to their environment. Closed eyes signal that they feel safe. They should still be reactive to sounds and movements around them.

If they are unreactive, they may be in deep sleep or feeling lethargic due to illness. Sleeping a lot in the day is often a sign that they are ill or not getting enough rest at night.

Poor Sleep

Like all animals, red-eared sliders need around 12 hours of sleep. If they are not getting enough sleep, they can try to make up for it by napping during the day.

Try the following to encourage a restful sleep during the night:

  • Turn the lights off. If the tank is placed in a bright place in the home, cover it with a towel or sheet for the night.
  • Lower the temperature. Cooler temperatures signal to sliders that it’s time to rest. Turn off the heat source and let the temps naturally drop. Be sure they don’t dip below 65°F.
  • Keep the area around the tank quiet. Large noises can cause disruption and unease at night.
  • Reduce vibrations around the enclosure. Red-eared sliders communicate with vibrations, and they are hypersensitive to them around their home. Vibration from loud music or human traffic can impact their sleep.

UVB Light

UVB Light For Red-Eared Sliders

Excess exposure to UV rays can damage the eye and cause photokeratitis, an inflammation of the cornea. If your turtle’s eyes are overexposed regularly to this type of light, they may eventually develop cataracts. [6]

Look out for the following signs of UVB overexposure to the eyes:

  • Evasion of light
  • Closing eyes while basking
  • Squinting
  • Swollen eyes
  • Eye cloudiness
  • Hyperkeratosis (skin thickening) around the eyelids (and other facial offices such as nares and mouth)

To avoid this, make sure to position the basking lamp so it doesn’t shine directly into your turtle’s eyes. Provide your turtle with a hiding spot to escape the light if they need to.

Use a solar meter to measure the UVI (UV index) on your slider basking spot. It should measure 3.0–4.0. Higher values risk causing eye damage. 

You can rectify this by purchasing a UV bulb with lower wattage or moving the lamp further away from the basking spot.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Sleeping?

Your red-eared slider may not be sleeping due to an improper environment, illness, or stress. These factors can all contribute to restlessness in red-eared sliders.

If your slider is not getting enough sleep, it may be due to these three factors.

To encourage a restful sleep during the night, turn the lights off and lower the temperature. You should also keep the area around the tank quiet and reduce vibrations around the enclosure.

If your turtle is still not sleeping, it may be due to illness or stress. If you suspect either of these, take your turtle to the vet for a check-up.

How Much Light Do Red-Eared Sliders Need
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How Long Do Red-Eared Sliders Brumate?

Red-eared sliders typically brumate for around three to four months, from October to February. They may begin to brumate as early as September and continue into March or April.

Brumation is a period of inactivity that turtles undergo in the winter months. During this time, turtles slow down their metabolism and become less active. They may also stop eating for long periods.

If you live in an area where the winters are mild, your turtle may not brumate. Turtles come out of brumation if the weather warms up enough.

Captive red-eared sliders do not need to brumate, as you can keep their temperatures constant throughout the year.

Related: Do Red-Eared Sliders Hibernate?

How Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep?

Red-eared sliders sleep submerged in water. Often they float near the surface with their heads out, or they may completely sink to the bottom.

Sleeping in the water ensures that red-eared sliders are safe from surface predators and remain hydrated.

They still need to breathe air, so they often use their throats as floatation devices, keeping them at the water’s surface to breathe through the night.

Alternatively, they may sleep on the tank floor and surface for air. During sleep, respiration slows down, so they may only need to come up for air a few times in the night.

FAQs

How Can I Tell If My Red-Eared Slider is Sleeping?

If your red-eared slider is sleeping, they are submerged in water with their eyes closed. They may float near the surface or sink to the bottom of the tank.

Can Red-Eared Slider Turtles Sleep Underwater?

Yes, red-eared sliders can sleep underwater. This is why it’s important to provide them with a tank that is large enough for them to move around and float freely.

Do All Turtles Sleep Underwater?

No, not all turtles sleep underwater. Some turtles, such as box turtles, prefer to sleep on land.

How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Hold Their Breath?

Red-eared sliders can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes. They typically only stay underwater for a few minutes at a time before coming up for air.

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Sleeping Out of Water?

Red-eared sliders may try to sleep out of the water if the water is too cold or too dirty.

Are Red-Eared Slider Turtles Nocturnal?

No, red-eared sliders are diurnal. They spend the day basking and foraging for food and rest at night when the temperature is lower.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.