Do rabbits sleep with their eyes open? Some rabbits do!
Rabbits sleep with their eyes open, or partly open, to help them stay safe from potential predators.
But, some pet rabbits will feel safe enough to sleep with their eyes closed.
Let’s take a closer look at when rabbits sleep and how they sleep with their eyes open.
When Do Rabbits Sleep?
Most pet owners feel like they never see their rabbits sleeping! But, of course there are times when our bunnies will get some rest.
Wild rabbits are known mostly as crepuscular (active at dawn or twilight) or nocturnal animals (active at night).
So, they are more likely to be awake when it is dark or when the sun has not fully risen.
However, studies have shown variation in this. Some have altered light, noise, and food schedules to show that rabbit sleeping patterns can change.
Daily activity patterns have also been shown to vary a lot depending on the season.
Do Rabbits Sleep in the Dark?
So, although most rabbits will take rest during the middle of the day, and perhaps the middle of the night, does this mean they sleep in the dark?
Rabbits will often feel safest when sleeping in a burrow or den in the wild, so pet rabbits will appreciate somewhere quiet and secluded to sleep.
Rabbit hutches will often come with a dark compartment that can be used as a den by your bunny.
How Much Do Rabbits Sleep?
If you’ve never seen your bunny sleeping, you might assume that rabbits just don’t need that much sleep.
But the amount rabbits actually sleep might surprise you.
One study looked at adult rabbit sleeping patterns over a 24 hour period. They found that rabbits slept an average of 11.4 hours a day!
But this resting time won’t be in one solid snoozing session like it is for us.
Instead, rabbits will often have a couple of main sleeping sessions with lots of naps thrown in.
Now, let’s move to the main question we all want answered.
Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open?
Is the reason that we often don’t see our rabbits sleeping because they sleep with their eyes open?
Some rabbits will indeed sleep with their eyes open.
This doesn’t mean that they will be constantly watching everything around them, they are still definitely sleeping.
Later on we will find out what signs you can look out for to see if your rabbit is sleeping. But for now, let’s focus on how and why rabbits sleep with their eyes open.
How Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Not all rabbits will sleep with their eyes fully open. Some will have them closed, and others may open them half- or part-way.
But how can they sleep like this without drying out their eyes?
Rabbits have a third eyelid, which is also known as a nictitating membrane. This is a thin film that rabbits can blink across their eyes to maintain proper moisture.
Pet rabbits who sleep with their eyes open will have this third eyelid shut, to keep their eye somewhat protected from any damage, including drying out.
Why Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Now we know how rabbits sleep with their eyes open, let’s move on to finding out why!
Rabbits in the wild are often very vulnerable to predators. This is why they eat the most nutritious foods possible – to minimize the amount of time spent vulnerable in the open!
Sleeping with their eyes open is a way for rabbits to protect themselves against unwanted predators who may attack.
As we said earlier, rabbits won’t be looking and watching whilst they are asleep. So why bother keeping their eyes open?
There are two main reasons.
Changes in Light
Although rabbits won’t be properly seeing what’s around them, they will be able to notice changes in light.
So, if a predator is moving close to a rabbit and obscuring the light, it’s more likely to notice with its eyes open than closed.
Even if it has its third eyelid shut!
It Looks Awake!
The second reason why rabbits sleep with their eyes open is that they look as though they are awake.
Predators may be less likely to try and attack a bunny if they think it is awake.
So, if you think you’ve never seen your rabbit sleeping, its tactics are working well!
Is My Rabbit Scared of Me?
Does my rabbit sleep with its eyes open because it’s scared of me?
Not necessarily. Although sleeping with its eyes open can depend on how secure your rabbit feels, it rarely means that your rabbit is scared of you.
Some rabbits will never sleep with their eyes closed. They all have individual personalities just like us, and some may naturally be more alert and cautious!
Take a look at our guide to rabbit care to find ways you can help your rabbit feel safe and bond with it.
How Do You Know When A Rabbit is Sleeping?
If bunnies sleep with their eyes open, it can be pretty hard to know when they’re snoozing. But, there are a few subtle signs to watch out for.
Here are some of the main signs your rabbit is sleeping:
- Nose stops wiggling
- Slow, deep breathing
- Relaxed ears
You may also notice signs that your rabbit is dreaming, including twitching various parts of their body. This means your rabbit is in a deep sleep.
Rabbit Sleeping Positions
There are three main sleeping positions you can look out for as signs that your bunny is sleeping.
First is the loaf! This position is called the loaf because your bunny will look just like a loaf of bread.
Its body will be hunched up, but his feet will be tucked neatly underneath so you can’t see them.
Secondly, we have the rug. Your bunny will be spread out with his hind legs behind his body. He might stretch his front paws out, or keep them tucked underneath.
Finally, the flop! This is where your rabbit has flopped onto his side, with his front paws stretched out in front.
So watch out for these relaxing positions!
Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Have you ever seen your bunny sleeping with its eyes open? We would love to hear the signs you’ve learned to show your rabbit is taking a nap!
Make sure to leave your stories in the comments!
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References and Resources
- Pivik, R. (et al), ‘Sleep-Wakefulness Rhythms in the Rabbit’, Behavioral and Neural Biology (1986)
- Pivik, R. (et al), ‘Effects of Paradoxical Sleep Deprivation in the Rabbit’, Physiology & Behavior (1986)
- Kazmierczak, S. (et al), ‘Behavior of Domestic Rabbits During 2 Weeks After Weaning’, Archives Animal Breeding (2019)
- Jilge, B. ‘The Rabbit: A Diurnal or a Nocturnal Animal?’, Journal of Experimental Animal Science (1991)
- Zsendro, Z. (et al), ‘Effect of Lighting on Rabbits and its Role in Rabbit Production: A Review’, Livestock Science (2016)