The hamster is a very popular caged pet and is often the first pet a child has, but how does a hamster’s sleep cycle impact pet owners? Additionally, how do you know if a hamster’s sleep cycle is normal to begin with? Or you wonder how long do hamsters sleep? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you decide if a hamster is the right pet for you as well as how to monitor your hamster’s health and environment based on its sleep cycle.
How Long Do Hamsters Sleep?
Hamsters usually sleep for about 12-14 hours a day but, unlike humans who typically sleep once a day, hamsters have polyphasic sleep-wake patterns. This means that they sleep multiple times a day time so this 12-14 hours will be broken up into smaller segments throughout the day.
Hamster Sleep Cycle
Hamsters, especially Syrian or golden hamsters, have been the subjects of numerous circadian rhythm sleep studies, so the sleep cycle of hamsters is well-researched. Humans spend up to 25% of their time sleeping in the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep and studies show that hamsters also enter thcan be phase of sleep for approximately the same amount of time. The REM phase is often known as the part of sleep where a person dreams, but despite the research that has been performed, it is not known whether or not hamsters dream like people dream.
You may, however, see your hamster twitching its paws or eyes slightly which many people think can be a sign of some sort of dreaming or other brain activity. Do not be alarmed if you find these movements while your hamster is asleep.
Another important thing to know about a hamster’s sleep cycle is that they are nocturnal in captivity. This means they are active at night and sleep during the day, which is the opposite of what most people do. Some people of course work at night so like hamsters, they will also sleep throughout the day. But for most hamster owners, their hamsters will be most active while they are fast asleep in their beds.
What If Your Hamster Is Sleeping More Than Usual?
If your hamster is sleeping more than usual it may be hibernating or sick. Hibernation can occur if your hamster is housed in a cold environment that routinely drops below 50 degrees. While most homes don’t get this cold, if your hamster’s cage is near an outside wall with poor insulation or a drafty door or window, its cage may be colder than the rest of your house. Make sure your hamster is certainly warm enough before assuming it is sick.
If your hamster’s cage is always over 50 degrees and it is sleeping more than usual, there is a good chance that it is sick. Older hamsters do not sleep as deeply or intensely as younger hamsters therefore they rest more often. A visit to your veterinarian may be in order if you believe your hamster is sick.
If your hamster’s cage is always over 50 degrees and it isn’t sick, it may simply be getting older and sleeping more. Respiratory and digestive issues are common in hamsters and if yours isn’t feeling well, it may be lethargic and sleep more often than not. This is a completely normal thing and will be not of concern.
Is It Okay to Wake Up Your Hamster?
Since hamsters sleep an upwards of 14 hours a day, there may come a time when you need to wake your hamster from its slumber or you accidentally awaken it from nap time. Startling your hamster should be avoided if at all possible as this could cause your hamster to bite you and disturb its normal sleep-wake cycle. If this happens on a regular basis, it could stress your hamster and contribute to health issues as well. Unless you need to administer medications or something else that is time-sensitive, it’s best to try and interact with your hamster only when it is already awake, rather than trying to make it adjust to your schedule.