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How much sleep does a baby tortoise need?

Is It Normal for A Baby Tortoise To Sleep A Lot?

Last Updated on September 25, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Baby tortoises need far more sleep than adult tortoises. For the first year of a baby tortoise’s life, it’ll spend up to 22 hours per day sleeping in a secure location.

The longer a baby tortoise sleeps, the more it grows and develops. It takes a baby tortoise’s shell around 9 months to harden, so hiding and sleeping keeps it safe.

When a baby tortoise awakens, it’ll spend time eating, hydrating, moving, and emptying its bowels. It’ll return to sleep once its basic survival needs have been met.

If a baby tortoise spends little time awake, especially in the winter, it may have entered brumation due to low temperatures. Avoid this outcome by keeping the tortoise warm with a heat lamp.

As a tortoise grows older, it’ll spend more time awake. Never force a tortoise to change its sleep-wake cycle. Only wake a sleeping baby tortoise if failing to do so places its health or safety in jeopardy.

How Much Do Tortoises Sleep?

A healthy adult tortoise usually spends around 12 hours of its day awake and the other 12 hours sleeping.

You must create an enclosure that encourages this sleep-wake cycle, ensuring the tortoise enjoys an appropriate contrast of light and darkness.

Baby tortoises need much more sleep than adults. A tortoise is widely considered a baby for the first year of life, after which the accepted term is ‘yearling.’

These life stages are followed by juvenile, sub-adult, and finally, adult status.

If you don’t have exact records of when a tortoise was hatched, it can be hard to know if it’s still a baby and is expected to showcase behaviors associated with its young age.

One way to tell is the hardness of the shell. A tortoise’s shell is comparatively soft for the first 8 – 9 months, so if the cover doesn’t feel solid, it’s likely still a baby.

Do Baby Tortoises Sleep More Than Adults?

Bringing home a tortoise can be an exciting time, and you’ll understandably want to spend time bonding with your new pet and ensuring its needs are met.

It can be concerning if a tortoise spends prolonged periods hiding and sleeping. Is it normal for tortoises to sleep a lot? Baby tortoises sleep much more than adults or even juveniles.

You’re unlikely to see much of a tortoise for the first year of its life. Many baby tortoises sleep between 19 and 22 hours daily, only briefly waking to eat, drink, and exercise.

This is natural as long as the baby tortoise feeds and hydrates while awake. Don’t force a baby tortoise to stay awake longer because this will harm its health and well-being.

Why Is My Baby Tortoise Sleeping So Much?

Baby tortoises sleep a lot due to an instinctual desire to remain safe. As discussed, the shell of a baby tortoise is comparatively soft and offers limited protection from predators.

Wild tortoises frequently live alone, and parents take no interest in raising hatchlings.

A baby tortoise will be left to fend for itself, and as it’ll be considered easy prey, it spends most of its days hiding and sleeping until it grows larger and more robust.

The longer a baby tortoise sleeps, the faster this growth will occur. Most baby tortoises will become more confident and spend additional time awake within 12 months.

much should a baby tortoise sleep?

Is My Baby Tortoise Sleeping or Hibernating?

If temperatures get cold enough, a baby tortoise may enter brumation. Most tortoise species brumate between November and January when temperatures are at their lowest.

Brumation sees a tortoise’s heart rate slow substantially, remaining asleep for up to 12 weeks. It won’t rise to feed during this period but will occasionally drink water.

It’s inadvisable to allow a baby tortoise to enter hibernation.

Baby tortoises eat little compared to adults, so they store limited fat. There’s a significant risk that a baby tortoise will not awaken from hibernation.

It could be at least 3 years before a tortoise can safely hibernate. Minimize the risk of a tortoise slipping into this status by keeping its habitat warm, especially at night.

Never allow the temperature in a baby tortoise habitat to drop below 50°F. Ensure the contrast between a habitat’s warm basking area and the cooler side isn’t too extreme.

What Time Do Baby Tortoises Go To Sleep?

As baby tortoises spend so much of their day asleep, they don’t have a set time for rest.

However, most baby tortoises spend their limited waking hours during daylight. This helps the tortoise thermoregulate and benefit from natural light.

Monitor the baby tortoise and learn its favored habits. You may find it emerges from its sleep space at dawn for a short time, or perhaps it prefers to wait until lunchtime or shortly before dusk.

By learning a baby tortoise’s natural preferences and how it manages its circadian rhythms, you can ensure that a ready supply of food and water is available.

Over time, as the tortoise ages, it’ll spend more of its time awake. Eventually, you can help it transition into 12-hour sleeping and waking cycles.

Do Baby Tortoises Sleep Deeply?

The sleep of a baby tortoise will vary between naps during which it remains alert to its surroundings and deep, recuperative sleep from which it’ll be difficult to rouse it.

Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review stated that reptiles, including tortoises, enjoy unihemispheric sleep. Unihemispheric sleep means half the brain remains active while the other rests.

Unihemispheric sleep allows an animal to remain alert to sights, sounds, and scents that signify danger. Sleep is a vulnerable time for animals not at the top of nature’s food chain, including tortoises.

While a baby tortoise will likely fall into deeper sleep occasionally, allowing the body to rest and grow, unihemispheric sleep ensures the tortoise feels secure if it needs to protect itself from a threat.

Where Do Baby Tortoises Like to Sleep?

Baby tortoises will seek a safe place to rest. It’s rare for a tortoise, especially a baby, to fall asleep in open and plain sight. This will usually only happen if the baby tortoise is exhausted from activity.

Help your baby tortoise feel comfortable during sleep by providing the opportunity to burrow into a soft, safe substrate and ideally provide an enclosed hiding place like an overturned box.

Keep this sleeping space warm enough to make the tortoise comfortable.

Should I Wake My Baby Tortoise?

As sleep is so pivotal to the health and growth of a baby tortoise, allow it to maintain its sleep-wake cycles. When the baby tortoise awakens, it has slept sufficiently to meet its needs.

There may be times when you need to wake a baby tortoise. Instances where it could be appropriate to disturb a baby tortoise’s sleep include the following.

  • The tortoise is asleep in an open space and could attract predators.
  • You’re concerned the tortoise will enter brumation before it’s ready to do so safely.
  • The tortoise has been prescribed time-sensitive medication.
  • The tortoise doesn’t appear to be eating or drinking while awake, and you’re concerned about dehydration or nutritional deficiencies.
  • You must transport the tortoise to a veterinary appointment, as waking in a different location from where it fell asleep can be stressful and disorienting.

If you need to wake a baby tortoise, attempt to rouse it by steadily increasing the temperature and light in its surroundings without causing distress.

Baby tortoises sleep most of the day, only waking for a few hours to seek food and water. As long as a baby tortoise spends time active each day, this need for sleep is natural.