Have you ever wondered why your rabbit’s eyes stay creepily open when it’s sleeping? Or found yourself poking Fluffy to see if he’s still alive when he’s sacked out on his side? Rabbit sleep is quite the mystery! But understanding your bunny’s unique slumber behaviors is key to your pet’s health and building a close bond. Get ready to hop down the rabbit hole into the weird and wonderful world of lagomorph sleep. You’ll uncover the science behind those eerie open eyes, learn to recognize your rabbit’s sleep stages, and pick up tips to improve sleepy time for these maestros of cat naps. It’s a 24-7 snoozefest for rabbits, so read on to become a sleep expert for your furry friend!

Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open or Closed?

Rabbits actually sleep with their eyes open! This is an unusual phenomenon called lagophthalmos, which is Greek for "rabbit eye." Unlike humans, rabbits don't have eyelids that close completely over their eyes. Instead, they have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane that partially closes over the eye. The nictitating membrane helps keep the eye moist and protected while still allowing light in.

So when a rabbit is fully asleep, its eyes will remain open with the nictitating membrane about halfway closed over the eye. You'll be able to see the whites of the rabbit's eyes when it's sleeping. Sometimes you may also notice their eyes twitching or moving slightly under the nictitating membrane as they experience REM sleep. But the eyes will stay open and won't close fully like a human's would.

Rabbits only fully close their eyes for grooming purposes. They'll fully close their eyes when wiping them with a paw or rubbing their face. But when asleep, the eyes stay open with that tell-tale nictitating membrane covering. So if your rabbit's eyes are completely closed, it's likely just grooming itself, not sleeping!

Why Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

There are a few key reasons why rabbits evolved to sleep with their eyes open rather than closed:

  1. To stay alert to predators. In the wild, rabbits need to be ready to spring awake and flee at a moment's notice. Closing their eyes fully would block their vision and make them vulnerable. The nictitating membrane allows light in so they can sleep while still keeping an eye out for danger.

  2. To stay in sync with daylight hours. Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Sleeping with eyes open during the day helps their circadian rhythms stay synced with light/dark cycles.

  3. To detect motion. With their eyes open, rabbits can detect movements and disturbances more easily even while asleep. This also helps protect them from predators.

  4. To keep eyes moist. Rabbits' eyes require a lot of moisture. Keeping eyes partially open protects them from drying out while sleeping.

  5. To support continuous digestion. Rabbits digest their food almost continuously and this requires neurological input from visual stimuli. Keeping their eyes open allows digestion to continue uninterrupted while sleeping.

So for rabbits, sleeping with eyes open is all about protecting themselves, staying aware of their surroundings, and continuing biological processes like digestion uninterrupted. It's a clever evolutionary adaptation that makes sense for an animal that's both a frequent snack for predators and needs to eat near-constantly!

How Can You Tell If Your Rabbit Is Sleeping?

Since rabbits sleep with their eyes open, you can't rely on closed eyes to know if your bunny is asleep or awake. But there are some clear signs that can clue you in to when your rabbit is sleeping:

  • Partially closed eyes with visible third eyelid membranes

  • Lying down fully on its side or with head tucked into body

  • Steady breathing and slowed heart rate

  • Lack of activity or response to stimuli for over 5 minutes

  • Twitching eyes, whiskers or legs showing REM sleep

  • Tooth grinding or soft snoring sounds

The most obvious giveaway is if you see your rabbit fully loafed over on its side or in a curled up ball with eyes partly closed. Rabbits only sleep in this position when they feel completely secure. If startled awake quickly, the rabbit will snap right out of the sleeping position back into alert mode.

Subtle breathing motions, occasional eye twitches, and a lack of activity even when you approach also indicates sleep state. See if you can spot the nictitating membrane sliding halfway over the eyes as well. The eyes may point in slightly different directions rather than moving in unison when awake.

Tooth grinding or snoring sounds, though soft, are sure signs of deep sleep in rabbits too. If you're unsure, try gently petting your rabbit when it's in resting state. See if it responds and fully wakes up after a few seconds. Lack of response usually means your bunny is sound asleep!

Most Common Rabbit Sleeping Positions

Rabbits can sleep in a variety of curled up positions that range from very relaxed to more alert. Here are some of the most common rabbit sleeping positions and what they mean:

  • Fully flopped over on side or back with legs splayed – deepest sleep, total comfort

  • Tucked into a ball with head curled inward – relaxed sleep but still somewhat alert

  • Upright with head tucked into chest – light sleep, ready to spring awake

  • Chin resting flat on ground – moderate sleep, slightly more relaxed

  • Stretched out flat on belly – moderately relaxed sleep

  • Curled up tightly in a corner – restless sleep due to stress

  • Sitting up very straight with eyes wide open – not actually sleeping, just resting

The more curled up and tucked in a rabbit is, the deeper it's sleeping and the more secure it feels in its environment. Sleeping flat out fully exposed or splayed on the back signals they are extremely comfortable and sleeping deeply. If they are sitting straight up or stretched out flat but fully alert, they are likely just resting, not fully asleep.

Any position tucked tightly into a corner or very upright signals restless sleep and stress. Make sure conditions are peaceful for a stressed bunny to help them sleep better. Pay attention to what sleeping positions you commonly see your rabbit in to get a sense of how secure and relaxed they feel in their space.

When Do Rabbits Sleep?

In the wild, rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk since they are crepuscular animals. They'll sleep the most during the midday hours when predators are also less active. Domestic rabbits maintain a similar sleep pattern and will sleep the most from late morning through late afternoon.

Here's a breakdown of typical sleep times for pet rabbits:

  • Early morning – Least amount of sleep time. Rabbits wake up early ready to play and eat.

  • Late morning to late afternoon – Longest major sleep period. Expect a few hours of solid napping during this time.

  • Early evening – More awake time again for play, exercise, eating.

  • Late night – Some lighter sleep as day winds down, especially with lights out.

Rabbits need 8-12 hours of sleep per day total on average. Adults may get the full amount by sleeping heavily during the afternoon and lightly early and late in the day. Baby and juvenile rabbits will nap more often throughout day and night since they need more sleep overall.

Even within main sleep blocks, rabbits will go through cycles of REM and non-REM sleep just like humans. So their sleep periods are sometimes punctuated by sudden jerky motions, more active brain waves, or even standing briefly to shift position before going back to sleep.

The timing may also change a bit based on your particular rabbit's energy levels and preferences. But in most cases, the midday siesta hours will be when your rabbit is sawing logs the hardest!

Do Rabbits Sleep in the Dark?

Rabbits don't necessarily need complete darkness to sleep, since they nap just fine in the dappled light of the outdoors. But most pet rabbits do prefer dim lighting when time to sleep. Here are some tips for creating an appealing sleep space for your bunny:

  • Keep their room or sleeping area away from bright natural light during midday if possible. Draw the curtains or shades to dim things.

  • Avoid bright ceiling lights, lamps, or fixtures shining right onto or near their sleeping area when it's sleep time.

  • Use a night light rather than complete darkness if needed for safety. Rabbits can't see well in pitch blackness.

  • Place an igloo hideaway, box with hole cut in it, or other shaded sleeping space for them to retreat into.

  • Put up a removable light diffuser or drape sheer fabric over part of the cage if it's too bright.

  • Switch to lower wattage bulbs in nearby fixtures to create ambient mood lighting.

  • Let your rabbit choose to sleep in the darkest part of their area away from outside light sources.

  • Maintain the same consistent light/dark cycles daily rather than abrupt changes.

The ideal is enough dimness for your rabbit to feel it's time to sleep, but not so dark that you can't monitor them and tend to their needs. Adjust lighting to find the right balance for restful rabbit siesta time.

How to Make a Rabbit Sleep at Night

Since rabbits are most active around dawn and dusk, they'll naturally stay awake later and get up earlier than human schedules. But you can encourage a rabbit to follow your sleep schedule more closely at night with these tips:

  • Keep the rabbit area dark and quiet at night to signal bedtime. Use blackout curtains if ambient light seeps in.

  • Provide stuffed hideaways or enclosed spaces for them to feel secure and sleepy.

  • Make sure the rabbit gets ample exercise and playtime earlier in the day.

  • Feed larger meals earlier and just a small snack later to prevent midnight munchies.

  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine like brushing and talking soothingly.

  • Avoid disturbing or awakening them abruptly once they do sleep.

  • Try gently petting or massaging in a way known to relax your rabbit.

  • Place familiar worn t-shirts or blankets in area to comfort them at bedtime.

  • Use pheromone plugins or sprays designed to de-stress rabbits in their environment.

  • Consider moving their area to a more insulated, quiet part of the home at night.

  • Investigate and mitigate any noises or disturbances that might wake them.

With the right conditions and positive associations, you can get a rabbit adapted to more of a human night owl schedule over time. Just have realistic expectations since their natural rhythms make them prone to be early birds. Focus on keeping their area calming and undisturbed during key sleep periods.


Many rabbit owners are thrown off at first by the fact that rabbits sleep with their eyes open. But this is completely normal rabbit behavior. Look for the telltale signs like partially closed eyes, relaxed sleeping postures, minor twitching, and lack of response to understand when your bunny is asleep. Rabbits need good amounts of undisturbed sleep during their natural active times in order to stay healthy and happy. With some adjustments to lighting, routines and environments, you can usually encourage them to get in sync with human day/night cycles too. Understanding your rabbit's sleep patterns and needs will help you build a strong bond and keep them on the hop to vibrant health.



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