Are Hedgehogs Nocturnal Or Diurnal? Their Sleep Behavior Explained

top 10 non-traditional pets - hedgehog
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Written by Janet F. Murray

Published: October 26, 2022

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Hedgehogs are wild little creatures also kept as pets. These animals sleep for as much as 18 hours each day and spend most of their time foraging while awake. Their sleeping and activity patterns depend on their breed, environment, and the time of year. But are hedgehogs nocturnal, diurnal, or something else? We explore the sleep behavior of these charming animals here and discuss whether hedgehogs are nocturnal or diurnal because that’s what we do best.

Hedgehogs Are Primarily Nocturnal

Native European adult hedgehog in green grass.

Hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal animals and sleep for 18 hours each day.

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Although hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal and sleep up to 18 hours each day, some do show crepuscular activity. Crepuscular animals or species are active during the twilight hours, around dusk or dawn, when the light provides them with excellent protection. Crepuscular creatures are different from diurnal and nocturnal animals that are busy day and night.

Although crepuscular animals are primarily active at dawn and dusk, they will often become active if the natural light mimics these twilight hours. For example, they will come out of their burrows on cloudy days because the dim light affords them some security. Also, suppose the moon is shining brightly on dark nights. In that case, this is another invitation for them to extend their foraging and play times.

Hedgehogs are unique as various species show different sleeping and activity routines. These routines depend on several factors in their environments. For instance, the level of light in their environment affects the hedgehog’s sleep and activity routines. But hedgehogs are primarily nocturnal, so they are busiest during low light periods and sometimes even when there is no light. Also, hedgehogs that live near urban areas are more active after midnight. This activity is likely because the environment is quieter and safer for them to roam around.

Hedgehog’s Nocturnal Sleep Behavior

Most animals sleep in intervals instead of one long sleep period, but most breeds of hedgehogs are not like this. Once they get themselves into a comfortable position, hedgehogs will sleep for 18 hours straight. But this sleep pattern does depend on their environment and their species. Some breeds of hedgehogs wake up during their slumber to take a break for a snack. In the summer months, hedgehogs sleep between eight and 14 hours. Baby hedgehogs sleep longer than adults as they are still growing. Baby hedgehogs can sleep as much as 20 hours each day. If you wake a pet hedgehog, it can become agitated and show aggression with its quills.

Hedgehogs Hibernate

Hedgehogs are true hibernators and enter a state of torpor during the winter months of February and November in the northern hemisphere. During hibernation, nocturnal hedgehogs will lower their heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. They do this to conserve energy throughout the winter. Unlike many other true hibernators, hedgehogs are not too bothered by their hibernation location.

Consequently, they may hibernate under a log pile, a shed, or in a compost heap. They’re happy if they can rest, keep warm, and reduce their energy consumption. However, nocturnal hedgehogs can wake from their winter torpor. But, they will only do this on warmer days as they hibernate to avoid the harshest weather. When awake during this time, they will forage for food.

The Hedgehog Process of Hibernation

animals that estivate: four-toed hedgehog

Hedgehogs prepare for hibernation by eating and filling up their fat reserves.

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Hibernation consists of the states of torpor and arousal. Torpor is the process of the animal lowering its body temperature and halting its usual activity. The state of arousal is when the animal wakes to eat or eliminate waste. Like all other animals that hibernate, nocturnal hedgehogs prepare for this period by eating as much as possible to build their fat reserves.

There are two stages to true hibernation: the preparation stage and the hibernation stage. During the preparation phase, hedgehogs will eat as much as possible to build and store excess fat reserves. This feeding habit helps them store nutrients that will metabolize while hibernating. The hedgehog will decrease its metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature during hibernation. Slowing down all these bodily functions ensures the hedgehog consumes the minimum reserves. This ability also guarantees the hedgehog avoids the cold hazards of winter and survives to thrive in the spring.

What Do Hedgehogs Do When They’re Awake?

If hedgehogs sleep for 18 hours, they have six hours to engage in their daily activities. When awake, nocturnal hedgehogs spend most of their time foraging for food. Hedgehogs prefer low-light settings and will start feeding once the sun starts setting. If you own a pet hedgehog, you should ensure that the lighting in and around their enclosure imitates natural lighting. At night owners should dim the lights or set the lighting on a timer. Owners should also avoid exposing their pet hedgehog’s enclosure to excessive light, as too much light makes them uncomfortable.

Where Do Hedgehogs Sleep?

Wild hedgehogs sleep in nests that they build. These mammals gather materials like dead leaves, hedgerows, hay, log piles, or hedge materials to build their nests. Wild hedgehogs prefer living in greener environments. Examples are areas with shrubs, grasses, forests, and suburban gardens.

If you are keen on owning one of these animals, you may be curious about whether hedgehogs are nocturnal pets. Like wild hedgehogs, pet hedgehogs are also mainly nocturnal. Because of this sleep pattern, it must have a hideout to sleep in during the day. Hedgehogs prefer sleeping in low-light to dark settings, so this shelter should block out the light. You could buy a hideout for your hideout or make your own out of a box or a PVC pipe.

Their nest should contain shredded paper or fleece for comfortable bedding. A domesticated hedgehog’s enclosure should be spacious and have two bowls for food and water. Domesticated hedgehogs need stimulation, which owners can provide in the form of toys and a hamster wheel to exercise.

Nocturnal Hedgehogs Rely on Their Hearing and Smell

pet hedgehog

Hedgehogs build nests out of natural materials in areas with shrubs and grasses for safe, cozy nocturnal naps.

©Coatesy/Shutterstock.com

Most nocturnal animals have good night vision, but this is not the case for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs have poor vision and barely use their eyesight. They can only see the outlines of objects and cream and brown colors. These mammas also have limited binocular vision and poor depth perception. But they have excellent hearing. Hedgehogs have ears that are strategically placed to hear sounds. In fact, researchers learned that hedgehogs have a hearing frequency range between 250 and 45,000 Hz. This hearing frequency range is much higher than the human range, which only goes up to 23,000 Hz.

Hedgehogs use their strong sense of hearing to listen for their prey and predators. If hedgehogs hear something unfamiliar or that signals a threat, they take on a defensive posture or duck their heads. But hearing is not their most robust sense. Instead, when it comes to a sensory winner, their smell is superior to their other faculties. Hedgehogs have well-developed noses that can quickly pick up the scents of prey and predators. They can detect the aromas of other hedgehogs and the target’s scent under an inch of soil. With these exceptional senses, hedgehogs are well-designed for the nocturnal lifestyle.

Nocturnal vs. Diurnal: What’s The Difference?

Navigate to Nocturnal vs. Diurnal: What’s The Difference? for further information about the nocturnal and diurnal phenomenon in various living creatures.

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

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