Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Written by Krishna Maxwell
Updated: October 29, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/AustralianCamera
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Key Points

  • Sleep is imperative to all living creatures, including guinea pigs.
  • Guinea pigs require about the same amount of sleep as humans and some sleep as much as 9 1/2 hours per day.
  • Guinea pigs sleep in many small naps throughout the day and night. The average nap lasts 10-30 minutes.
  • Guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open and only one part of their brain is asleep at any time so that the other portions of their brains can remain alert to possible threats.

When you picture a group of guinea pigs, they are probably running around, squeaking, playing, chewing, or all of the above. But do you ever picture these little creatures sleeping?

The following article answers the question: Do guinea pigs sleep? In addition, learn when and where these little animals sleep, guinea pigs’ sleeping patterns, along with other interesting facts about this sweet pet.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Yes. Guinea pigs must get a certain amount of sleep in order to maintain good health. Some guinea pigs sleep a total of nine and a half hours each 24-hour cycle.

Guinea pigs are very active animals. They are vocal and always seem to have something to chew on. Fun fact: A guinea pig chews at a rate of 200 times per minute!

The active nature of guinea pigs requires them to replenish their energy throughout the day and night. Sleeping gives them the rest they need to carry on with their busy lives. While they are active throughout the day and night, they are most active at dusk and dawn. This makes sense from their point of view as there is just enough light to see well, but it is still dark enough to hide their movements.

The new owner of a guinea pig may expect to see their pet disappear into a huge pile of shavings to snooze for several hours. After all, this is what hamsters, gerbils, and other rodents do. But it turns out that guinea pigs sleep in a completely different way.

What is the Typical Sleep Schedule of a Guinea Pig?

Guinea pigs don’t have a set sleep schedule. They sleep for small periods of time throughout the day and night. A single nap can last from ten to 30 minutes.

There’s a reason why guinea pigs sleep for very short amounts of time. In the wild, they are near the bottom of the food chain. In other words, they have lots of predators to worry about! Guinea pigs sleep in short spurts of time so they can maintain a steady awareness of their surroundings. Just imagine if these small mammals slept for a solid eight hours during the day. They would be incredibly vulnerable to hawks, snakes, and other predators. Because of their position on the food chain, guinea pigs need to do everything they can to protect themselves from a predator’s attack.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep
A tired Guinea pig yawns and shows her teeth.

iStock.com/Oleksandr Shchus

When Are Guinea Pigs Most Active?

Though they nap throughout the day and night, guinea pigs are more active in the early morning and at dusk. This behavior can be traced back to the habits of wild guinea pigs. Wild guinea pigs are out looking for food or exploring their territory early in the day and at dusk because of the lack of light. This low level of light helps to hide them from predators.

Of course, a domesticated guinea pig living in a cage in a family’s home doesn’t have to risk its life looking for food. But pet guinea pigs still share these natural instincts with their wild relatives.

Where Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Wild guinea pigs live underground in burrows, but they usually don’t dig the burrows themselves. They take over burrows abandoned by other types of rodents. Burrows serves as protection from harsh weather conditions as well as predators. They are able to hide in them during their short naps.

Alternatively, most domesticated guinea pigs don’t have a burrow available to them in their cage. But they still like to take naps under the protection of a shelter. Owners have a variety of creative choices when providing a guinea pig with a place to nap.

Some people give their pets an old cardboard shoebox, tissue box, or other small boxes to sleep in. This is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly option. Of course, guinea pigs love to chew on cardboard, so the box should be replaced when it starts to fall apart.

Other options include a small wooden house, a tunnel, or a hut made with non-toxic materials. These are available in most pet shops and pet supply stores. This type of shelter requires a small investment but is definitely more durable than a cardboard box. Try some different types of shelters to see what your guinea pig likes the most.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep
A pet Guinea pig sitting in a basket.

iStock.com/5second

Yes, guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open. However, they never go into a deep sleep. In fact, only one part of their brain is resting while the other section remains watchful for predators in their habitat.

An owner who peeks into the cage to find their pet standing very still with its eyes open is looking at a sleeping guinea pig. Try not to make noise or disturb it. These small pets can startle very easily when they’re napping.

Once again, guinea pigs’ sleeping habits are as a result of natural instinct. If a wild guinea pig closed its eyes to nap, it would be putting itself at great risk of being eaten by a predator.

In some cases, when a guinea pig has been with its owner for years it will close its eyes to sleep. It may even lie down in its shelter. This means the domesticated guinea pig feels relaxed and safe enough to nap without keeping an eye on its surroundings. Owners can take this behavior as proof they are providing their guinea pig with a safe, pleasant home.

How Can Owners Help Their Guinea Pigs to Sleep Better?

Getting enough sleep is essential to the good health of a guinea pig. Sleeping gives them a chance to digest their food and absorb the nutrients they consume each day. There are a few ways to help this pet get enough naps throughout the day.

Though everyone in the family wants to enjoy observing this pet, it’s better to keep it in a quiet room. A guinea pig that lives in a noisy area with dogs barking, dishes clattering and people talking is likely to lose sleep time. Find a location for the pet’s cage that allows it to hear the activities going on in the home without being in the middle of the action.

If the cage must be kept in a high traffic area inside a home, try putting a blanket over half of it for a couple of hours. This can block some of the noise giving a guinea pig a better atmosphere to nap.

Placing a piece of soft material in a guinea pig’s cage is another way to help it get adequate naptime. A small cloth made of fleece or cotton is going to add comfort to this pet’s habitat. The guinea pig can snuggle up against it or push the cloth into its shelter.

Anyone thinking about choosing just one guinea pig as a pet may want to consider getting a pair of them. A pair of guinea pigs can serve as company for one another as well as keep each other calm. They are likely to sleep next to each other as well. Both of the guinea pigs are going to feel safer about taking quick naps with another furry friend close by.

What to Do If a Guinea Pig’s Nighttime Activities Keep You Awake?

You know now that guinea pigs can be active both day and night. So, as a guinea pig owner, you may find yourself with a guinea pig that’s especially active during the night.

Whether it’s running on its exercise wheel, squeaking with its friends, pushing its toys around, or rearranging its shavings, guinea pigs have the power to keep their owners up at night. Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent an active guinea pig from keeping you up at night.

Before going to bed, remove any noisy toys from their cage. This could be a squeaky exercise wheel or a toy with a bell in it. Replace them with soft toys that make very little noise while giving your pets the entertainment they’re looking for. You can put the noisier items back into the cage in the morning.

Secure any items that create noise when they have moved around or are manipulated by a guinea pig. As an example, a hanging water bottle in a glass aquarium can create a lot of noise when a guinea pig pushes on it. It may be trying to drink water or simply chewing on the housing of the bottle. A few small pieces of tape secured onto the backside of the bottle can prevent it from banging against the side of the glass cage. Make sure the guinea pig can’t get access to the tape. Another solution is to put its water in a dispenser that sits on the floor of the cage.

If you have a pair of guinea pigs that like to chat with one another at night, try putting a lightweight blanket over their cage. This can muffle their voices so you can get your rest. If you can still hear them talking, move the cage into another room at night where they won’t disturb you.

Up Next…

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep
Do Guinea Pigs Sleep
iStock.com/AustralianCamera
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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

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