Do Snakes Sleep?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: July 29, 2022
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Think You Know Snakes?

As you probably know, snakes have no eyelids. Eyelids are the folds of skin that cover your eyes when you sleep. They also protect the eyes from incoming objects because of how fast they close. One fun fact is that one human blink lasts only one-third a second.

Snakes, however, do not have this feature or ability, so their eyes are never closed. This leads to the legitimate question about whether or not they actually sleep? This article takes a comprehensive and investigative look into snakes and their resting habits.

How Do Snakes Protect Their Eyes Without Eyelids?

snakes that live by the nile
Instead of eyelids, snakes have eyecaps or spectacles.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

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Snakes do not have eyelids but have spectacles or eyecaps instead. Snakes’ spectacles are transparent eye covers that permanently cover their eyes. They help protect the snakes’ eyes from injury due to incoming objects and keep the their eyes from drying out.

As snakes shed their skin, their eyecaps or spectacles come off with the skin. While this process occurs, a snake’s eyes may appear milky or cloudy blue. However, snakes sometimes do not shed their eyecaps, resulting in difficulty seeing.

Do Snakes Sleep?

Mexican Vine Snake
Snakes sleep without closing their eyes.

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Although snakes do not have eyelids, they sleep. In fact, no animal has been undisputedly proven not to rest their brains. We say “undisputedly” because some animals, such as the bullfrog and dolphin, do not sleep as we do but still rest their brains in their unique ways. Snakes sleep because they need to recharge and rest their brains just like we do.

Do Snakes See When They Sleep?

Since snakes do not have eyelids, it’s understandable to wonder if they can see in their sleep. However, snakes do not need to close their eyes to block sight. Instead, they close their retinas which are the main bridge between the light that enters their eyes and the interpreted images that they see. Snakes do not see when they sleep because they can close their retinas.

Do Snakes Sleep During The Day Or Night?

The answer to this question depends on if the snake is diurnal or nocturnal. Diurnal snakes sleep during the night and are active in the day, while nocturnal snakes sleep through the day and are active at night.

Nocturnal snakes, such as night snakes and kingsnakes, sleep during the day, while diurnal snakes such as patch-nosed snakes, corn snakes, and garter snakes sleep at night. However, some snakes, such as the copperhead, are diurnal in the spring and fall and nocturnal in the summer.

How Long Do Snakes Sleep Daily?

Snakes can sleep for up to 16 hours daily. During brumation (hibernation for reptiles), this number can go up.

How To Know If A Snake Is Sleeping

Corn Snake Lifespan How Long Do Corn Snakes Live Cover image
Sleeping snakes will not flick their tongues.

Enrique Ramos/Shutterstock.com

Since snakes do not close their eyes or snore, it’s pretty hard to know if they’re sleeping or just staying still and watching you. Snakes sometimes stay still for extended periods, lying in wait for their prey to get within strikable distance, so a still snake could be hunting and not asleep.

However, sleeping snakes will not flick their tongues. Also, if they are in a deep sleep, they may not hear you approach, so instead of slithering away, they’ll continue to stay still. But this is not fool-proof, as the copperhead snake is known to stay still when it hears humans approach in a bid to blend or camouflage into its surroundings.

If you have a pet snake, it may not move or respond to you taking off its cage lid when deeply asleep. All in all, if you do not study a snake extensively, you might not be able to tell if it is sleeping, hunting, or resting. So, do not approach a snake simply because you think it’s sleeping.

Where Do Snakes Sleep?

Snakes like to sleep in hidden or protected places that do not expose them to predators when they are unaware. The exact location picked depends heavily on the species of snake. Water snakes, for example, do not like to live too far away from water, and vine snakes pick homes close to forests. However, there are some common objects or buildings that snakes favor.

Rocks are a major favorite of the species, and it is common to catch a snoozing or resting snake under a large rock. Snakes also sleep under logs, on tree branches, in caves, and in abandoned buildings.

Do Snakes Sleep In The Same Place?

In the wild, snakes choose different locations to sleep and rarely ever stay in a place for long, as doing so would make them easy targets for predators. As you probably know, several animals prey on snakes, and like other animals in the wild, snakes have to actively avoid predators.

However, some animals, such as timber rattlesnakes, return to their birth spots yearly to brumate. These snakes even allow some species of snakes to share their brumation spots with them. Racer snakes are one species commonly found brumating with rattlesnakes. When the rattlesnakes are asleep, some racer snakes take advantage of their unawareness and eat the baby rattlesnakes!

Where Do Snakes Sleep During Winter?

In the winter, temperatures drop massively, and cold rains or freezing snow become the order of the day. During these periods, snakes are hardly ever found about. One major reason for this is that snakes become sluggish when exposed to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, it gets as cold as -70 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods, making it impossible for snakes to survive.

Consequently, snakes (and some other cold-blooded animals) go to sleep for a few weeks up to 4 months. This is very similar to hibernation but is called brumation which is how cold-blooded animals survive the weather. Remember that only warm-blooded animals hibernate. Snakes brumate in their dens or hibernaculum.

Do Snakes Dream?

Shockingly, a research paper published in The Scientific American detailed a German study that offered proof that reptiles dream. It is speculated that their dreams are about recent events and memories. This is interesting because snakes do not have superb memories and may even lose some memories when they sleep for long periods during brumation.

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