Where Do Turtles Sleep (Where, When and How)?

Different animals have different sleeping cycles and routines, which are in turn also different from the way we humans sleep. Turtles, as a general rule, are diurnal. This means that they are active during the day, and they sleep at night. So if you have a pet turtle at home, you need to turn off the light during the night, so that your turtle can sleep in peace. 

But out in the wild, life is a little different. So how exactly do turtles sleep? And where? And when? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, out of curiosity, then you’re in luck because we can answer them! 

Let’s get right into it. 

Where Different Types of Turtles Sleep: 

There are many different types of turtles, and they don’t all live in the same habitat. Therefore, they have slightly different ways of sleeping, adapted to their own environment and lifestyle. 

Let’s look at some of the main types of turtles, and how they go about sleeping. 

Desert Tortoises:

Located in the Southwestern part of the United States, the desert tortoises (which are endangered), hibernate during the winter season by finding a sleeping position in underground dens. They will come out if the temperature is between 65 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but other than that, they’ll stay asleep. 

Then, during the summer season, they will be active and about early in the morning, and will then spend the rest of the day underground, asleep, in order to avoid the heat. So they basically sleep most of the time. 

Meanwhile, the giant tortoises of the Galapagos and Seychelle islands will also sleep a lot, but without the need to hibernate. They will spend up to 18 hours a day sleeping and will move around when it’s warm. When sleeping, they will sometimes burrow in the mud to avoid insects such as mosquitoes. 

Freshwater Turtles:

Freshwater turtles are turtles that live in bodies of water such as ponds, marshy areas, or rivers. When it comes to sleeping, they will usually bury themselves at the bottom of the pond, underneath the sand or mud.

They can then keep on absorbing oxygen from the water, and remain asleep for as long as they want, without needing to go up to the surface for air. 

Thanks to their slow metabolic rate and the composition of their shell, they can survive underwater for months at a time without needing to go up to the surface at all! 

If the freshwater turtle in question is only semi-aquatic, however, then they will usually bury themselves partially or completely in an area of grass or moss, near the water.

They can sleep in shallow water near the surface, or they might even burrow into a tunnel, or beneath large rocks or logs. Basically, they hide away so they can sleep in peace.

Snapping turtles, for example, will hibernate from October to April, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups, and they will burrow themselves into the mud to do so. 

Marine Turtles:

Marine turtles, also known as sea turtles, live in the sea, much as the name suggests. When it comes to sleeping, they will often find overhanging rocks or coral outcroppings in shallow water, so that they can rest on the surface.

However, they will sometimes then take a quick breath of air and will submerge under the surface to find a better sleeping spot. 

While these turtles sleep, their metabolic rate slows down significantly. This then allows them to use the oxygen more efficiently, so that they can stay submerged for hours at a time, and have a good amount of sleep, before needing to go back to the surface for more air. 

Temperate Tortoises:

Temperate tortoises are all the different species of tortoises that live in habitats with specific seasons and temperatures, with a very clear cycle throughout the year. As such, these tortoises sleep by having a period of hibernation throughout the winter. 

This hibernation is a deep sleep from which the tortoise does not wake easily. The metabolism is slowed down significantly so that it does not need to eat, and so that it does not need as much heat, allowing it to survive through the cold months. 

When these types of turtles go into hibernation, they will look for the best possible sleeping location, which should be as protected as possible, or else they will be vulnerable to predators.

Most often, they will burrow themselves into soft ground or will position themselves under the roots of trees or large logs. Somewhere where they can rest comfortably for months at a time, while being hidden and out of reach. 

Why do turtles sleep all the time? 

Turtles, on average, sleep for a good amount of hours at a time. Some species of turtles will also have hibernation periods, during which they are asleep for months at a time. But the thing is, that even when they are active, turtles are prone to being in the resting mode most of the time. 

People already know that turtles, usually, move really slow. But it’s also because they have no need to be as active. 

If you notice that your turtle is inactive a lot of the time, it might be down to the temperature.

Most turtles will be active when the temperature is agreeable to them, and they will go into rest mode or sleep when the temperature is either too high or too low. So make sure you are keeping your turtle within an appropriate temperature range, according to the species. 

For example, if you have your turtle in an aquarium, and it’s sleeping most of the time, this is a clear sign that the thermostat needs to be adjusted in accordance. You should then see a shift in behavior, and the turtle will be a lot more active, moving about and eating more.