How Long Do Hamsters Sleep? Hamster Sleep Duration Guide

example of hamsters sleeping in an enclosed space

How Long Hamsters Sleep

Do you feel like your hamster sleeps all day? Are you concerned that they may be spending too much of their time snoozing? It can be challenging to know what is normal and what isn’t when it comes to sleep schedules, especially as yours will probably differ greatly from your hamster’s. 

How long do hamsters sleep? The average hamster will sleep between 12 and 14 hours per day, with Syrian hamsters on the higher end of that range, and some dwarf hamsters sleeping as little as 9-10 hours per day. This means that the majority of hamsters will spend between 50 and 60% of their time sleeping in any 24-hour period.

Hamsters spend a lot of time sleeping, but that is not the only way that their sleep patterns will differ from ours. Read on to learn more about the typical sleep schedules of your pet.

The Sleep Patterns Of A Hamster

There are a few unique traits of a hamster’s sleep patterns, revolving around how often they sleep and what times of the day they are more likely to be active.

Some of these terms you may already be familiar with, but others may be new to you: hamsters are nocturnal, polyphasic, and crepuscular. 

Hamsters Are Nocturnal

Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are most active at night. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, with most of their sleep occurring during the daylight hours. This can be a challenge when it comes to interacting with your pet because humans are diurnal by nature – in other words, most humans are active during the day and sleep at night.

Having conflicting sleep schedules makes it difficult to spend time with your hamster during the day and can make it difficult for you to sleep at night if your hamster’s enclosure is in your bedroom.

Our pet hamsters are not very far removed from their wild ancestors. Hamsters in the wild are vulnerable prey animals, which is why they will spend their daylight hours in underground burrows, resting until it is safe to forage above ground.

It is in this way that hamsters can take advantage of the cover of night, giving them their best chance at evading predators (after all, if they can’t be seen, they can’t be eaten).

Hamsters Are Polyphasic

A polyphasic sleep schedule is one in which total sleep is broken up into two or more chunks of time during a 24-hour period. Hamsters are polyphasic sleepers – instead of spending an uninterrupted 12-14 hours sleeping each day, they break this time into shorter naps.

This means that you won’t need to go the whole day without interacting with your hamster – you may find him getting up to eat, drink, or move around during the daylight hours.

Most other animals are also polyphasic – while your dog may sleep through the night with you, that would not be normal for him in his natural state. Even humans are polyphasic sleepers during their first three months of life – to which any monophasic parent can attest.

Hamsters Are Crepuscular

Animals that are most active during dawn and dusk are known as crepuscular. If you would like to have a play session with your hamster, your best bet is to wait until sunrise and sunset – these are the hours in which your hamster is most likely to be up, alert, and moving around. 

It is believed that some prey animals are crepuscular because the low light conditions of both dawn and dusk help them to blend into their surroundings. Because this has been a common means of defense among many prey animals, there are several predators who have adopted this level of activity as well – for example, coyotes and mountain lions are most active during dusk and dawn. 

How Long Hamsters Sleep: Syrians vs. Dwarf Hamsters

There are five species of hamster kept as pets – the Syrian, the Roborovski (Robo), the Winter White, the Campbell’s dwarf, and the Chinese hamster (less common in the United States).

All of these, with the exception of the Syrian, are considered dwarf hamsters. The species of hamster will make a difference when it comes to sleep schedules.

For the most part, Syrians will spend more time sleeping than the dwarf hamsters, with the average Syrian spending 14.3 hours sleeping in any 24-hour period. Syrian hamsters are also more sensitive to being woken up during daylight hours. While they are typically known as the friendliest of hamster breeds (to humans, at least), they do not take kindly to being woken up.

Dwarf hamsters, while also possessing the same sleep traits as the Syrian, are generally more adaptable to sleep schedule changes. Some dwarf hamsters will even adjust their sleep schedules to match their humans, spending more time sleeping during the night and spending more hours during the day active – it is best not to count on this, though, as not all dwarf hamsters will take to a diurnal schedule. Dwarf hamsters also tend to sleep slightly less than Syrians, with some sleeping as little as 9-10 hours per day.

Should You Wake Up A Sleeping Hamster?

Do not wake a sleeping hamster. This saying should not be limited to babies (or is it bears?) – if your hamster is sleeping, let them lie. Hamsters, being vulnerable and with few natural defenses, are very easily startled.

If you wake up your hamster while she is sleeping, chances are she will come out of a deep sleep frightened and disoriented. Each time you wake your hamster up during the day, you will be causing her unnecessary stress.

It is best to let your hamster sleep, knowing that you likely will not have to wait long before she wakes up to play. 

How Do Hamsters Like To Sleep?

In the wild, hamsters spend their day in burrows. These are an intersecting web of tunnels and chambers under the ground – some chambers are for food storage, some are for pup rearing, and some are for sleeping.

Almost all hamsters are solitary animals, so each adult hamster will dig his or her own burrow in which to spend the daylight hours. In the burrow, a hamster feels safe and secure – able to sleep undisturbed and undiscovered by the multitude of predators above the ground.

Hamsters in captivity prefer to burrow as well – just like their wild cousins. Have you ever walked by the hamster enclosures at the pet store only to find them appearing to be empty? If you look more closely, you can often find a hamster sleeping in a corner, covered by her bedding or by a dome – or both! 

How To Help Your Hamster Sleep Well

There are a few things you can do to ensure that your hamster gets the best sleep possible. The first has to do with the location of your hamster’s home. You will want to put her enclosure in an area that will allow her to sleep soundly during the day without interruption.

The kitchen, children’s playroom, and family room are probably not the best locations for your hamster’s cage. These areas will be too loud for your hamster to sleep well and will ultimately cause her stress.

You probably don’t want your hamster in your bedroom, either, because her nightly antics may keep you awake. Try to find a spot in your home that is relatively quiet and calm, away from anyone’s sleeping quarters. This might be a spare bedroom, or it might be a quiet corner of your office.

The other thing that you should provide is shelter or burrowing capability. If you have a deep, solid-walled enclosure, you can put enough bedding in the cage for your hamster to burrow deeply. If the walls are transparent, you can even watch your hamster create her own tunnels and chambers.

If you do not have the type of cage that is conducive to the deep litter strategy, you should at least provide her a few inches of soft bedding and a “house” in which to sleep – this can be a plastic dome from the pet store, an overturned clay pot, or even a cardboard box on its side. This will help your hamster feel safe and cozy.

Respecting Your Hamster’s Sleep Patterns

If you feel like your hamster sleeps the majority of the day, it’s because he does. Looking at the world through his perspective, he likely wonders why you sleep all night! The sleep patterns of a hamster are so entirely different from ours it can be hard to understand them – but their sleep schedules are as they are for a reason.

For thousands of years, hamsters have used the cover of darkness to protect them from predators. This behavior is engrained in their very biology and will not change just because they are safe in captivity.

The best that we can do, then, is to respect the natural sleep rhythms of our hamsters. If they adopt a schedule more like ours on their own, wonderful. If they don’t, that’s okay too – a well-rested hamster is a happy hamster, and it’s important to allow them to get all of the sleep that they need.

Want to learn more about caring for hamsters? Check out my other articles below or find my latest content here!

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