How do snakes sleep?

Many people ask themselves if snakes sleep and if they also dream. However, it is hard to tell if a snake sleeps or not, especially since it will not close its eyes. Sleep is the behavior which will involve an immobile posture and decreased responsiveness to arousing stimulus like light and noise. The method used for sleep is slowing of the brain-waves. The studies on how a snake sleeps have found out that sleep comes in waves in snakes, at least 16 hours every day, and this may increase to 20 hours after the feeding. Such waves correspond with a slower heart rate, slower breathing, muscle relaxation, and lowered behavioral response.

The snakes have a circadian rhythm, and this is when they are totally active at a certain period of time. There are some snakes that are completely diurnal while others are completely nocturnal. However, others are found in between. Others will be active in the night or in the day according to the season. This is why it is hard to talk about how long the snake can sleep. Sometimes the snakes may exhibit sleep-like behaviors such as staying in one place for some hours, days and sometimes weeks without moving. However, the snake may exhibit this behavior when in reality it is foraging. A snake in this position may be waiting for prey, ready to ambush, envenomate or strike, and it will be fully aware of its surrounding. During this time, the snake will not sleep but will be completely attentive.

The eyes of the snakes do not have eyelids and they are covered by clear scales in the wild and in captivity. A motionless snake may never twitch and all signs that seem to show that an animal is sleeping like irregular heartbeat and breathing may just be normal to the snake. Since a snake will not be able to hear loud noises or see bright lights, it is hard to known when it is sleeping because it won’t react.

It is known that snakes do sleep, but what is not clear is for how long, how deep it can sleep, if it has a paradoxical sleep or not, and if it dreams. The sleep pattern is also different for various species of snakes. The snakes may also yawn but only as a way of gathering chemical cues or repositioning the musculoskeletal elements, which are not the same reasons that humans yawn. Sleep is important in the human biology, but the benefits of sleep in snakes are not well studied and more information is needed.

Snakes may sleep in burrows in the ground or even trees. For more information about how do snakes sleep, go to my Snake Removal - How to Get Rid of Snakes home page.

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