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There are plenty of rabbit raisers who have walked out to the rabbitry to find a sleeping rabbit that is flipped upside down and sprawled out like they are dead. Until you learn to not freak out over this it can make you think the worst right off. But sometimes your rabbit’s eyes are open and you scare the living snot out of them.
Were they sleeping with their eyes open? I’ve got some thoughts on this one so let’s get into it.
Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open or Closed?
Can rabbits sleep with their eyes open? Yes. But it’s not as common as you might think and it tends to happen more often when the rabbit is a high-strung animal or is not used to their new environment. When rabbits feel secure and safe, they tend to close their eyes when they sleep. Some rabbits can be quite dramatic sleepers (french lops especially) and will flop down with a heavy thump that some call the bunny flop or “rabbit fall”. But I will get to that later.
If rabbits feel threatened or uncomfortable, they are more likely to sleep with their eyes open when they are in unfamiliar surroundings, feeling stressed or nervous, or if there is a bright light or source of noise at night.
In situations, the third eyelid which is a thin membrane, comes out from the front of the eye and covers most of the rabbits’ eyes. This transparent membrane helps to protect the eye while still allowing the rabbit to detect any movement or potential threats. The membrane also protects the eye when the rabbit is in fights and will also come out if they feel stressed and think they may have to fight so don’t confuse that third eyelid coming out with your rabbit being sleepy. Your rabbit could be stressed as well.
Rabbits can still get into what I think are mini naps where their eyes are still open and you don’t see the membrane come out. I have walked up to my rabbits with their eyes open and they tend to be sitting on all four feet and leaning backward a bit. Almost in a zoned-out stage. But when I finally get their attention they snap out of it.
Personally, I think in this situation they are resting or napping as well.
How Do You Know When a Rabbit Is Sleeping?
Observing a rabbit’s behavior or learning your rabbit’s body language can help differentiate between an awake and asleep rabbit.
When a rabbit is alert, its eyes are open, ears are erect, and sometimes when the rabbit is stressed the nictitating membrane (inner eyelid) is sometimes visible.
But when a rabbit is sleeping, more of then than not its eyes are closed, and the nictitating membrane is drawn over the eye. The rabbit’s ears will also be relaxed and may droop slightly.
Natural Instincts Of Rabbits Sleeping Habits
Just because your rabbit is domesticated doesn’t mean they don’t still have a few habits of wild rabbits. Rabbits are most active during the twilight hours. Any guesses why? Predators. Yep, you guessed it. Rabbits are literally at the bottom of the food chain so the main reasons they have to be extra careful they don’t become a coyote snack or be the answer to a raccoon’s before-bedtime craving.
Rabbits also sleep several times a day they are not like humans where we sleep at night and are good for a long stretch. Rabbits are most active during the early morning and late afternoon to the evening.
Domesticated rabbits sleep anywhere from 6-12 hours of sleep per day, while wild rabbits may sleep less because of the threat of predators.
How Can You Tell If Your Rabbit Is Sleeping?
But how can you tell if your rabbit is sleeping? Here are some signs to look out for:
1. Still or barely moving nose: When rabbits sleep, their nostrils typically stop twitching.
2. Slower breathing: Rabbits breathe rapidly when they’re awake, but their breathing rate drops when they’re in a deep sleep, marking a slowed-down rate.
3. Teeth chattering: If your rabbit is content, they may chatter their teeth. It’s different from a grinding sound that signifies stress.
4. Dreams: Rabbits can dream just like us. They may twitch their whiskers, move their legs or flop their ears.
I have had some VERY dramatic sleepers. Some of my adult rabbits will move quite a bit while they are sleeping.
When rabbits feel like they are in a safe place they are going to be more relaxed and sleep where ever they feel most comfortable.
Most Common Rabbit Sleeping Positions
The three most common sleeping positions you will find your rabbit sleeping.
- The loaf position is the most common sleeping position for rabbits. It involves the rabbit curling up into a tight ball, tucking their feet underneath them, and resting its head on its shoulders.
- The stretched-out position involves the rabbit lying flat on its stomach with their legs stretched out behind them. This position signifies that the rabbit is comfortable and content in their surroundings. It also allows them to quickly spring up and move if they need to.
- The flop position (this is the one that is easy for new bunny owners to mistake for your rabbit being dead) is when the rabbit lies on their side with their legs extended outward. This position indicates that the rabbit is extremely comfortable and feels completely safe in their environment.
Do Rabbits Sleep in the Dark?
Yes and no. Like I mentioned before rabbits are preyed upon animals and they have to stay alert at night to say alive.
Rabbits are crepuscular animals meaning they are naturally most active during dawn and dusk but also sleep a small amount in the middle of the night but it’s defiantly a lighter sleep. Rabbits will also sleep deeper during the day because most predators are nocturnal animals and are not active during the daylight hours.
How to Make a Rabbit Sleep at Night
The short answer is you really can’t “make” a rabbit sleep at night. If you have your rabbit in your bedroom you may need to consider moving it out so you can get enough sleep.
Depending on the breed you may also have a really active breed and… well… sorry. Tough luck.
But you can make sure your pet bunny feels safe and calm at night and this is going to be the best way to get it to sleep at night.
- Make sure there are no dogs or other animals that could make the rabbit feel like it is in danger of being eaten.
- Keep lights and loud noises to a minimum.
- If your rabbit likes to throw things keep those things out of the pen during the night time.
Do Rabbits Dream?
Do rabbits dream? While there is not enough scientific evidence to confirm this, it is believed that rabbits do indeed dream. Just like humans, rabbits experience rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep, indicating the possibility of dreaming.
Just like dogs, I have a few rabbits that twitch their legs or even move their faces while they are sleeping.
Do Rabbits Snore?
Yes, rabbits can snore while sleeping but it’s not super common. Often times these rabbits are a larger breed and could be starting to get overweight. But you also need to be mindful of where the sound is coming from in your rabbit and make sure that your rabbit is TRULY sleeping when you hear those noises.
The reason I say this is there can also be rattling in a rabbit’s chest which indicates sniffles. In this case, your rabbit is highly contagious to other rabbits and it is very hard to get them better after they get sick. If your rabbit has sniffles they will also start to have a milky discharge from their nose or even chunks in their nose causing the sounds you hear.
Best Beds for Rabbits
OK before we go any further with this BE CARFUL of what the “bed” is made out of.
Rabbits are not dogs and they should NEVER have a small dog bed or something fluffy where they could chew the fabric and ingest it. This is deadly to a rabbit.
The only type of material that would be halfway ok with your rabbit is fleece fabric because there are not any strings that are easily separated. I have had so many people message me and ask what happened because their rabbit died and almost always there is some form of fabric in with the rabbit.
If your rabbits live outside in rabbit hutches do not give them any kind of fabric because this will cause your rabbit’s body heat to build up and they could get heat stroke.
Make sure the area your rabbit sleeps is a dark and quiet environment and your rabbit will be fine.
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