Do Bunnies Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

We have often seen our bunny lying very still on our lounge carpet and we wonder, is she sleeping? Then we would do the silly thing of checking if she was asleep or awake as her eyes were open. It made us curious, do bunnies sleep with their eyes open and how do you know if your bunny is asleep?

Bunnies can sleep with their eyes open. They have a nictating membrane that acts as a third eyelid that we can’t see. When a bunny sleeps with their eyes open, this invisible membrane acts as an eyelid essentially keeping the bunnies eyes closed with them looking open.

If bunnies can sleep with their eyes open, how do we know when they are asleep? We don’t want to disturb our bunnies thinking they are awake but in reality, they are having sweet dreams.

Why Do Bunnies Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

As prey animals, bunnies are always on high alert. Sleeping with their eyes open is a defense mechanism. When they aren’t comfortable in their environment, this is how they will sleep. This creates the illusion they are awake.

A bunny that looks like they are awake is less likely to be attacked by a predator. It also allows them to potentially react quicker to a threat especially when sleeping in the “loaf” position.

Bunnies can sleep with their eyes open due to their third eyelid which acts as a safeguard preventing dust and dirt from getting into their eyes. It also keeps the eyes moist limiting the need for blinking.

Make sure you don’t disturb your bunny during this time like we did when we didn’t know any better.

How Do You Know When A Bunny Is Sleeping?

If it looks like your bunny is awake all the time, there must be other signs we can look for to see if your bun is asleep. Here are some signs below.

  • Still nose – usually, a bunny’s nose is constantly twitching. However, one of the rare times a bunny’s nose is completely still is when they are fully asleep.
  • Body twitches – you may see your bunny twitch during their sleep. This could mean your bunny is dreaming. But can bunnies dream? This will be covered later in this article.
  • Ears are floppy – floppy ears are a sign of your bunny relaxing. If your bunny’s ears are upright, this indicates they are alert and attentive to what is going on around them.
  • Purring or teeth clicking – your bunny is in a deep sleep and enjoying themselves.
  • Hiding behind furniture – this is your bunny’s way of simulating sleeping in a burrow. This makes them feel safe and away from predators.

Now, once your bunny is more comfortable in their new environment and with their human, they may start sleeping with their eyes closed. Here are some reasons why your bunny will close their eyes.

  • Your bunny is drained – when your bunny is really tired, they may fall into a deep sleep. You will see their eyes slowly droop closed as they nod off into dreamland. As mentioned above, this will only happen once your bunny feels safe with their humans and the environment.
  • They are enjoying being petted – when your bunny is really loving their attention, they will start to close their eyes and even click their teeth which is their version of purring. Your bunny is feeling loved and safe with you so keep giving your bun this attention and love.
  • If they have an eye problem – just like you would remove sleep from a dog’s eye, you can do the same with your bunny. Make sure to take your bunny to the vet.

How Do Bunnies Sleep?

If you’ve had your bunny for a while, you can probably recognise three main positions your bunny sleeps in.

1) The loaf – this is your bunny tucked up on their paws like a bread loaf. In the beginning, your bunny may only sleep in this position as they are able to react quickly to any perceived threat.

2) Splayed out – as your bunny gets more comfortable, they will be lying flat on the floor with their back legs stretched out behind them.

3) The Bunny Flop – the cutest thing a bunny can do. When a bunny flops completely on their side and sleeps in that position. Only a very comfortable bunny will sleep in this position.

Sleeping position may also depend on the temperature. On colder days, bunnies will likely sleep in the loaf position to reduce how much of their body is exposed to the air. Whereas on hot days, they are more likely to be splayed out.

When Do Bunnies Sleep?

Bunnies have a much different sleep cycle to us humans. While humans are diurnal, meaning active during the day and sleep at night, bunnies are crepuscular meaning they are most active in the morning and evening.

Bunnies are most active between 4-9 am and 5-11 pm.

Outside of these times, they generally rest, graze on hay, and sleep. Resting in the middle of the day also keeps them out of the midday heat (see our article “Top 11 Ways To Keep Your Bunny Cool This Summer” for more on cooling tips).

However, sleeping during the middle of the day isn’t always the case! Bunnies are crepuscular for reasons of safety. It is safer for wild bunnies to be active during times of low light as predators are generally more active during the day or night. Domestic bunnies don’t have this issue so if they are very interested in something, they likely won’t sleep.

When my wife and I relax in the front yard, our bunny Grooty loves to get exploring. Running around under tables, flopping in the garden, and eating the grass and plants.

She will do this for hours and she will stay out there even if we come inside. She is so curious and inquisitive that she won’t even relax and nap for the whole day which leaves her exhausted in the evening (which we don’t mind at all).

When the weather isn’t so great and we don’t spend the time in the front yard, then she will find her little corner inside the house or the couch and nap. Or just be generally naughty and chew all the walls.

How Many Hours Do Bunnies Sleep?

Bunnies sleep a similar amount of time per day to humans. 7-12 hours per day [1]. However, unlike humans, bunnies don’t sleep all of these hours in one go. Instead, they are broken into multiple shorter periods of 25 minutes.

According to scientific research, much of the bunny’s sleep cycle is spent in deep sleep (approximately two-thirds of the time spent asleep). Another quarter is spent in a drowsy state and the final 10% is spent in REM or dream state sleep.

Do Bunnies Dream?

Bunnies will spend about 1 hour in REM sleep (rapid eye movement) which is about 10% of their total sleep time. REM sleep also happens in humans. This is whereas humans, we can have intense dreams since our brains are more active. We can assume that since bunnies also go through the same phase of sleep, they may also dream.

Do Bunnies Need Darkness To Sleep?

Bunnies don’t need darkness to sleep. They can sleep in broad daylight or complete darkness. Bunnies actually use the cue of light to indicate when to sleep as being active during low light decreases their chance of being found by predators.

While bunnies don’t need darkness, it seems they prefer being in darker places to nod off during the day. Our bunny will sometimes just sleep on the couch but other times she will flop behind the TV cabinet or rest on the darker part of our stairs.

It’s important not to block off natural light in your bunnies room at night. This is their cue to wake up so it can lead to some confusion if the room stays pitch black until you wake up.

What Do Bunnies Sleep On?

In the wild, bunnies will dig holes (that’s why they practise on your blankets) to make burrows for them to rest and sleep in. Your bunny will likely find a similar space in your house to sleep especially in the beginning when they are not so comfortable in their new environment.

If you don’t have much around your house that can be a safe space for your bunny, then we would recommend this Wooden Bridge (link to Amazon).

Our bunny loved relaxing under her wood bridge and would also sleep there. While your bun might not sleep under there at all when they get older and bigger, it serves a dual purpose as an extra chew toy so it is well worth the price.

Bunnies generally like soft surfaces. Our Groot will sleep most of her time on our lounge carpet but she isn’t shy to splay out on our wooden floor either.

As your bunny becomes more comfortable and feels safer in their environment and around their human, they will probably choose to spend plenty of time on the couch. It’s a big soft cushion with a lot of space for them.

If you want to really spoil your bunny, you could buy a small soft house for them like an enclosed cat bed.

Can You Sleep With Your Bunny?

It is not recommended for adult humans to sleep with their babies in the same bed as an adult could roll over in their sleep and crush their baby. The same logic applies to you and your bunny.

While your bunny is more equipped to escape a rolling human than a baby, it still isn’t the best idea for the safety of your bunny.

There are some other issues you should also take into consideration. Bunnies will mark their territory on your bed. This has happened to us many, many times with Groot.

Since we let her on the bed before we go to sleep, we now put a towel down in the middle where she usually does this just in case.

Another consideration is your bunny shouldn’t be under your blanket as they will be prone to overheat. They already have a warm, fur coat so adding an extra layer could cause some overheating issues.

As mentioned earlier in this article, a bunny doesn’t sleep their full 7-12 hours in one shot. Rather, they are split up into multiple short periods. This will disturb your own sleep throughout the night if they are on the bed with you.

We have tried having our bunny Groot in our room at night to sleep. It only takes 20 minutes to realise that it’s not a good idea. She may be relaxed lying on the edge of your bed then suddenly she up and jumping off the bed to do a bit of exploring. Next thing you know, she is chewing on the wall or your books.

Maybe she calms down and takes a nap but in doing so she decides to walk up to your head and sit on your pillow. This would be a normal start to our bedtime routine when we leave her in our room for a while.

This is exactly why we personally don’t leave our bunny in our room at night when we sleep so we can get our rest. In the morning, however, she will usually come knocking. We will let her in and she will come to lie next to us for a while and relax while we nod off for an extra hour.

There are some advantages to your bunny sleeping in bed with you if you are adamant about this. It can create a stronger bond between you and your bunny as your bunny wants to spend every waking and sleeping moment with you.

Similar to dogs, bunnies will be on alert for anything suspicious going on in your home so you will be alerted before even noticing anything is going on.

Tips To Help Your Bunny Sleep At Night

Bunnies are often full of energy when you’re just waking up and getting ready for bed. Trying to relax for sleep can be difficult when your bunny is running around in circles and chewing up the walls.

While you can’t make your bunny sleep, here are some tips that can help reduce some of that energy.

  • Exercise – when the weather is fine, we love to open our front door to our enclosed front yard. Groot has a field day running laps, flopping in the garden, and throwing around plastic bowls. She will spend hours outside doing her thing. By the time she comes back inside, she literally lays on the floor for the rest of the evening.
  • Be a free-range bunny – don’t keep your bunny in a cage. A bunny that can roam around your home freely is a happy bunny. It will let them stretch and run whenever they please. Keeping a bunny in a cage for their day is cruel and increases their risk of obesity from lack of exercise and general boredom.
  • Keep them entertained – similar to the exercise idea, make sure there are plenty of things for your bunny to do. It can be having plenty of toys they enjoy, things they like to chew, or areas they love to explore. If they are having fun and keeping busy, they will generally tire themselves out and go sleep by the end of the day.
  • Create a safe space – while this is usually a term for social justice warriors, you probably won’t find your bunny out protesting about bunny rights and equality. Creating a safe space for your bunny is as simple as placing a blanket over something, essentially creating a mini fort. A nice, secure dark area will let your bunny hide and feel safe.
  • Wind down with them – if you are extra busy in the late evening, your bunny likely will be trying to keep up with your movements since this is their active time. By relaxing somewhere, your bunny will likely do the same and may even join you to nap against you.

Wrapping Up

If you bunny is relaxing by themselves, use the mentioned sleep signs to decide whether or not to disturb them. Especially if their eyes are open and it’s difficult to tell.

As you spend more time with your bunny, you will be able to pick up if your bunny is sleeping quite easily. Keep them entertained throughout the day with toys and favourite places to explore and that should help tire them out for the evening.

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