Hamster Sleep: Everything you Need to Know

Are you trying to decide if a hamster is the right pet for you? Or perhaps you’ve recently gotten one and are researching to make sure you are taking the best care of it. Either way, you’re being a responsible pet owner. One of the things you may be asking yourself is: How do hamsters sleep? The short answer: Hamsters are nocturnal, so your furry new friend will most likely sleep the day away. 

When do Hamsters Sleep?

Hamsters are naturally prey in the wild. To give themselves the best chance at survival, they are nocturnal. By sleeping through the day and waking at night, a hamster has the best chance at foraging for food undetected. While your pet hamster doesn’t need to worry about dodging birds and snakes while tucked away safely in his cage, it’s still very natural for him to sleep through the day and stay awake at night. 

Hamster Sleep

While this is true of most hamsters, keep in mind that different types of hamsters have slightly different sleep schedules. If you would like to catch yours out and about for some daytime interaction, a dwarf hamster will give you a short window of time for this each day. However, it is rare to catch other species awake during the day at all. If you haven’t brought your hamster home already, this is something you’ll want to research further. Some hamsters that are known to have more daytime wake hours are: 

  • Dwarf hamsters
  • Chinese hamsters

How Long Do Hamsters Sleep?

A healthy hamster typically sleeps six to eight hours a day. It’s important to monitor your hamster and make sure it is getting just the right amount of sleep. A hamster getting too little or too much sleep can be a sign of health problems. 

It may be tempting to wake your adorable, sleeping hamster up for a little bit of fun. For the sake of your hamster’s health, resist the urge. Interrupting your hamster’s sleep schedule can throw off its sleep routine. This can lead to: 

  • Mental issues
  • Decreased food intake
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Shortened life span 
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If you do notice your hamster is sleeping more than the ideal six to eight hours a day, you’ll need to look out for possible issues. Excess sleeping can be a sign of: 

  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Low blood sugar

The bottom line? If your hamster suddenly starts sleeping more or less than normal, it would be wise to take it to the veterinarian. Changes in sleep patterns can be the result of undue stress or illness and should be taken seriously. 

Hamster Hibernation

In their natural habitats, hamsters do enter hibernation in the winter months. However, as long as you keep your hamster in temperatures above twenty degrees Fahrenheit it should not enter a state of hibernation. If you believe your hamster has begun hibernating, just slowly increase the temperature back to above twenty degrees Fahrenheit. 

Do Hamsters Like the Dark?

If you’re asking this question, it’s most likely concerning cage placement or covering the cage. Remember that your hamster is going to naturally sleep in the daylight hours and be awake at night. It’s not necessary to cover a hamster cage to keep out the light during the day, but they will light and dark times to differentiate day from night. 

It’s important to keep in mind that just like you, your hamster needs a routine. That means it’s a good idea to have a pretty set “lights out” time for your hamster each night. You don’t want a light shining on its cage 24/7. This may cause prolonged sleep periods, as the light typically tells hamster it’s sleepy time. 

As long as you stick to the “lights out” routine, there is no reason to regularly cover a hamster’s cage. The only time you may want to use a light, breathable cover is to avoid stress. This can include car rides, trips to the vet, or other changes in the environment. Just make sure the hamster is still getting plenty of air if you need to do this. 

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What Does a Hamster do at Night?

While I mentioned some hamsters wake up periodically during the day, it’s a general rule that a hamster’s most active time is at night. This might be an issue if it interrupts your own sleep schedule. Keep this in mind when you are choosing toys and other cage features for your pet. A squeaky wheel or a rattling water bottle might be enough to drive you crazy at night. Living in harmony requires both you and your pet are getting the right amount of sleep. 

Some quiet ways to keep your hamster entertained at night are: 

  • Provide an ample amount of bedding to allow for digging. 
  • Give your hamster plenty of safe things to chew on. 
  • Hide food around your hamster’s cage so it can “forage” for it at night. 

If you want to bond with your hamster, the best time to do so is during its natural awake periods. It’s a great idea to play with your hamster before going to bed for the night. This will provide it with some healthy mental stimulation. Waiting for your hamster to be awake to play can also save your fingers. Waking up a hamster can lead to a startled pet. A nervous or annoyed hamster will often react with a bite. 

Do Hamsters Need Sunlight?

A hamster needs some way to differentiate between night and day. When choosing a room for your hamster’s cage, it’s best to find one with a lot of natural light. The natural cycle of night and day will help maintain your hamster’s circadian rhythm. Just make sure you put your hamster’s cage out of the direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause the cage to become too hot or may even cause damage to your hamster’s sensitive eyes. 

It’s completely normal for your hamster to burrow under its bedding while snoozing throughout the day, it’s just getting cozy. This does not mean the cage is getting too much light, so no need to go in search of a cage cover. 

Can I Change My Hamster’s Sleep Schedule to Fit My Own?

The simple answer: no. While it might seem beneficial to you, trying to alter your hamster’s sleep schedule can have some major health repercussions. 

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There are many reasons you might try to change your hamster’s sleep schedule. These might include: 

  • You or your kids want to play with it when you are awake. 
  • It’s more desirable to have a pet that is awake when you are. 
  • Your hamster is noisy at night and it’s keeping you awake. 

No matter the reason, it’s never a good idea to try and flip your hamster’s sleep schedule completely to fit your own. Here’s why: 

  • Behavior Problems: This may lead to your hamster being aggressive and biting you. 
  • Stress: A hamster being forcefully awoken during the day will become stressed, which can lead to health and behavioral issues. 
  • Sleep issues: It may cause your hamster to become lethargic and start sleeping at all hours of the day, or it might lead to less sleep. 
  • Life Span: Causing an animal to go against its circadian rhythm can ultimately lead to a shortened life span. 

Taking all of this into consideration, it is not unusual for a pet, even a hamster to make certain adaptations to a family’s routine. If you stick to the same daily routine, such as speaking softly to it and offering a snack each day when you get home, your hamster will most likely grow accustomed to this. You may even get it to peek its head out each afternoon for a quick visit. Just remember to respect your pet’s sleep schedule. 

Healthy Hamster Sleep

Let’s wrap up everything we just learned about hamster sleep. Unlike humans, hamsters are nocturnal animals. They typically sleep throughout most of the daylight hours. The average hamster is most active during the dawn and dusk hours and throughout the night. You can expect your hamster to sleep an average of six to eight hours each day.  Respect your hamster’s sleep schedule to ensure it will have a happy and healthy life with your family. Take advantage of any brief wake times throughout the day, but try not to interrupt your pet’s precious sleep.