Are hamsters nocturnal?
Yes, hamsters generally are nocturnal creatures, but there is so much more to their sleep schedule than nighttime fun.
So, what makes an animal nocturnal? What other sleeping patterns might a pet hamster have? Are wild hamsters different from domesticated hamsters?
Hamsters are full of surprises. Like the fact that they have polyphasic sleep-wake patterns, meaning they sleep multiple times per day, totaling 12-14 hours of sleep.
In the following article, we dive deep into the sleeping habits of one of the world’s most beloved fluffy pets–hamsters!
Let’s learn more about your hamster’s sleeping schedule, how to adjust it, and what it means for you as its owner.
Table of Contents
Are Hamsters Nocturnal?
Your new little fluff ball is all sorts of cute and cuddly, but its sleep schedule might give you a headache. Most hamsters are considered to be nocturnal–meaning they are active at night.
Through evolution, hamsters eventually became nocturnal animals. Daytime predators like hawks, snakes, eagles, owls, and cats, among other animals, eat hamsters and small rodents. The cover of darkness reduces a hamster’s chance of being eaten.
Of course, your hamster is in no such danger–so what makes pet hamsters nocturnal? It’s all thanks to biology.
Animal activity is dependent on circadian rhythms. Animals that are active at night stay active until right before the sun comes up or just a tad past sunrise. In addition to hamsters, other creatures who brave the dark of night include Aardvarks, Raccoons, Coyotes, Skunks, Opossums, Tigers, and Badgers.
Expect a sleepy hamster during the daytime and an active little critter after sundown to set realistic expectations for your pet.
What Does It Mean When An Animal Is Nocturnal?
Building on our last point, nocturnal animals are simply animals that are active at night. They tend to sleep during the day. Scientifically speaking, animals fit into a few different categories called diurnal, nocturnal, crepuscular matutinal, vespertine, or cathemeral.
- Diurnal–Sleeping at night and being active during the day.
- Nocturnal–Sleeping during the day and being active at night.
- Crepuscular Matutinal–Animals who are most active at dawn.
- Crepuscular Vespertine–Animals who are most active at dusk.
- Crepuscular Cathemeral–Animals that are active during hours of daylight and darkness.
In animals, these categories define their circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm represents an animal’s physical, mental, and behavioral changes in a 24-hour cycle. This cycle responds to the earth’s natural light and dark cycle. Virtually all living things are subject to this rhythm.
Most animals that hunt at night have special adaptations to make it possible. For hamsters, that adaptation is their sense of smell. These little fur babies are well-known to have poor eyesight, but they more than makeup for it with their sense of smell. That sense is used to avoid nocturnal predators and mark their territory.
Hamster Sleep Schedule
Technically speaking, hamsters are crepuscular. They are most active during dawn and dusk–those special twilight hours.
You might notice your pet hamster wakes up at night to feed and explore its cage. Since they aren’t aware there is a difference between being inside the safety of their cage and out in the wild, they retain their evolutionary sleep habits.
So, expect your hamster to be noisy and hungry when the sun goes down.
But how long can you expect them to stay asleep during the day? The sleeping habits of hamsters are quite dramatic compared to humans.
For example, hamsters typically sleep 12-14 hours per day. What’s interesting is that hamsters don’t sleep straight through in 12-hour stretches. They sleep in blocks of a few hours each throughout the day. So, don’t be alarmed if you see your hamster sleeping for an hour here or there. This is perfectly normal!
How Can I Change My Hamster’s Sleep
You can change your hamster’s sleep schedule slightly. Before you figure out how to change your hamster’s sleep schedule, ask yourself why you want to. Hamsters can be, for lack of a better word, annoying, to owners who don’t stay up late. They can create quite a ruckus in their cage, considering their size.
If your hamster keeps you awake at night, you can employ a few tricks to adjust its sleep cycle. However, if you take this route, avoid any drastic changes, as it could seriously harm your pet. Consider these risks before deciding whether to adjust their sleep cycle.
Keeping a hamster up all day could stress them out. Stress can lead to biting, weight loss, and even a reduction in their lifespan. Make sure your hamster is making up for their sleep loss elsewhere if you decide to switch them over to daytime hours.
They can also become unpleasant creatures. An animal that typically loves being handled could become inhospitable. When you change how they sleep, you’re changing their behavior, which can lead to mental health changes.
How to Adjust Your Pet Hamster’s Sleep Schedule
We do not recommend adjusting your hamster’s sleep schedule, but if you must, remember that they are nocturnal creatures, and you can only push their schedule off by a few hours. You’ll need the right kind of light and your hamster’s all-time favorite food to do this.
Offer your hamster its favorite snack at the same time every day; preferably, it should be at the time you prefer to wake up. To wake your hamster, talk to it gently, sing, or even play soft music. Offer their favorite food, like carrots or broccoli, placing it near your hamster’s nose to encourage them to wake up.
Next, dim the light in your hamster’s room to a soft glow when you want them to be active. Encourage them to be more social by handling it simultaneously every day. Slowly increase the amount of time you spend holding and playing with it over the course of a few weeks.
As your hamster adjusts to this sleep schedule, it’ll also grow closer to you–creating a long-lasting bond you’ll both enjoy. It may even start to stay more awake during daylight hours in hopes of seeing you.
However, remember that hamsters like alone time. Don’t overstimulate it by soaking up every free moment. Let it run free and enjoy its day.
Increase your hamster’s waking time by 15 minutes every day, and soon you’ll get it caught up on any lost sleep in the process.
Take this approach gradually over a few weeks or even a month or two to keep your hamster happy and healthy
Are Certain Hamster Breeds Not Nocturnal?
A general rule is that all hamsters are nocturnal. Yet, a couple of breeds are the exceptions to this rule. For example, dwarf hamsters typically are more active during the day than other hamsters. Syrian hamsters sleep most of their days away, with the occasional pop-up to grab a bite and some hydration.
It isn’t uncommon for these two breeds to be seen as more diurnal. Dwarf hamsters have daytime stretches where they sleep with hours of playing, moving, and eating in between.
Is It Dangerous if My Hamster Sleeps At Night?
Hamsters sleep during the day, typically, but if you notice they are sleeping at night, there could be a couple of reasons for this. The first is hibernation. The second is sickness.
It’s unusual for a pet hamster to hibernate, but under certain circumstances, they may.
For example, hibernation can be triggered if your hamster feels too cold. If your hamster’s cage is near an air vent or exterior door, or if you simply keep the heat too low, it could drop below 59 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the temperature pet hamsters start hibernating.
Another reason is depression. Domesticated hamsters require interaction with their owners to feel good mentally and socially. If they don’t get that interaction, they may go into hibernation.
Poor nutrition, too, can lead to hibernation. If they aren’t being fed properly, their bodies may trigger hibernation to save energy.
Pet hamsters also need good lighting to be healthy and happy. A dark room 24 hours a day can cause problems with their sleeping habits, eventually causing hibernation.
If none of the above applies to your sleeping hamster, it’s a good time to contact your veterinarian to find out why they’re sleeping.
What Time Do Pet Hamsters Wake Up?
Hamsters wake up according to their own sleep schedule. Since hamsters are typically crepuscular, you’ll find them most active at dusk and dawn, which means they’ll wake up at various hours throughout the day. Some will wake up around 9 pm and 10 pm, while others wait until 12 am or slightly earlier, around 8:30 pm, to wake up.
Healthy hamsters will fit into this timeline. Pay attention to your sleeping hamster to pick up on his or her sleep schedule. Finding out what’s normal for them is the best way to figure out how to approach their sleeping, social, and playtime cycles. Anything outside the norm could be a cause for concern.
Where Do Hamsters Sleep?
In their natural habitat, Hamsters sleep in a dark burrow under the ground. However, domesticated hamsters struggle to imitate this practice. As a pet owner, you can help them out by giving them a house. This house can be constructed out of unfurnished wood or plastic. Some hamsters habitually nibble on their homes, so a wooden house is the safest option.
Keep their house in the darkest spot in their cage. You’ll find your pet sleeping most of their day away under this special enclosure’s protection.
There is one exception to this rule–dwarf hamsters like to cuddle up with one another, and they cannot do this under a hamster house. It’s fairly common to see them cuddled up in one giant pile in the middle of their cage.
Should I Expect My Hamster to Be Active At Night?
Yes! Hamsters do make noise at night. Some make more noise, while others make less. Depending on the toys you give them, they could spend the entire night on their exercise wheel, which can be noisy. Keep your hamster’s cage in a room where their late-night festivities don’t interfere with anyone else’s sleep clock in the house.
Enjoy Your Hamster During Waking Hours!
Your furry friend has its own unique personality, which might even include a change in waking hours from one hamster to the next.
Most pet hamsters are nocturnal, however. As their owner, it’s your job to keep them happy and healthy, which means paying attention to their sleeping patterns and making adjustments to your own life, if necessary.
Spend time getting to know your pet hamster and create an environment where it can thrive. Allow them at least 8 hours of sleep per night, and ensure they have a cozy little house to burrow under for peaceful sleep.
Want more helpful hamster tips? Keep up with the Oddly Cute Pets blog here, and be sure to share this article if you find it helpful for you and your hamster.