How Do Snakes Sleep?

Have you ever seen your snake seemingly staring off in the distance?

Do you wonder if your snake is sleeping or awake?

Because snakes don’t have eyelids, it might be hard to determine what exactly they are doing.

You may wonder:

How do snakes sleep?

While it might be hard to know precisely when a snake is sleeping, they do sleep and do so with their eyes open, laying without moving and less responsive to external stimuli. When they sleep is dependent on if the species is nocturnal or not. 

Keep reading to learn even more about how snakes sleep. 

how do snakes sleep

How Do Snakes Sleep?

You might have noticed your snake staring at you for long periods without moving.

They aren’t attempting to beat you in a staring contest, and they most likely aren’t plotting against you, but they might just be sleeping.

It might seem unnatural, and you’re probably wondering how they possibly are sleeping with their eyes open.

Snakes do sleep, but they don’t sleep with their eyes closed, simply because they don’t have eyelids to close. 

Snakes can enter a state of REM, rapid eye movement sleep, and they also enter another stage of sleep called slow-wave sleep.

You might have heard about these stages of sleep in humans.

They aren’t any different whether a snake achieves them or a human.

So the main difference is sleeping with their eyes “open,” and they don’t have a choice.

Instead of closing their eyelids, snakes instead close their retinas. 

We mentioned snakes don’t have eyelids, so what protects their eyes from debris and drying out while they sleep?

Snakes have a clear protective scale, often called a spectacle or eye cap. 

This is what keeps their eyes moist and prevents debris from causing damage.

When snakes are sleeping, you will notice them lying completely still, with no movement.

Snakes do have sleep patterns.

As you get to know your snake, you will have a better idea of their schedule and how they act throughout the day.

This will give you an even better chance of identifying if they are in a state of sleep or just relaxing.

It will be hard to completely know if your snake is sleeping, as they could be entirely still and are just relaxing or basking in the warmth. 

Because you won’t determine 100% if your snake is asleep, take great care when you are approaching the snake to start a handling session.

You don’t want to startle them, or you could end up with a bite.

In the wild, avoid getting too close to a snake.

You might be tempted to go and explore the snake up close, but whether it is asleep or not, it is smarter to err on the side of caution and keep a fair distance.

How Long Do Snakes Sleep?

Understanding how snakes sleep may have opened up even more questions for you.

How long snakes sleep is also something to consider when talking about the sleeping habits of snakes.

While all snakes sleep with their eyes open, not all snakes have the same sleep pattern.

Researchers have observed some snakes sleeping for about 16 hours per day, but others sleep considerably less.

In addition to sleep length changing based on snake species or individual snakes, the time of year and the weather also contribute to the duration.

If the temperature is cooler, snakes sleep longer, and during winter, sleeping lengths significantly increase.

This is especially true for snakes in the wild. 

Wild snakes in the winter will enter a period called brumation. 

This is similar to hibernation, but snakes will wake to eat and get a drink, but sleep for long periods in between.

When it comes to the length of sleep, the final factor is whether the snake has recently eaten or not.

After feedings, snakes tend to sleep longer than when they have an empty stomach. 

When you add winter and a recent feeding together at the same time, some snakes sleep over 20 hours at a time. 

When Do Snakes Sleep?

Snakes sleep at different times, depending on the species.

While many snakes have similar sleep patterns as humans, several species do not.

Some species of snakes are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night.

For this reason, they catch up on their sleep during the day.

Other snakes who hunt during the day sleep at night.

Where Do Snakes Sleep?

When they are sleeping, a snake wants to feel safe.

Snakes are motivated by eating, mating, and staying alive, and finding a safe place to sleep falls into the staying-alive idea.

Snakes in captivity will likely burrow in a hide in their tank or another more concealed area.

This isn’t much different for their wild counterparts. 

Snakes in the wild will look for a similar kind of place, opting for an empty burrow, dead trees, rocks they can quickly burrow underneath, in trees, or other natural caves. 

Snakes just want to feel safe while they are sleeping.

This is why you need to make sure you outfit your snake’s enclosure with at least one hide large enough to house their entire body.

This is useful not just when they want to sleep but also when they are stressed, afraid, or threatened. 

Without this, a snake will be a lot more stressed, and in turn, their health and well-being will suffer.

A stressed and sick snake will have a shorter lifespan. 


We hope you have a better understanding of how a snake sleeps.

Sleeping snakes are hard to identify, but even though they don’t close their eyes, a lack of movement is a good indicator. 

A snake’s sleeping habits are good for you to understand as their owner.

When you know your snake and what is their normal, and if something changes, you will identify a potential problem earlier on.