I’d owned my pet rabbit, a rex named Nimbus, for three days when I realized something strange. I had never seen him sleep. After three days, he seemed to always be awake, whether he was circlng around my feet, running down the hallway or sitting quietly in a corner. I began to wonder: do rabbits sleep at all? And, if they did, why had I never seen Nimbus sleeping?
According to the rabbit information website Fuzzy Rabbit, pet rabbits do indeed sleep. As crepuscular animals, rabbits are most active during dawn and dusk. Rabbits sleep primarily in the peak of the day and the darkest hours of the night. For this reason, they are most likely to be wide awake and active during the times in which most people are able to interact with them– before and after a typical 9 to 5 work day.
However, a rabbit’s crepuscular nature didn’t explain why I’d never seen Nimbus sleep. I work from home, so I expected that I’d notice him sleeping from time to time. No matter how frequently I checked on him, his eyes were always open.
As it turns out, rabbits frequently sleep with their eyes open; this creates the illusion that they are always– or almost always– awake. Pet rabbits developed this unusual adaptation to shield them from predators. They may be asleep, but a portion of their brain can still detect a sudden change in light or movement.
You can tell a sleeping rabbit from a wide-awake bunny by observing his subtle movements. A sleeping rabbit may twitch his legs occasionally, and his nose will stop wriggling. When a rabbit is in extremely deep sleep, he may close his eyes entirely and look like a “normal” sleeping animal. If your rabbit frequently sleeps with his eyes closed, or begins doing so suddenly, you might consider bringing him to the vet to rule out an illness.
The bottom line? Yes, rabbits do sleep. But they sleep so lightly, and on such a non-human schedule, that you may never notice it.