Behavior

Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open?    

white rabbit sleeping in a rabbit pen.

If you’re a new bun parent, you might think your rabbit never sleeps because he always has his eyes open. But don’t worry, your pet is getting the snooze time he needs. During those instances when your fur pal seems to be staring into space, he may actually be in deep slumber. So, do rabbits sleep with their eyes open? How do they do that, and is it restful for them?  

Let’s delve into how rabbits take their zzz’s and why some drift off into dreamland with their eyes open.  

When Do Rabbits Sleep?  

Like most creatures, getting enough sleep is vital to rabbits. How long they sleep varies, but generally, they spend around 8 to 12 hours snoozing. However, unlike humans, they don’t rest 8 to 12 hours straight. Instead, they take naps throughout the day, squeezing in two longer sack times between those mini shut-eye. That usually happens late in the morning until early dusk and in the middle of the night until the twilight hours.  

They’re prey animals, so they tend to be light sleepers, ready to spring to their feet and flee at the first hint of danger. Still, they manage to get the rest they need, even if their eyes are open every time you check on them.  

white rabbit their eyes open.

Do Rabbits Sleep with Their Eyes Open or Closed?   

Rabbits can snooze either way. Whether they close their eyes when they sleep or let those peepers stay open depends on how tired or relaxed they are. So just because your bun seems to be staring into nothing doesn’t mean he’s awake and alert. He could be taking a nap without closing his eyes.  

How Do They Sleep Best?   

There’s a fascinating fact about rabbits’ eyes. Those peepers have a third eyelid, called nictitating membranes, that is clear and, therefore, invisible to humans. These membranes keep the eyes moist even when they seem fully open.  

Why Are They Alert?  

Because they’re prey animals, rabbits rarely feel entirely safe. In the wild, they have to be constantly alert to avoid predators. This led to evolutionary changes in their anatomy. The third eyelid is one of those, and they put it to good use to increase their chances of survival.  

Improves a Rabbit’s Reaction Time 

Sleeping with only their third eyelid closed makes rabbits more sensitive to light changes and lets them detect movement even when they’re dozing. As such, they can react quickly if they sense danger. Being asleep with the eyes closed lessens their reaction time. In the wild, those few seconds could spell the difference between life and death.  

Fool Predators   

Sleeping with the eyes fully open makes the rabbit look awake even when, in reality, he’s getting his much-needed rest. This can deter other animals from targeting him. Predators are less likely to attack a rabbit that looks awake and ready to fight or flee.   

Your bun may not have to worry about being targeted by predators, but the instinct is hardwired into him, so if those peepers stay open while he snoozes, it can mean he doesn’t feel completely safe.  

How Can You Tell If Your Rabbit Is Sleeping?  

Your rabbit may seem awake because his eyes are wide open but he’s, in fact, sleeping. On the other hand, not all rabbits with eyes closed are asleep, making it a challenge to figure out if your pet is awake or not. So as not to disturb a sleeping bunny, look for the tell-tale signs that he has gone off to dreamland.  

  • Slow and steady breathing: A sleeping bun will have a slower respiratory rate. Check the rise and fall of your fur baby’s chest. If it seems slower than usual, the chances are high that he’s asleep.  
  • Still nose: Remember how your pet’s nose keeps twitching whenever he’s awake? That’s his way of checking out his surroundings constantly. So if that cute button nose stops moving, this indicates that your fur baby is not on the alert and is likely sleeping.   
  • Teeth chattering: This is a form of rabbit purring, signifying contentment. Buns often gently click their teeth when they’re fast asleep. You’ll need to differentiate this from tooth grinding, a sound rabbits make when stressed. Tooth grinding is louder and more spaced out than chattering, which is smooth and uninterrupted.  
  • Dreaming: Yes, rabbits dream, and it seems they relive the day’s events when they’re in dreamland. For example, a bun that flops while his eyes are closed can mean that he’s  dreaming of running.  
  • Snoring: This might surprise first-time bun parents, but like humans and other animals, rabbits snore, too. It’s a bit squeaky and often so soft that you can hardly hear it.  
white rabbit laying on the floor.

How to Help Them Sleep Better 

If your bun sleeps with his eyes open, it doesn’t mean he’s not getting the rest he needs. It may be that he feels a bit uncertain about his safety, or he prefers sleeping that way. Still, you can try some techniques to improve your pet’s sack time.  

  • Maintain a quiet environment: This helps your bun feel secure, as sudden noises can startle and agitate him. Place your pet’s bed away from commonly used areas of your home, such as hallways.  
  • Make the sleeping area resemble a rabbit’s natural habitat: In the wild, buns sleep in tunnels they dig under the ground. Thus, your pet will likely welcome a dark sleeping area. Giving your rabbit’s sleeping space a burrow-like ambiance will help him sleep better. Providing comfortable bedding will also make the place more conducive for resting.  
  • Have a regular play routine: Playing will get rid of your fur baby’s excess energy. It also tires him out, making it easier for him to fall asleep. Whenever possible, schedule his playtime in the early morning or before sunset. Those are the times when rabbits are most active.  
  • Turn off all the lights: Rabbits are sensitive to light. As such, even a small source of light in his sleeping area can prevent your pet from falling asleep. So when it’s time for bed, turn out all the lights in the room. Don’t forget to draw the shades that might let some light in.  

Now, you no longer have to wonder why rabbits sleep with their eyes open. You also don’t have to worry that your pet is not getting enough rest. But if you want your fur baby to sleep better, you can try the tips we mentioned to make his bedtime more peaceful and comfortable.  

More About Rabbit Care!

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