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Do Guinea Pigs Sleep? (Guinea Pig Sleeping Patterns & Cycles)

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: March 13, 2022

You see your guinea pig rummaging throughout the night, and each time you look at its cage, you see this small animal active and curious, so you start wondering do guinea pigs sleep.

The answer is yes, these small animals sleep. Guinea pigs tend to sleep for between 4 and 6 hours a day; they often doze off for short periods that last between 10 and 30 minutes, both during the day and night.

As a new guinea pig owner, you still don’t know much about these tiny social animals, guinea pigs.

You still need to learn about their needs and habits.

You cannot catch your pet guinea pig sleeping!

Of course, you’ll start wondering whether your new furry friends sleep at all, especially whether they sleep at night.

Understanding guinea pig sleeping habits and other aspects of guinea pig behavior can make caring for your pet easier and less stressful.

So, let’s talk about guinea pig sleeping habits and answer the question of whether guinea pigs sleep. 

Ensure a comfortable place in your pet’s cage, so your guinea pig can have an undisturbed sleep.

Guinea pigs need soft paper bedding and a secure secluded hiding place in their guinea pig’s cage.

How Long Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

A healthy guinea pig sleeps between 4 and 6 hours a day.

This includes both light and deep sleep, which we’ve covered in a separate article.

They are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active in the early morning and evening.

This is why you’ll often see them running around in the morning or evening.

How much a guinea pig will sleep through the day and how much during the night depends on the climate in which they live.

In hot climates, most animals sleep during the day to conserve energy but become active at dusk and dawn to look for food.

In cooler climates, most animals are normally active during the day and sleep when it gets colder, at night.

Therefore, don’t worry, as these small pets sleep a lot, and have as enough rest as they need.

Do Guinea Pigs Have a Sleep Cycle?

Guinea pigs sleep an average of 4-6 hours a day.

However, they don’t sleep like humans.

Nonetheless, sleep is an essential component of the daily routine of every living being.

Humans sleep for about one-third of the time in a day.

And, just like some people need 8 hours of sleep, others feel great when sleeping more while other people need less sleep.

It’s the same with your furry friend.

Nonetheless, sleep quality and quantity are as important as food and water when considering the most important factors of survival.

For instance, we can’t create or maintain the pathways in our brains that allow us to learn and make new memories if we don’t get enough sleep.

Likewise, we find it hard to concentrate and respond quickly if we’re sleep-deprived.

Sleep is critical to the communication of nerve cells (neurons) with one another.

While we sleep, our brain and body function at a high level so, while sleep is essential for everyone, its function remains a mystery.

What we know is that sleep has an impact on almost every tissue and system in the body, from the brain to the heart and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.

A chronic lack of sleep or receiving poor-quality sleep raises the danger of diseases.

The situation is the same with guinea pigs.

However, humans and guinea pigs don’t have the same sleep cycle or sleep mechanism.

The body’s internal biological processes – circadian rhythm and homeostasis – collaborate to control when we’re are awake and asleep.

The Two Biological Mechanisms: Circadian and Homeostatic

Circadian Rhythms

A circadian rhythm, or circadian cycle, is an internal mechanism that controls the sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours.

Circadian rhythms control a wide range of functions, including daily changes in alertness, body temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones.

These are the body’s so-called biological clock that also controls the timing of sleep and tells us when we feel sleepy.

Sleep-wake homeostasis keeps track of your sleep needs.

Homeostasis – the Homeostatic Sleep Drive

Homeostasis is an organism’s ability to keep stability while adapting to circumstances that are optimal for its survival.

If homeostasis succeeds, the individual representative of a species lives on; if it fails, disaster or death ensues.

Therefore, the homeostatic sleep drive reminds the body to sleep after a specific time and controls how deep we sleep.

This urge for sleep gets stronger every hour we are awake, causing us to fall asleep faster and deeper after being awake for a long time.

So, while human sleep patterns depend on both homeostatic sleep drive and circadian rhythm (circadian cycle), the situation is much different in guinea pigs.

A group of researchers subjected guinea pigs to sleep deprivation and concluded that sleep in guinea pigs is homeostatically regulated and does not follow the circadian cycle.

Therefore, a guinea pig’s sleep cycle is irregular.

These small animals sleep when their bodies tell them to, reminding them that they need to take a rest regardless of the time of the day.

Why Do Guinea Pigs Have a Strange Sleep Pattern?

Guinea pigs have a unique sleeping pattern that is different from most other animals.

They often take naps throughout the day and night, throughout the 24 hour period.

While guinea pigs don’t have a regular sleep cycle, they tend to be active the most at dusk and dawn.

Many people believe wonder are guinea pigs nocturnal animals or maybe they are diurnal.

The answer to both questions is negative.

Guinea pigs are crepuscular animals.

There’s a natural selection reason for such behavior. 

As prey animals at the bottom of the food chain, guinea pigs are light sleepers.

They have to hide and run away from potential predators whenever they sense them around, so they need to be constantly alert to avoid being eaten.

Thus, they developed the ability to sleep for short time in one go.

Yet, there is no definitive answer to this question, it is clear that guinea pigs have evolved a unique sleep pattern that helps them survive in the wild, in their natural habitat.

Just consider what would happen if these small animals slept for eight hours every day.

Hawks, snakes, and other potential predators would be extremely dangerous to these small prey animals.

Guinea pigs must do everything they can to protect themselves from other animals because of their place in the food chain.

It’s impossible to claim that guinea pigs love daylight or the darkness of the night.

Therefore, seems like the real reason behind their strange ways of sleeping for very short intervals allows them to stay alert in case a dangerous animal is lurking around.

Of course, there aren’t any dangerous animals that would put your guinea pigs in real danger at your home.

That’s why most guinea pigs learn to relax more deeply and have a longer nap than they would in the wild.

A single nap of a guinea pig in captivity can last from ten to 30 minutes.

And, if you notice your guinea pigs sleeping for a few minutes more compared to an average guinea pig, it’s just a sign that they feel safe and protected.

Do Guinea Pigs Sleep With Their Eyes Wide Open?

Apart from their strange sleeping habits even compared to other rodents, there are other characteristics of guinea pigs that are not strictly reserved for them.

Different animals have different sleeping patterns.

Just like many other animals, guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open and take short naps.

However, other species also keep their eyes (or one eye) open when they sleep.

For instance, scientists have recorded cases when birds remain for over 6 months in the air, which means they have to eat, sleep, and drink, all high up in the sky!

Therefore, guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open, but they are not the only species that does so.

Does a Guinea Pig’s Diet Affect A Guinea Pig’s Sleeping Patterns?

Many factors affect a guinea pig sleep.

Pet owners know that a balanced diet is extremely important for the health of their guinea pig.

Without it, a guinea pig can develop serious health issues that vary from diabetes and obesity to potentially fatal illnesses such as scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency.

What you need to know is that guinea pigs

  • are strict vegans, and cannot digest any animal products or processed food
  • need an unlimited amount of Timothy hay or orchard grass, which should make up about 80 percent of their diet
  • need about a cup of fresh fruits and vegetables a day

A Guinea Pig’s Healthy Diet

A guinea pig’s healthy diet should be high in fiber and low in protein, calcium, and sugar.

Protein and calcium can cause bladder stones, while excess sugar results in obesity and diabetes in your guinea pig.

The general rule of thumb is that guinea pigs need between 16% to 18% protein and 35% fiber a day.

To keep your guinea pigs healthy, avoid giving them food that contains much sugar, carbohydrates, and fat.

Why Is Sugary Food Bad for Guinea Pigs Sleep?

Guinea pigs are herbivores, so they mainly eat plants and that is what all guinea pigs need.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a sweet treat.

Just like humans, guinea pigs can eat sugary food as long as it’s in moderation and as long as the food is not too high in sugar.

Too much sugar can cause health issues for a guinea pig, such as weight gain and tooth decay, so it’s important to only give them treats that are low in sugar.

Some good options include fresh fruit and vegetables, or specially made guinea pig treats that are low in sugar.

Never give your guinea pig processed and sugar-rich foods like candy, cake, and cookies.

A guinea pig cannot digest processed food.

Therefore, apart from hay, guinea pigs need healthy snacks such as raw and fresh fruits, vegetables, and pellets.

So, go ahead and give your pets a sugary treat now and then, but make sure it’s healthy for them!

Can Vitamin C Deficiency Affect Guinea Pigs Sleep?

A guinea pig’s diet is an important factor in its overall health and well-being.

Guinea pigs are herbivores, so they primarily eat greens and hay.

They also need a lot of fresh water to drink.

A lack of certain nutrients in their diet can lead to health problems, and in some cases, as guinea pig owners believe, may even affect the quality of their sleep.

Guinea pigs are particularly susceptible to vitamin C deficiency, which can lead to many health problems, including lethargy, joint pain, and scurvy.

While the effects of vitamin C deficiency on a guinea pig’s sleep have not been extensively studied, there is little evidence that suggests a lack of this nutrient can impact the quality and duration of their sleep.

A guinea pig deficient in vitamin C also showed signs of anxiety and depression, which are common side effects of sleep deprivation.

However, one study found that vitamin C deficiency does not significantly alter the sleeping time of guinea pigs.

If you think that your pets may be deficient in this nutrient, consult with a vet to determine if your pet may benefit from a vitamin C supplement.

Maintaining a healthy diet is essential for keeping your guinea pig happy and healthy.

Therefore, make sure to include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.

Why Is My Guinea Pig Sleeping A Lot?

Although guinea pigs sleep with their eyes open, a healthy guinea pig needs only four hours of sleep to stay healthy and active.

However, some guinea pigs can sleep as much as 8 hours a day.

If you notice that your guinea pig sleeps a lot, shows signs of lethargy and inactivity, your small pet could be ill.

On the other hand, a guinea pig might be too hot or too cold.

Therefore, pay attention to the symptoms of unusual sleep habits to determine if your guinea pig is sick.

For instance, bacterial pneumonia, for example, is the most common cause of pneumonia in the winter.

Not only do illnesses cause excessive exhaustion and long sleep, but they can also make your guinea pig melancholy and lethargic.

Never delay your trip to the vet since diseases that aren’t treated promptly might be fatal for your pet guinea pig.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that guinea pigs sleep.

However, as a prey animal, a guinea pig has developed odd sleeping habits.

Guinea pigs do sleep and they do so with their eyes wide open.

Not only a guinea pig sleeps with their eyes open but their active nature and biological mechanisms don’t let them sleep for long periods.

Average healthy guinea pigs sleep between 10 and 30 minutes.

This small animal takes short naps throughout the day.

If you pay attention to your furry friends and find one of them standing still, with eyes open, you can assume that the little guinea pig is sleeping.

Unlike cats that can sleep throughout the whole day, a guinea pig will just take a short nap many times a day.

Don’t worry, unusual sleep habits are a part of their natural characteristics.


Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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