Rabbits are prey animals, and as such, they have developed sleeping habits to protect themselves from predators. Everything from rabbits' sleep schedule to sleeping with their eyes open to sleeping in groups helps rabbits protect themselves from their predators. Even though pet rabbits do not face these threats, you will see them engaging in similar sleep habits.
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Rabbit species sleep schedule
The rabbit species are crepuscular. This means that rabbits are most active at sunrise and sunset. Rabbits often sleep in the middle of the day and at night. This helps protect them from some of their nocturnal predators, such as owls and coyotes. Rabbits sleep for eight to 12 hours each day. Unlike many other animals, though, rabbits do not sleep for long stretches of time. Rather, they take several naps throughout the day and night.
The three stages of a rabbit's sleep cycle
Scientists have discovered that rabbits go through three stages of sleep: drowsy, slow-wave, and paradoxical sleep. Drowsy sleep is light sleep and accounts for about one-fourth of a rabbit's total sleep. Slow-wave or deep sleep accounts for approximately two-thirds of a rabbit's sleep cycle. Paradoxical sleep accounts for approximately 10 percent of a rabbit's sleep cycle. Paradoxical sleep is similar to REM sleep. It is believed that rabbits dream during this part of the sleep cycle.
Where rabbits sleep
In the wild, rabbits dig themselves warrens — deep winding tunnels underground in which to sleep and build nests. The warrens usually have many points of entry and exit so that rabbits can make a quick escape if they need to do so. Rabbits prefer to sleep in groups. Pet rabbits may sleep in corners or behind or under furniture. Rabbits instinctively avoid sleeping in open spaces.
Rabbits sleep with their eyes open
Rabbits have the ability to sleep with their eyes open. Wild rabbits tend to sleep with their eyes open to help protect themselves from predators. Predators are less likely to attack a rabbit if they think the rabbit is awake and aware.
If you have a pet rabbit, he is less likely to sleep with his eyes open in your home. However, you may see him sleeping with his eyes open if he is not feeling relaxed and safe. This may be the case when you initially bring him home, for instance. Once you form a bond with your rabbit and he feels safe, he will likely sleep with his eyes shut.
Because rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, it may be difficult for you to tell if your rabbit is awake or asleep. If your rabbit isn't moving or twitching his nose, he's asleep. Rabbits twitch their noses constantly when they are awake. A rabbit's ears will be relaxed against his head while he sleeps. This will be difficult to recognize if you have a lop-eared rabbit, though. Like humans, a rabbit's breathing also slows down when he sleeps.
Rabbit sleep positions
A rabbit's sleeping position will depend on how comfortable and safe she feels as well as the temperature in the environment. Rabbits generally sleep in one of three positions: in a loaf position, splayed with her front and back legs out, or flopped on her side. Rabbits sleep in the loaf position most often because it allows them to get up quickly and run if they sense danger. Rabbits never sleep on their back. Don't place your rabbit on her back; this will cause her to panic because she'll believe she's being attacked.