Can Turtles Sleep Underwater? [I Couldn’t Believe This Either]

If you have ever wondered whether turtles sleep underwater you are not alone. I find this topic rather fascinating, so have conducted some research to find out once and for all if this is in fact true. Here is what I have been able to find through my research.

So, can turtles sleep underwater? Turtles can sleep underwater, and they do. Turtles can remain underwater for anywhere between 4-7 hours. It is during this time that they rest. They will bob their heads above the water, for a moment, to replenish their lungs but they will soon return beneath the surface to resume resting.

Turtle sleep is an intriguing topic and one that is very different from how you may expect.

Let us now take a closer look at their sleeping patterns and behaviors before exploring other interesting aspects like hibernation!

How Do Turtles Sleep?

When it comes to sleep, turtles like to choose a spot that has an adequate temperature where they can assume a position and be comfortable. Turtle owners find that their pet likes to sleep in one particular spot in their tank at all times.

Turtles don’t sleep deeply, it’s more a state of rest. So when it comes to sleeping underwater, turtles do this!

They can remain underwater for long periods (anywhere between 4-7 hours on average), only bobbing their heads above the surface of the water, for a moment, to replenish their lungs. They then return beneath the surface to resume sleeping. Here’s why.

When a turtle is submerged in water, its’ metabolic rate slows down, allowing it to use oxygen more efficiently and remain underwater for several hours.

Freshwater turtles like to bury themselves in mud or sand at the bottom of a pond to sleep; the water provides them with the oxygen that they need, It is well documented that a freshwater turtle can survive trapped underwater for months, due to its’ slow metabolic rate and anatomy of its’ shell.

Many turtles prefer to sleep in shallow water near the surface, but hidden underneath a rock or a piece of wood.

If you own a turtle as a pet, you must provide its’ enclosure with an accessible hiding place and leave it in a shallow part.

An idea would be to partially submerge a log so that it can get access to it from many sides and also have sufficient airspace underneath, allowing your turtle to come up for air.

The Zoo Med Floating Turtle Log on Amazon is a popular favorite among turtle owners.

It provides security, comfort, and stress reduction for them because it is bottom-weighted to half submerge in the water.

This enables turtles to easily bask on top of it or hide submerged inside.

Do Pet Turtles Hibernate?

Land turtles, like most reptiles, experience a type of hibernation known as brumation, this includes pets.

Brumation is a period of dormancy that normally begins in the fall where turtles go months without eating any food or engaging in such activity.

When the weather gets colder, their metabolisms slow down, this limits the amount of oxygen and food they usually require.

In cold weather, a turtles’ heart will beat once every ten minutes, in contrast to its normal 40 beats per minute.

Before it starts brumating, the turtle will look for some natural matter that it can retreat to for this period; the ground will be colder, which will help to decrease its’ metabolic rate, supplying it with the necessary insulin to keep it from freezing.

Your pet turtle may hibernate indoors or outdoors, if your pet hibernates outside you can protect it from freezing, by building a leaf pile.

Use regular dead leaves to build the pile, removing twigs and green leaves as they can get moldy.

Add leaves as you feel is necessary during the fall months because leaves can decompose or blow away in the wind.

If temperatures drop to below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, you must bring your pet inside and allow it to hibernate in a box.

Aquatic turtles hibernate below the water surface, they bury themselves in mud at the bottom of streams or ponds.

A garden pond is an ideal habitat for most water turtles to survive the milder days of winter. If aquatic turtles are kept indoors they may choose to hibernate between moist leaves and water.

How To Care For A Hibernating/ Brumating Turtle

You will first need to determine the species of your pet turtle, as not all species hibernate. Turtles that are native to tropical places do not hibernate only the ones that are furthest away from the equator.

You must research your turtles’ species requirements and read up on how they hibernate. The species of turtle that do hibernate are listed as follows:

  • Box turtles
  • Wood turtles
  • Snapping turtles
  • Red-eared sliders

You can care for your animal during brumation by applying the following measures:

Provide A Hibernation Box

Turtles that are hibernating indoors, should be kept in a hibernaculum, this can be constructed using durable materials like plywood.

Two boxes, are used to make the hibernaculum, one smaller box is fitted inside a larger box, with space in between to be filled with insulating material – this prevents your pet from freezing during brumation.

The inner box is filled with materials like shredded newspaper, dried leaves, and straw. You could even use a thermometer inside the box to monitor the temperature.

The temperature of the boxes mustn’t drop below freezing. You can set the box outdoors or place it in a fridge.

Decrease The Temperature Before Brumation

Ensure that all food is eliminated from your animals’ body before you begin the process of setting the correct temperature before hibernation.

Start one week before hibernation and set the temperature at 65 degrees Fahrenheit, leave it at that temperature for 3 days, lower it to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for another 3 days then gradually lower it to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do not go below 50 degrees; this is the warmest temperature for hibernation to occur.

Prepare Your Turtle For Hibernation

During the summer, you should give your pet vitamin A, as this depletes during hibernation.

Towards the end of the summer season, make sure your pet gets plenty of fiber in its’ diet – this is to ensure that there is no undigested food left in its’ digestive tract during hibernation.

Mazuri provide an excellent, high nutrition and life-cycle complete diet. You can get it on Amazon for a great price and this may be something you want to consider.

Fast Your Turtle

You must fast your turtle one month before hibernation this is to eliminate undigested food to prevent bacterial infections and pneumonia.

During fasting, you must keep them hydrated.

Monitor Your Turtles’ Health

Inspect your pet for signs of sickness, be on the lookout for symptoms such as discoloration, difficulty with breathing, and unusual discharges.

If you see any of these signs, take your turtle to a vet immediately.

Weigh Your Turtle

You must weigh your pet turtle frequently during hibernation. You need to ensure that your turtle is healthily losing weight and that it’s not starving.

Weigh your turtle at the start of brumation to get a baseline weight and weigh your pet every two to three weeks after.

Make sure to use the same weighing scales each time. The Accuteck scales on Amazon are cost-effective and do a good job if you are in the market for some.

Check Your Turtle Regularly

Even though brumation is a phase of extended dormancy, your pet should still be alert and be able to react to stimuli, if it isn’t, this may be cause for concern.

If you feel something isn’t right with your pet and it’s possibly unwell, take it to your vet and do not allow it to continue hibernating without it being examined.

In Summary

So, turtles do in fact sleep underwater. And they can do this for extended periods of time too!

This is just another reason why turtles make fascinating and interesting pets, and of course, is something to be aware of ahead of time.

So if you see your turtle under the water for hours, they may be sleeping. It usually is not a sign of concern, especially if they tend to migrate towards the same place in the tank.

Just be sure to regularly check up on them and monitor their movements to ensure that they are all okay and nothing is wrong.

Looking to learn more about turtles? My following guides may be of interest: