If you own a pet hamster, one of your main concerns may be around their sleeping habits and behaviors; especially if they appear to be sleeping all the time. What does this mean and is it a problem? Is there something that you need to do or be aware of?
Hamsters require roughly 6-8 hours of sleep, yet this is often achieved with multiple sleep cycles. Hamsters are nocturnal so will sleep during the day and will be awake at night. This can give the illusion that they are always sleeping. Other possibilities are that your hamster is hibernating if the environment is too cold. However, oversleeping in hamsters can be the sign of a medical problem and if suspected, they should be taken to the vet immediately.
There are a number of reasons why your hamster may appear to always be sleeping when they are actually not.
Before jumping to any extreme conclusions, it is a good idea to make sure there is even a problem, to begin with.
Let us now explore the topic further so you can get a better understanding of what to expect and when and if there is a problem.
How Much Should A Hamster Sleep?
Hamsters have a comparable sleep requirement to humans. On average, a hamster will need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep. This is a net total thought, meaning that it is quite possible for them to break up their sleep cycles.
Unlike humans who attempt to get their entire night’s sleep in one sitting due to societal pressures, many animals nap regularly. If you notice this, you shouldn’t be too concerned.
The important thing here is that your hamster should be collectively getting between 6 and 8 hours over the course of a day.
While getting a pet hamster is often for companionship and interaction, its important to note that while you want to hold and play with them, you should learn to do so around their sleep/wake cycles.
Learning to understand when they your hamster is actually sleeping is important to determine if they are exhibiting abnormal behavior.
What Time Do Hamsters Wake Up And Go To Sleep?
Hamsters are nocturnal – meaning that they are supposed to be active during the night and sleep during the day. This doesn’t mean that they should be asleep during the entirety of daylight hours, but rather that most of their sleeping will be done during the day.
This means that it is perfectly healthy and normal that your hamster will spend some daytime being active and healthy.
For the average person who sleeps mostly during the night, it may be hard for you to gauge how much your hamster is actually sleeping. It is pretty unlikely that you will be standing there staring at the cage when you are supposed to be asleep.
This is also where the misconceptions come in. Sure, to you, it may seem like the hamster is sleeping all of the time because they are pretty much asleep the entire time you are waiting for them. This is also where some minor concerns come in.
Hamsters prefer to be active during the night when people are sleeping. If you happen to share your sleeping space with a hamster, you may find that their nighttime activities can keep you up at night. Loud wheels or toys can be a source of frustration for tired pet owners. This is why natural wooden toys are preferable.
Many domesticated animals (such as house cats and guinea pigs) have adapted a more convenient sleep cycle which coincides with your average human day.
Is It Bad To Wake Up your Hamster?
Unfortunately, this is not something hamsters have taken a liking to. Hamsters are nocturnal, through and through. You should not attempt to disrupt their natural tendencies.
There will be some individual variations between hamsters, and you may even notice your hamster being more active at a particular time of day than at another. Observe these times and get to know your own hamsters preferences.
However, in the grand scheme of things you should be prepared to live in accordance to your nocturnal pet and not try to interfere or adapt them.
You may be tempted to wake up your hamster when they sleep or try to get them to adhere to your human schedule. There are a number of reasons why this is not the smartest idea.
For one, there are a number of risks associated with waking any animal up. Think about it this way – how much do you love your alarm in the morning? And that is a device meant to wake you up at a scheduled and more routine time.
For your pet hamsters, it’s even more difficult. Imagine that you get up to live your life every day at 8 am and go to bed around 11 or midnight. This is a rather typical schedule. It is so routine you don’t even need an alarm. Then, all of a sudden, you get a roommate who works the night shift. Every day when he comes back, he wakes you up at around 3 to entertain him.
First off, this is going to irritate you. You will likely get frustrated at your roommate and exchange words – you need your sleep! You can even be alarmed and shocked by the sudden awakening. Unfortunately, hamsters are not able to communicate their feelings in such a way.
Because they can’t tell you that they are angry or scared, they have another way to teach you not to do something again – they bite you. Even if these little rodents are tiny, their bites pack a punch. Their sharp teeth can penetrate deep into the skin and sting quite a bit. Additionally, their deep incisions can lead to infection.
If you are not careful and your hamster makes a habit of biting you, you can be accidentally encouraging it to do so.
On a deeper level than worrying about the pain you are risking receiving, consider the hypothetical roommate again.
Sure, it is annoying when he wakes you up and messes you up every once in a while. But what happens when this kind of thing happens all of the time? You start to get sluggish, you start sleeping in late and waking up feeling horrible.
This is the same thing that will happen to disturbed hamsters. Constantly waking them up will stress them out. This can lead to more than psychological problems. Stress on the body – especially in delicate animals like hamsters – can have dire consequences.
Hamsters may fall ill or even take a toll on their longevity. Even trying to encourage a stubborn hamster to gently adapt to a different lifestyle may not be a good idea. There is a lot of evidence on an animal’s biological internal clock (circadian rhythms) and the detrimental consequences of forcing an animal out of it.
That being said, waking up your hamster every now and then won’t kill it, but you should not try to make a habit of it as it is a stressful experience for everyone.
For the most part, hamsters will adapt to their owners’ lifestyles up to a certain degree. Although they will probably still continue sleeping through the day, they will have some idea more or less on when they can expect you to come to the cage and offer attention and treats.
This is why sticking to a regular schedule is best and always recommended,
What Does It Mean If A Hamster Is Sleeping Too Much?
Keeping all of this in mind, if you think your hamster is sleeping beyond 6-8 hours over the course of a 24 hour period, it is a good idea for you to consider going to a vet.
Oversleeping can be a sign of something more serious that would need expert attention.
Call ahead to your local vet to make sure that they examine small animals as not all vets are trained to deal with hamsters.
They will be able to run tests and offer advice on potential treatments or lifestyle changes that can help and support your pet.
One Other Thing To Consider… Hibernation!
Lastly, one other consideration to be aware of is hibernation.
During the winter months it’s perfectly normal for a hamster to enter hibernation. During this time their metabolic rate will slow, and this can make it difficult to know whether they’re sleeping, ill or have even passed away.
Its important to note that a hamster will only hibernate if their environment is too cold. So long as their environment is at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit, they should not enter a state of hibernation. However, if you position their cage in a draft (like next to a window) or away from a radiator in the room, it may be colder than you think.
Here are the best was to check if your hamster is hibernating:
- Is your hamster breathing?
- Do they respond when you gently touch their whiskers?
- Is their heart beating?
- Is their cheek pouch warmer than the rest of their body?
So, if you suspect hibernation, you should slowly increase the temperature of their environment to a little over 20°C. You should notice that in a matter of hours movement from your hamster or waking up entirely.
If the room your hamster is located in does not have sufficient heating, consider getting a portable heater like this one on Amazon.
Just make sure it is positioned at substantial distance away from your hamster and never blowing on them directly. You do not want to ‘cook’ them nor set them up for dehydration.
Hamsters sleep multiple times during the day, so it is natural to believe that they are always sleeping. Most of the time this is not the case and they do in fact spend up to 16 hours per 24 hour cycle awake.
However, if you do notice any more than this it could either be due to illness or hibernation. Ensure you have a sufficiently warm environment (over 20°C) and head to the vet if you suspect illness.