In many ways, bearded dragon sleep just like humans do: at night, with the lights off, usually lying down. Some of the bearded dragon sleeping habits and positions may seem very strange.
Some bearded dragon sleep habits are strange, some cute and yet totally healthy. By understanding how your little reptile sleeps, you can make sure you are taking good care of them during that vulnerable time.
When Do Bearded Dragons Sleep?
Like humans, bearded dragons are diurnal: they are awake during the day and they sleep at night. In their natural habitat, they are used to being awake when the sun is up and falling asleep when it is dark outside. For most people, this means that your bearded dragon should be sleeping when you are.
Most bearded dragons, however, need more sleep than you’re probably used to. Typically bearded dragons sleep around 8-12 hours.
Since bearded dragons are used to sleeping when it is dark, it’s important to make sure their room or cage is as dark as possible during the hours when they are supposed to be sleeping.
Bearded dragons and the Tegu have been found to share two sleep cycles with mammals and birds. Bearded dragons experience short sleep cycles made up of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and slow wave sleep (Libourel, et al, 2018). Juveniles have more muscles twitches in their sleep than adults (Corner cited in Libourel, et al, 2018).
Interestingly these sleep cycles have been difficult to identify in other reptiles, namely turtles and crocodiles, with over 75% of studies unable to find evidence (Libourel, et al, 2018).
Do Bearded Dragons Sleep With Their Eyes Closed?
Bearded dragons sleep with their eyes closed, they do not sleep with their eyes open. However, they may open their eyes if a light is turned on. They can be very sensitive to light and like humans, it can disrupt their sleep.
Do Bearded Dragons Dream?
We don’t know if bearded dragons dream. Recent research has shown that bearded dragons, like mammals and birds, experience slow-wave and REM sleep.
In humans and other mammals, the sleep cycle lasts about 60 to 90 minutes, and mostly consists of slow-wave sleep interrupted by brief periods of REM sleep. It’s during this REM sleep that we dream.
The bearded dragon’s sleep cycle is much shorter and more regular. Its 80-second cycle is split evenly between slow-wave and REM sleep (Shein-Idelson et al, 2016).
Do bearded dragons dream during REM sleep? Only beardies know!
5 Surprising Bearded Dragon Sleep Habits
Here are 5 surprising bearded dragon sleep habits that are totally healthy.
1. Strange sleeping positions
Though bearded dragons usually sleep lying on their stomachs, there are many other positions some may use. In the wild, some bearded dragons will sleep up in a tree, vertical position. So it is not such a stretch to some of them sleeping upright in their enclosure, only they may not have a tree.
2. Sleeping for days, weeks or months at a time
During the late fall and winter months, it’s not unusual for bearded dragons to sleep for days, weeks or even months. This is because your beardie has entered a period called brumation. Brumation is essentially hibernation for reptiles.
3. Changing color while sleeping
You might notice your bearded dragon changing to a lighter color when it’s asleep. This is totally normal – researchers have found that beardies turn a lighter shade at night due to their circadian rhythm (Nogrady, 2014).
4. Covering themselves in sand to sleep
Sometimes bearded dragons like to cover themselves in sand when they sleep. If you find your bearded dragon sleeping buried under sand, you are not alone!
While you should make sure that there is no negative reason for this behavior (for instance, an annoying light it is trying to get away from, or a more dominant beardie in the cage), there is nothing inherently abnormal in this habit.
5. Breathing very slowly
It can be a shock to find your bearded dragon sleeping and not be sure if it’s breathing. Fortunately, this is often a false alarm. Bearded dragons can seriously slow their metabolic and respiratory rate when they’re in a deep sleep.
Sometimes they can breathe so slowly and quietly that you can’t tell if they’re alive. By all means check and be sure everything is ok. As you become more familiar with your bearded dragon you should be able to detect when it is ok.
Though bearded dragon sleep habits are often very similar to those of humans, they have many behaviors we may find strange. Some habits which may seem unhealthy to us are actually quite normal.
If your bearded dragon seems sleepy or lethargic during the day, check for underlying problems and make sure ideal conditions are provided for sleep. Bearded dragons need darkness to sleep, just as they would experience in the wild.
Have you ever been surprised by your bearded dragons sleeping habits? Tell us about it in the comments below! Love to hear from you.
Do bearded dragons sleep with their eyes closed?
Bearded dragons sleep with their eyes closed, though they may open them if they sense light.
Do bearded dragons experience REM sleep?
Yes, researchers have found that bearded dragons experience slow-wave and REM sleep in 80-second cycles.
How long do bearded dragons sleep?
Bearded dragons usually sleep 8-12 hours a night.
- Libourel, P. A., Barrillot, B., Arthaud, S., Massot, B., Morel, A. L., Beuf, O., Herrel, A., & Luppi, P. H. (2018) Partial homologies between sleep states in lizards, mammals, and birds suggest a complex evolution of sleep states in amniotes. PLoS Biology, 16(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005982
- Nogrady, B. (2014) Bearded dragon’s colour matches body clock. News in Science. ABC Science. https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/10/30/4117309.htm
- Shein-Idelson, M., Ondracek, J., Liaw, H.-P., Reiter, S. and Laurent, G. (2016) Slow waves, sharp-waves, ripples and REM in sleeping dragons. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft https://www.mpg.de/10477322/reptiles-brain-sleep