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Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Many rabbits have spurts of energy followed closely by spurts of own time. But many rabbits never seem to shut their eyes and actually sleep. Could it be possible that some rabbits can sleep with eyes open? Do rabbits sleep with their eyes open?

Dr. Jess explains if bunnies sleep with their eyes open or closed below…..

long-eared rabbit on the floor

In this article, I’m going to walk you through if rabbits sleep with their eyes closed or open.

But first, let’s learn more about rabbits and why animals with eyelids close their eyes in the first place. Then all of this will make more sense… I promise!

What are Bunnies?

They are small mammals that hop around from A to B.

They are commonly seen as pets with their cute, furry exterior and silly personalities.

They come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, most commonly seen in shades of white, brown, black, and patches or combinations of those colors.

Sometimes, certain rabbit breeds can even change colors in the winter to better blend into their surroundings!

They have a large ear for their body size and even have long-eared varieties with even larger and longer droopy ears.

They have long incisors (front teeth) that are constantly growing and needing to be filed either naturally or by the help of some human intervention.

Do Rabbits Sleep?

Yes, rabbits do need to sleep in order to stay healthy and well.

Rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk, when they are least likely to be spotted in the wild by predators. This is also known as being crepuscular.

Rabbits commonly sleep in three main positions. These postures are:

  1. Rabbit lays stretched out with their front legs out in front of them or tucked under their chest, and their back legs straight out behind them. 
  2. Rabbit flops down and lays on their side. Typically, rabbits sleep this way when they are hot or when they are very relaxed and not feeling like they need to be “on guard”.
  3. Rabbit lays on it’s stomach, with both front and hind legs tucked underneath of them so you cannot visualize their legs. When a rabbit is tired but still feels as if they need to be watching for danger, many will choose to snooze in this position.

When Do Rabbits Sleep?

A healthy rabbit without any stress will sleep on average between 6-12 hours a day. 

Most often, your bunny will not get all of their rest in one piece, like humans typically do. They will sleep in pieces throughout the day and night, being most active at dawn and dusk (Crepuscular).

A stressed rabbit will wake often to whatever is stressing it out, decreasing the amount of sleep that they are getting. A sleep-deprived rabbit is more likely to get sick.

Do Rabbits Sleep With Their Eyes Open or Closed?

Rabbits can sleep with their eyes open, even though not all bunnies will sleep with eyes open.

Usually rabbits will sleep with their eyes open when they feel that they need to stay alert and ready to flee at any given second. This is important for rabbits out in the wild, but not so much for domesticated pet rabbits.

When a rabbit becomes more comfortable with their surroundings, then they may someday close their eyes, or at least partially close their eyes, when sleeping. When sleeping with eyes open, a rabbit will have their third eyelid (yes, I said third eyelid!) closed.

With the eye remaining open and the third eyelid closed, the eye stays protected, while the eyes still keep watch to detect movement while sleeping.

How Do Rabbits Use Their Third Eyelid?

All rabbits have a third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane.

This thin membrane is invisible to the human eye, as it is translucent.

This third eyelid closes while a rabbit is sleeping, allowing the eyes to stay open and “on watch” because of it’s translucency (“see through” in nature).

Not only does this third eyelid allow your rabbit to sleep with eyes open, but it also acts like human eyelids by keeping the eyes lubricated and moist, and helps prevent dirt and dust from entering in to the eye.

The transparent nictitating membrane also makes the rabbit look awake (even if they are completely asleep!) to predators and other rabbits.

How Do I Know if My Rabbit is Sleeping?

Even though it may be tough for some to figure out if your rabbit is awake or sleeping, here are a few things to look for in many sleeping bunnies:

  • Ears down, nose still: If your rabbit’s ears are down and their nose isn’t moving, then they are not presently listening or smelling, many times a sign that they are snoozing.
  • Slower breathing: If your rabbit is sleeping, then they are likely going to have a slower respiratory rate, or a slower rate of breathing in and out because they are relaxed.
  • Dreaming and chattering: Rabbits do dream just like humans and other pets. And just like other animals, sometimes these dreams come with cute little noises, like teeth chattering, and running or movement of arms, legs, and/or tails.

How To Get Your Bunny To Sleep With Eyes Closed:

Doing things to encourage your rabbit to feel safe with you, will increase the chances that your rabbit will start to sleep with their eyes closed.

Stat with your rabbit’s environment.

Rabbits like environments that resemble their natural habitat, soft, dark sleeping quarters are highly sought after.

No matter what or where your bunny prefers to sleep, they need to feel incredibly safe in order for them to possibly close their eyes during rest.

Summary:

Many rabbits do sleep with their eyes open. To help with this, rabbits will use their third eyelid, a transparent membrane, to cover their open eyes to keep them protected while the eye stays open. Rabbits can still get healthy doses of sleep even with their eyes open.

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Maricruz Kruse

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Thanks Doc! 😊 You information has been of great help!!

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