The best time of the day – is rest time! Everyone enjoys a good nap, right? Well, our pets love it too, of course. Today we are going to discuss the sleeping patterns of guinea pigs. Surely just the idea of them sleeping makes you feel sweet and adorable!
How long do guinea pigs sleep? On average, a guinea pig sleeps approximately 9 to 12 hours a day. Guinea pig’s sleep is much different from ours because they don’t sleep for a few hours in a row but they take short naps during the 24 h period. Each guinea pig nap lasts around 10 minutes. It is important to note that guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open, that is why most of the owners are not even aware that their guinea pig is sometimes sleeping right in front of them.
This is a very surprising fact because if you have one you are aware of how active they are all day long. Just to clarify, on average they have 9 to 12 hours of sleep that is consisted of mostly 10-minute naps.
Note: The common misconception that guinea pigs sleep only 4 hours a day is simply not true, and there are many research papers that have disproved that claim.
There is a reason why they sleep like this that we will discuss that later in the article. This will end the dilemmas you may have regarding your energetic little guinea pig!
If you always wondered why the guinea pig is so restless and always moving, or maybe you want to learn everything in general about their sleep – stay with us to find out more fun and interesting info about your dear pet. Let’s begin!
The Reason Behind the Strange ‘Sleepless’ Pattern of Guinea Pigs
The guinea pigs are prey animals, and this is a sad fact indeed! So, naturally, they are always alert and focused in case predators are around. This is also the reason why guinea pigs often sleep with open eyes as well.
The guinea pigs can’t be classified as nocturnal or diurnal animals. It all depends on the guinea pig, which means some of them are more active in the daytime, dawn, and dusk, and others are somewhat nocturnal as you may assume. But most of them are always most active at dawn and dusk.
Why is this? Because, at dawn and dusk, they feel the safest ‘to eat and move around’. It is in their instinct to be active mostly in these hours because predators are not roaming around at dusk and dawn.
Keep in mind that guinea pig nap can last from 20 seconds to 6 minutes! You may think this is strange but for them, it is normal and healthy. These are the extra short naps, and as we mentioned above, they also have ‘normal’ naps that last for around 10 minutes tops. However, most of the time, the guinea pig will nap for around 6 minutes, and rarely 10 and more.
Related: When Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?
The Importance of the Comfort for the Guinea Pig
Since the guinea pigs sleep so much, what is the most important thing for them? The comfort of a dark and hidden place where they actually take these naps to sleep! This means, your guinea pig needs a cozy spot that is hidden and comfortable.
For example, you can purchase a sleeping box that is available in many pet shops. Or, even better, you can make the existing cage/box of your guinea pig even comfier. Just line it up with some paper bedding, or a soft type of hay, lots of it. If you have more than one guinea pig, keep in mind that this space must be larger to fit two of them.
If you are not sure about what guinea pig cage size is the best please check our detailed guide and if you are looking for a bigger cage take a look at our recommended best cages for guinea pigs.
Related: Where Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?
The ‘Illusion’ of the Never-Sleeping Guinea Pigs
It seems the guinea pigs never sleep. It seems almost like an illusion; whenever you see the guinea pig, it has its eyes open or semi-closed let’s say. It is almost as if it never sleeps! But, the guinea pigs nap and sleep most of the time with their eyes not fully closed.
In fact, not just during sleep, but in general they do not close their eyes too much. As we mentioned, this is their instinct and natural behavior as protection against predators. This means you have probably seen your guinea pig sleep very often, you just didn’t realize it was sleeping!
The Significance of Predators in the Sleep Pattern of Guinea Pigs
This sleep pattern is very common for protection against the carnivores animals. The carnivores are the predators of the adorable herbivores guinea pigs. Carnivores can freely sleep during daytime because they are not in any danger against carnivore predators.
The most common predators of the guinea pigs are wolves, hawks, owls, and snakes.
However, the guinea pigs we keep as pets are domesticated cavies. With the process of domestication, the natural characteristics of guinea pigs have changed a lot over time. So, it is not very unusual for them to sort of adapt to our sleep patterns (still, not fully of course).
Do the Guinea Pigs Sleep Mostly at Night?
The guinea pigs are similar to cats and how cats sleep. They basically ‘snooze’ and take naps during the 24 hour period.
The guinea pigs have most of their naps during nighttime. As we said, they slowly adapted to us and our schedules, so they are quite well rested after the night is over.
Both during daytime and nighttime, the guinea pig will have restful and calm moments, as well as very restless and ‘insomniac’ moments. The calm moments are more frequent at night.
The Importance of ‘Eyes Closed’ for Guinea Pigs
This is a very crucial moment during a 24 h period for your guinea pig. Whenever the guinea pig closes its eyes and sleeps, it enters the REM stage of sleep.
Well, the guinea pig rarely closes its eyes fully, and when this happens you will witness a very sweet moment. It means the guinea pig trusts you completely and feels safe around you. It doesn’t feel threatened in any way, and it does this by choice. So, make sure not to make any loud sounds or wake him up for playing or feeding!
This becomes even more common as your guinea pig gets older. It means that over time, it has formed a very strong bond with you, so respect that as well!
What If My Guinea Pig Seems to Sleep a Lot, Even Too Much?
Pay attention to this because it might not be so good as it seems. It is hard to see when the guinea pig actually sleeps, or to measure how long it rests. But, if the guinea pig seems too sedentary, not interested in activities, always resting and being silent – it might be time to visit the vet!
When the guinea pig is lying down for many hours (during the day and/or night), if it refuses the snacks you feed him, or sits in a corner and seems ‘sad’ and ‘sleeping’, then it might be sick. It is a good idea to go to the vet as soon as you can and ask for advice and help.
What Causes These Unusual and Long Sleep Patterns?
Usually, the cause for such long hours of sleep and being idle is an infection of some kind. The viral ones are uncommon with guinea pigs, but the big concern is around parasitic, fungal, and bacterial infections. For example, in the winter, the greatest risk is bacterial pneumonia.
The symptoms are not just too much fatigue and long sleep hours, but these infections can make your guinea pig depressed and lethargic too. Don’t despair, it can be cured with the help of the vet. You can notice if your guinea pig might be sick by paying attention to the symptoms of strange sleep patterns.
Never wait too long to go to the vet, because infections not treated on time can be fatal!
The Impact of Food on the Sleep Pattern of Guinea Pigs
More often than not, the diet has some effect on the sleepiness of the guinea pig. If you and the vet rule out the chance of some infection, it might be a good idea to focus on the diet of the guinea pig.
When the guinea pigs lack vitamin C, they become fatigued and lethargic. This vitamin is extremely crucial for the guinea pigs, their health and survival. So, lack of vitamin C from foods or supplements will result in inactivity, loss of appetite (with that fatigue and no energy of course), joint pains, as well as malaise (overall idleness and feeling ill).
Check out our article on guinea pig vitamin c food list (dosage, serving size & more) if you are suspecting this is the main problem.
Make sure to always store the foods for the guinea pig properly. If you store them in very warm and bright spots, just know that those foods will have less vitamin C! To find out the vitamin C levels of the guinea pig, the vet can do a simple blood test to check this.
Sleeping in Groups and Making Sounds
Usually, when more guinea pigs are kept in one cage, they sleep together next to each other and this is the most adorable thing you can witness. They gather around in a cluster, and one or a few guinea pigs always have their eyes open to ‘guard’ the others.
As they sleep, you can see them change positions in the cluster, almost ‘clockwise’. The one with the eyes open finds another spot and rests, as another guinea pig replaces him as a ‘guard’.
Also, if you keep just one or two cavies, you can’t miss the snoring! When they start to make loud and funny noises like a snore, this means a night-night time for the furry friends.
Related: Are Guinea Pigs Loud at Night?
Hope this article has helped you understand everything related to guinea pig’s sleep pattern. Hopefully, we have resolved the common misconception that guinea pigs sleep for only 4 hours. Please check the reference articles or the list of sources if you are having any doubts.
We have carefully tackled this topic as it is really a sensitive one, lack of sleep or more of it can also mean that your guinea pig is sick. This is why it is important to always follow their behavior as any change can indicate that something is wrong with your guinea pig.
List of Sources
Zepelin, H., Siegel, J. M., Tobler, I., Mammalian Sleep, 2005.
Siegel, J. M., Sleep in Animals: A State of Adaptive Inactivity, Sleep Mechanisms and Phylogeny.
Pedemonte, M., Pena, J. L., Torterolo, P., Velluti, R. A., Auditory deprivation modiﬁes sleep in the guinea-pig, Neuroscience Letters, 1996.
Tobler, I., Franken, P., Trachsel, L., Borbely, A. A., Models of sleep regulation in mammals, Journal of Sleep Research, 1992.
Jouvet-Mounier, D., Astic, L., Study of sleep in the adult and newborn guinea pig, C. R. Seances Soc. Biol. Fil, 1966.
Tobler, I., Franken, P., Sleep homeostasis in the guinea pig: similar response to sleep deprivation in the light and dark period, Neuroscience letters, 1993.