Are Guinea Pigs Nocturnal or Do They Sleep At Night?

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When it comes to guinea pigs, it’s safe to say that after 3,000 years of domestication, humans have learned quite a lot about these furry critters, especially with their behavior. We know that these adorable little creatures are affectionate beyond measure.

In fact, they love interacting with their owners and feeling their touch. You may even notice them making a “purring” sound when you handle them – a sign that they’re enjoying your touch.


But if there is one thing about guinea pigs that people most find confusing today is whether or not they are nocturnal or if they, like humans, sleep during the night.

Nocturnal or Diurnal?

During the day, people could see guinea pigs up and about which would lead them to think that they are diurnal (active during the day). However, it can also be noticed that guinea pigs also tend to be active at night which then leads to the question: “are guinea pigs creature of the day or night?”

The answer to that, however, is neither. Guinea pigs are not nocturnal or diurnal. There are people who believe that guinea pigs are like their hamster cousins that are crepuscular – a term used to refer to creatures active during the twilight hours. Unfortunately, guinea pigs do not belong to that distinction as well.

This is because guinea pigs have a crazy sleep schedule, if any.


Guinea Pig Sleep Cycle

Guinea pigs seldom sleep and that is the truth. To better understand this fact, think of yourself as a small animal living in the wild and having a wide number of predators ready to pounce on you at any given moment. Now, living in constant danger means that you would need to be alert at all times and this is how guinea pigs act.

Despite being domesticated and placed in a safe setting far different from their wild origins, it would seem that guinea pigs have taken their alertness all the way to their role as pets.

Guinea pigs don’t have a definite sleeping schedule. Instead, they would scatter sleeping time throughout the day and often limiting it to a short period of 6 to 10-minute naps. In fact, these animals don’t really sleep; they only nap for a few minutes and are back on the move again.

In a single day, guinea pigs may only sleep for 4 hours. If you see a guinea pig relax for a long period of time, in truth, it may have only really napped for about 6 minutes before becoming alert once again.

If you see them being more active during night time, it would make sense for them to do so since there are fewer predators during the night. Since sleep is associated with many brain and bodily functions, experts are still trying to find out how guinea pigs have survived despite lacking in sleep.

American guinea pig

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep

Guinea pigs only need 1-hour of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in a span of 24 hours. Many experts believe that this is due to the condition of guinea pigs after their birth.

Guinea pigs are precocial; which means they are already in an advanced state of development when they are born. In fact, you may notice that newborn cavies already have hair upon their birth and could start running just a few hours after.

Just a day after their birth, they can already eat solid food. This is a quality they share with sheep and giraffe – animals that are also born precocial and need only one hour of rapid eye movement sleep.

It is believed, but not confirmed, that the more mature a creature is at birth, the less REM sleep it would need. But since sleep is closely associated with most bodily functions and given the fact that guinea pigs, sheep, and giraffe still function like any other animal, this topic is still being debated.

When Do Guinea Pigs Sleep?

As mentioned above, guinea pigs don’t really have a definite sleep cycle. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t have a preference as to when they would like to sleep. In fact, it all comes down to preference in the end.

Some guinea pigs like to sleep during the night because it only makes sense since most other creatures are asleep as well and they would have less worry about predators. But there are also those that sleep more during the day.

With this being said, guinea pig behavior and environment can help influence their preferred sleeping time. If the environment they live in is mostly peaceful and provides them with little stress, it’s not at all surprising to find them asleep during the day. You just have to pay close attention to your pets to get a good idea as to what they prefer when it comes to sleeping.

Guinea Pig Sleeping Habits

It’s hard to catch guinea pigs sleeping. This is because when they do fall asleep, they still have their eyes wide open. Their heads would be lowered to the floor to rest and since their bodies are already close to the ground, they do not have to roll over.

One of the biggest signs that a guinea pig is sleeping comfortably is when you see it sprawled on the floor on all fours. Because of their social nature, they often huddle in groups for security and warmth when sleeping. Some guinea pigs, however, would seek their own personal hideout to get a comfortable sleep.

Sleeping Behavior Reflects Guinea Pig Health

It is important that you carefully watch how your guinea pigs sleep. Make sure to pay attention to their sleeping habits because it may reflect their own personal health. When a guinea pig’s sleeping habit changes, it may not be feeling too good. This may be accompanied by other signs like lethargy, loss of appetite, and less energy.

If you think something is wrong with your pet, do not hesitate in taking it to a veterinarian to get checked.

Carlye Yancey
Carlye Yancey

Between internships, volunteering, and paid jobs over the last 4 years, I have pretty much-gained experience with domesticated animals. Currently being in school for my veterinary technology degree, I spend my leisure time with 3 critters that I own.

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