How Do Sea Turtles Sleep?

Sea turtles are one of the mysterious creatures of nature. Though the turtles are one of the oldest animals, a lot of information is yet to know about the species. They have entirely different and identical behavior and habits when compared with the other reptiles. You may know that sea turtles pass most of their time in the water. So, how do sea turtles sleep? Let’s find it out with us.

How Do Sea Turtles Sleep

How Do Sea Turtles Sleep?

Sleeping Habit of the Sea Turtle

There are different species of sea turtles, and the sleeping habit varies a lot with the species. More so, a variety of things can affect the way the turtle sleeps. These include predator, weather, environment, and species.  Almost all the species of the turtle will require an amount of oxygen even when sleeping. So, they typically sleep in close to the surface. But does it goes with the sea turtles? You will need to dive into a little bit more depth to find it out.

To understand the sleeping habit of the sea turtle, you will need to know how they breathe. The sea turtles live most of their time underwater, as we said earlier. However, they require to breathe like the other species for the vigorous functionalities. It takes one single exhalation for the turtle to replace the oxygen in the lungs.

The lungs of the sea turtle are designed to permit the rapid exchange of oxygen. More so, it can also resist the gas from trapping inside the body while diving in deep water. The turtle’s blood can transport the oxygen proficiently in the body cells even in high pressure during the dives. During the usual activities, the sea turtles dive into the water for four to five minutes and come back to the surface level after that for breathing.

How Turtles Sleep Under Water for Hours?

However, the turtles can sleep for several hours under the water frequently. But they cannot hold their breath for such a long time while searching for food or getting away from the predator. The body functions of the turtle are minimal, and the metabolism rate becomes slower while sleeping. So, they require little oxygen during sleeping. The adult turtles usually wedge themselves underneath rocks in the deep-sea surface.

Typically, the most important factor is comfort and protection while selecting a place for sleeping. That is why they prefer sleeping hidden under the coastal rocks and ledges to stay protected. Besides, the turtle usually has a preferred site for sleeping, which is safe from the predator. Some research found the green sea turtles returning to the same sleeping location at night.

The sea turtles and the aquatic turtle has an entirely different sleeping habit. Depending on the species of the turtle, they can sleep at the surface of the water, basking spots, under the water, or floating in the water. They usually require breathing while sleeping now and then. However, some species like red-eared sliders can sleep up to several hours without breathing.

What is New Studies Saying about Turtles Sleeping Habit?

New research by the University of Strasbourg found some interesting information about sea turtles sleeping habits. They attached an accelerometer in the backpack of the turtle to monitor the activities. In the study, the found that the turtle searches and eat food during the day and dive into deeper water during the sunset for resting. They also sleep for a while during the daylight to conserve energy.

As per the researcher, the turtle requires less oxygen when they dive into the deeper water. Interestingly, the turtle rested eleven hours required half of the oxygen they consumed during foraging. They also need less oxygen during the winter as the temperature is colder. It shows us how the turtle can survive without breathing while sleeping.

How Long Sea Turtle Sleep?

The sleeping or resting turtle usually sleep around 4 to 7 hours. The sleeping time of the turtle depends on how much they can hold the breath. On the other hand, the sea turtles can also hibernate underwater like the other aquatic turtle species. They can live without breathing for several months during the hibernation period.

Most species of the sea turtles and aquatic turtles sleep during the night. However, there can be some nocturnal species of the turtle who stay awake during the night. The tortoise can sleep around 16 to 18 hours every day. Yes, you got it right; they pass most of their lifetime sleeping.

Turtle may sleep more times during the winter when the water temperature is low. That is because their metabolism rate is slower in the cold environment, usually around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also see such behavior in the pet turtles. They will sleep more when the temperature is low.

How Long Sea Turtle Hibernate?

It is considerably hard to predict how much the turtle will hibernate. The turtle’s hibernation period depends on a lot of factors, including the temperature of the turtle environment. During the winter, it becomes hard for the turtle to search for food actively as they become slow. More so, there is less food during the period.

Due to the less food and activity, the turtle prefers to hibernate to preserve the energy. Besides, it also becomes the target of the predator because of the slower speed. So, they find a safe place and reduce the need for food and get into hibernation. As the turtle’s metabolism rate becomes extremely slow, they require less oxygen, food, and nutrition.

You may question – why the aquatic pet turtle doesn’t hibernate? Because they don’t need it. The pet turtles live in a regulated environment with an appropriate temperature and adequate supply of the food. So, they don’t need hibernation. However, the turtle may get into hibernation if the tank temperature is slower.


Though the sea turtles are one of the oldest animals on the earth, a lot of information about the species is still unknown. The above paragraphs should give you an insight about the sea turtle’s sleeping habits.

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