Do Rats Sleep with Their Eyes Open? [Mystery Solved]

You wake up from an afternoon nap to check up on your pet rat. You walk up to it and see it staring right into your eyes. If this is occurring frequently, you may become concerned. Is it sleeping? or is there something wrong with your pet vermin.

So, do rats sleep with their eyes open?

Yes, rats can indeed sometimes, sleep with their eyes wide open. This only happens when they’re sleeping in a dark room with too little lighting. So yes, you’ll come across this situation if you let them sleep in a room. This condition is normal and doesn’t imply any health problems to worry about.

Now, there’s more to know! And we’ve written down the reasons behind this in a detailed way.

To understand this phenomenon better and what details entail, keep reading!

Rats Sleeping with Their Eyes Open, Is it Merely a Myth?

Rats Sleeping with Their Eyes Open

No, it most definitely is not a myth. Rats can indeed sleep with their eyes open.

There are reasons for this weird occurrence. Let’s check them out and clear out any confusion!

They Are In Dark Environment

During the daytime, due to light, rats sleep in a posture akin to curling up. They do, however, have their eyes closed during the night. However, in the dark, they tend to sleep with a stretched out body. And this time with open eyes!

They Are More Active during Night

Tamed rats lack the need to forage for food as it is provided readily. But the inherited trait is ingrained into their genes. They evolved this as a means to hunt at night. Because in the wild or on the ground there are fewer predators during the dark.

But there are lots of prey they eat.  All species of rats-  black, brown, long-haired, and the aforementioned bush rats are most active in the dark. They share an almost identical sleep schedule.

They See Better in Dim Lit Conditions

Rats see much better in low lighting. Due to their hindrance in eyesight, they rely more on other senses. Such as the smell or sound to perceive their surroundings.

They are anatomically hindered by their poor eyesight. That’s why they are best off in low-level lighting. This is a key reason why they sleep during sunny hours.

Read on to understand more about rats’ sleeping behavior.

What to Do if Your Rat Sleeps With Their Eyes Open?

What to Do if Your Rat Sleeps With Their Eyes Open

This is a rather common query amongst rat owners. The good news is that this is nothing to be concerned about. As they tend to sleep for almost 3 quarters of a day on average.

So, it isn’t something to lose sleep over. In actuality, it is normal for your rat to sleep with their eyes open. So, you don’t have to do anything drastic.

But there’s still something to be noted and done here. That is – you can make the sleep time more comfortable for them.

So, turn the lights off in the room they are in at night. This is if you don’t already have dim lights in the room they’re in. There should be minimum lighting.

But if they don’t sleep at night with open eyes, take them to a vet once in a while. This is to see if they are doing fine internally.

You can also know if any sleeping disorders may have developed in them. Or if their diurnal rhythms are out of check. 

The diurnal rhythm refers to the body’s natural hormonal maintenance signals. By which the rat uses to tell the time of the day. 

As the rat’s activities depend on the time and the daylight (they simply evolved this way). The lights in the cages they stay in may mess up this important process. 

Therefore, if they are sleepy, dim the lights!

Sleeping Positions and Some Habits of Rats to Keep in Mind

There’s one most frequently asked question any new rat owner has to ask. That’s- whether pet rats sleep a lot or are they always tired?

The short answer is- by nature, all rats are nocturnal. This includes field mice, domesticated pet rats, and the ones running around in the pantries!

Rats sleep in the fetal position. Or in a curled-up manner most of the time. Their internalized behaviors are from their ancestors. This includes hunting at night. At that time there were fewer predators around and more non-nocturnal animals as food lying around in peace.


Why do rats roam around at night?

Rats in the wild tend to roam around at night. They do it because they’re able to remain obscured from any prospective predators. They can hide better at night from predators. Having terrible eyesight they tend to rely on their whiskers for navigation even in the day time. 

Why Do Rats Not Sleep At Night?

Rats and every single subspecies of them, are nocturnal. They sleep upwards of 15 hours on average daily. Leaving only 9 hours for their daily play activities. This also includes imitating foraging behavior. This means they are the most active during sun down hours. This is a trait that evolved in rats through their wild ancestors.

What do I do when my rat is losing sleep?

Make sure they get plenty of playtime during the day and have enough hay and straw to make their bedding daily. You need to tire your rat out but in most cases, it shouldn’t be a concern because they sleep two thirds of any given day.

The only time you should be concerned about is if the sleep time is usually at night; or if it is less than 5 hours daily. Keep monitoring if you are concerned and contact a vet if you don’t find a fix.

Can rats die from lack of sleep?

Yes, some studies have shown that rats can indeed die from lack of sleep. Most animal experiments show that they can die from sleep deprivation. Even though, pragmatically it shows the brain has a defense mechanism. Against unremitting sleep deprivation.


By now you should have a clearer idea on do rats sleep with their eyes open and even if it’s unusual, it shouldn’t be alarming.

Rats exhibit many unusual behaviors. Sleeping with their eyes open is the least of them. Unless it persists and you can no longer classify it as periodic (happening more than 5 times a week).

There is very little if anything to be concerned about. Just turn the lights off at night!

Ryan Dugan
Ryan Dugan
Ryan Dugan

Ryan Dugan is a dedicated pet care professional who offers top-notch services for a variety of pet species. He has a soft spot for my own feline companion, Sophie. He is passionate about animals He shares his knowledge and experience on his blog to help other pet owners understand and care for their own beloved companions. Whether you need a pet-sitting service or advice on pet care, He is the go-to expert.

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