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Do Turtles Sleep In Water? [Best Ultimate Guide]

After having a turtle for the first time, you will end up asking yourself whether turtles do sleep in water. It might freak you out at first, thinking that he might drown. This was the case for me when I got my turtle. I kept waking him up and placing him where I thought safe but I would find him in the same spot sleeping. This kept me wondering for some time and I immediately dived into research. In this article, I will help you understand your turtle more so you don’t freak out as I did. Stay tuned. Also, check out our blog post on the best foods for turtles.

So, do turtles sleep in water?

The answer is yes. Most turtles will sleep in the water. They have a way to manage their oxygen, which prevents them from drowning. It is also the same technique they use when they go into hibernation. When they sleep, they will find a secluded area and stay still for a very long time. Stay tuned to know how they manage to stay underwater for that long without drowning.

Different turtles will find different places to sleep. For instance, the freshwater turtles will bury themselves in mud or sand underwater, marine turtles can sleep on the water surface when they are far in the ocean. They do this by finding some overhanging rocks or coral reefs, which helps them sleep in shallow water. Temperate turtles will find some secure place like under the roots of a tree.

Do Turtles Sleep? Do Turtles Sleep In Water?

Turtles just like human being’s sleep. The only difference is how they sleep. Their sleep is not like that of humans. When turtles sleep, they go into a state of rest. They will find a hidden place and assume a particular position and stay still. Most of them will find a spot underwater and will remain submerged the whole time they are asleep. They have some adaptation that enables them to stay in water for so long without drowning.

If you find your pet underwater not moving, do not freak out. It is very normal. Do not even bother waking the turtle up. You will be disrupting their resting time. Just remain calm and they will wake up when they are done. Turtles are light sleepers and they will wake up; however, little the disturbance was. You might assume they are not sleeping but in reality, they are in some sort of a semi-sleep. Stay tuned to know how long and how often the turtles sleep.

How Do Turtles Sleep?

Different turtles will have different ways of sleep. Some will sleep underwater while some will find a secure soft place on land where they are safe and rest there. Most of the turtles will spend more of their time in the water, including their sleep time. For this reason, they have a mechanism to help them use less oxygen. They use less oxygen by reducing their body functionality, they become still, their heart rates reduce and thus end up using less energy and less oxygen.

With this ability, the turtles can go for months without having to breathe air. This is mostly during brumation. It is the same mechanism they use when they sleep. The hatchlings will float on the surface of the water when they are sleeping. Mostly, they will have their front flippers covering the top of their backs. I am not sure why they do this but most divers find them in this position when they are asleep.

How Does A Turtle Breath In Water?


The turtles breathe air just like human beings. They breathe in the air before they get underwater.  These turtles can survive for long periods without breathing. This is made possible by their small metabolism rate. When they are sleeping, their bodies go to a state of rest. They remain in the same position to prevent the loss of energy and oxygen loss. The little oxygen they breathe when they are out of water is enough to keep the whole time they are underwater.

This is also the case when the turtles are hibernating. I also found out that there is also another way turtles breathe in water. This process is known as cloacal respiration. This process is made possible by the small pockets in their butts which take water in and out of the pouches. As they do this, they get air to help them stay longer underwater.

How Often Do Turtles Sleep?

I find my turtle having to sleep every night. He is always hiding at the bottom of the tank beside the heaters whenever he is sleeping. He seems very peaceful and I just find it difficult to disturb his peace. Each night, he will take about 3-4 hours resting. He will assume the same position until he is awake.

This, therefore, brings me to the conclusion that all turtles will have similar daily activities as my turtle. The sleeping time might be different but the length of sleep will range from 3 to 4 or 5 hours. This will depend on the conditions inside the tank. The different conditions will trigger different behaviors. I always ensure that the temperature in the tank ranges from between 24 to 28 degrees Celsius all year long.

There is also part of the tank where it is warmer than other parts. This should give the turtle the freedom to choose the right temperature. I don’t spend my days at home most of the time but I think my turtle will also sleep during the day. I am not sure for how long but probably, it is approximate as the sleeping time in the evening.


Do Painted Turtles Sleep In Water?

Just like the freshwater turtles, the painted turtles also hide in mud or sand underwater when they sleep. They then take in small amounts of oxygen. This is done without breathing. It’s their adaptation which helps them survive underwater. Apart from absorbing in small amounts of oxygen, they have to reduce their metabolism rate to allow less oxygen usage. This is what all turtles do when they are sleeping.

Sleeping turtles will only stay in water for a few hours. This is as much as their metabolism rate can allow. As they sleep the metabolism will reduce a little to allow them to sleep. If they stayed longer, they might drown which I think can never happen in normal conditions. I think the amount of time they spend inside water depends on their health as well. During hibernation, the healthy turtles will surely make it past the season while the unhealthy ones find it hard to make it past the season.

Well, there you have it guys, Turtles are solitary creatures that can stay underwater for longer hours without breathing. They will also sleep underwater. Different turtle species will find different sleeping areas. For those that stay underwater, they do it by reducing their metabolism rate to a point where they use less oxygen than normal. You should, therefore, just relax when you find your turtle underwater in a still position. He is probably sleeping and you don’t want to disturb him.

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