If you have ever observed a chinchilla, you may have wondered why their sleep schedule appears to be all over the map. Sometimes they act nocturnal by partying late at night, but other times they may seem bright-eyed and ready to go while you are enjoying your morning coffee.
Let’s unravel the mystery of a chinchilla’s unusual sleep behaviors and discuss how you can give them the best rest possible!
Summary of today’s article:
- Why is sleep important?
- Are chinchillas nocturnal?
- How much sleep do chinchillas need?
- How do I know if my chinchilla is sleeping?
- Helpful tips for restful chinchilla sleep
Sleep is necessary for all mammals as it is the time where our bodies are able to restore themselves. During sleep, our brain has the opportunity to remove waste products while other systems heal.
Sleep deprivation can have disastrous results, and some animals have been known to die after enduring prolonged periods of sleeplessness. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the immune system causing the body to be unable to fight off illness and infection.
Poor sleep has also been shown to affect memory retention and mood.
Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active after nightfall. Many predators have adapted to a nocturnal schedule to use the cover of night for hunting, so nocturnal prey animals are often at a disadvantage.
Although chinchillas are awake during certain times of the night, they aren’t considered to be nocturnal. Chinchillas are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours.
Crepuscular animals are found all over the planet with familiar species being rabbits, house cats, hamsters, and even some bats. The crepuscular sleep pattern is likely a survival technique that evolved so chinchillas could better avoid predation.
Twilight tends to create a visual challenge for nocturnal and diurnal predators, making dawn and dusk a safer time for prey animals to be active. Crepuscular animals have even been documented increasing their activity under moonlight or overcast days.
Chinchillas typically require an average of 12-16 hours per day, however, each chinchilla has its own specific sleep duration which is affected by their environment and individual physiology. Chinchillas do not sleep in a large section of time like humans.
A chinchilla’s rest period is spread out over short sleep cycles which are an average of six minutes in length. Small animals have a higher metabolic rate and must feed more frequently than larger animals.
Chinchillas will often eat throughout their series of sleep cycles to keep up with their body’s metabolic demands. It is not unusual to witness a chinchilla wake, take a few nibbles of food, then go right back to sleep.
Chinchillas will often sleep on their feet and it is theorized that this is a protective posture in case they must wake quickly to flee from a predator. That being said, it isn’t uncommon for chinchillas to lie down in a more restful position or even sleep while cuddled on top of a cage mate.
Sleeping chinchillas will sometimes sleep with their eyes open which can be a bit unnerving to any human who may not be expecting it! Many chinchilla owners have reported that their pets seem to dream as evidenced by a sleeping chinchilla squeaking, twitching, or even chewing.
Now that we understand a chinchilla’s sleep behavior, let’s discuss ways to optimize the experience for them.
Tip #1. Eliminate Noises And Light
Since most humans are not on a crepuscular schedule, chinchilla owners must devote some time to figuring out how to best live harmoniously with their pet. One of the best things you can do is to provide a quiet, low trafficked room to house your chinchilla’s cage.
Chinchillas are notoriously light sleepers and even the slightest sound can cause them to wake up with alarm. In their natural habitat, chinchillas must always be ready to flee from predators and this doesn’t change just because they are resting.
Another situation to watch out for is too much light reaching your chinchilla’s cage. Be sure that their cage is not in direct view of a window that receives lots of sunlight and keep artificial lights to a minimum.
If a chinchilla is exposed to a lot of artificial light during their natural sleep hours, they will gradually change their habits, which can be detrimental to their health. Make good use of blinds and drapes to keep the room relatively dark.
If you find that the room your chinchilla is housed in is still too bright, you might want to consider covering a portion of their cage with a thin piece of fabric. Keep in mind that chinchillas are very sensitive to heat, so any covering should be extremely lightweight and breathable.
Tip #2. Make Sure Their Cage Is Comfortable
In their natural habitat, chinchillas will cram themselves into rock crevices and other very small openings as a way to gain protection from predators and avoid contact with sunlight while they sleep. Your chinchilla’s cage should be equipped with a myriad of chew safe tunnels, huts, or igloos for them to hide away in.
Not only will these structures shelter your chinchilla from any potential light leaks, but they also provide a safe feeling which will help your chinchilla sleep. Additionally, many chew safe items like alfalfa hay coated tunnels double as healthy treats, which help keep your chinchilla happy and wear down their teeth.
Another component of a comfortable cage setup is maintaining a clean space. Make sure that your chinchilla is receiving regular dust baths and they always have fresh bedding.
If you ever notice your chinchilla recoiling from spots where they have urinated, take that as a hint that you need to change out their shavings. Chinchillas are very clean animals and have difficulty relaxing if they or their cage are not maintained properly.
Tip #3. Regulate The Temperature In Your Home
All of us have had sleepless nights because the temperature in our bedroom wasn’t comfortable. Chinchillas are extremely sensitive to heat and require the proper temperatures not only to sleep but to survive.
Be sure that the temperature in your home falls within the range of 60°-70° Fahrenheit.
Chilling stones are a fantastic way to provide a little extra boost to your chinchilla’s sleep routine. Not only do these stones keep cool on their own, but they can be put in the freezer before offering to your chinchilla for an extra cold element. Chinchillas will often fall asleep on their chilling stones and they are a simple, yet effective way to prime your chinchilla for optimal sleep.
Tip #4. Maintain A Predictable Schedule
Chinchillas are very observant creatures who will absorb information from their environment. One of the keys to helping your chinchilla reach proper sleep is maintaining a predictable schedule.
Have you ever noticed that your chinchilla recognizes certain sounds or reacts with excitement when they see you near their treat jar? These are forms of behavioral conditioning that naturally occur through exposure to repetition.
If your chinchilla has expectations of certain actions occurring at certain times, they will begin to shape their responses to match the stimuli they are given. By having consistent cage cleaning days, dust baths, playtimes, etc… you are giving your chinchilla a valuable tool to structure their sleep appropriately.
Your chinchilla will mold their schedule to better fit yours, so make sure to give them all they need to follow their natural sleep instincts.
Tip #5. Help Your Chinchilla Burn Off Excess Energy
No one sleeps well if they feel excited or would up! Playtime is an integral part of your chinchilla’s life and is an especially valuable asset for sleep regulation.
Since chinchillas are most active at dusk and dawn, these are the best times to engage in play and exploratory exercises. Most chinchilla owners find dawn to be a bit daunting and prefer to conduct playtime in the evenings.
This timing can be rewarding for you as well since quality time with your pet may be just what you need to unwind after a full day of work or other strenuous activities.
Tip #6. Make Sure Your Chinchilla Has A Low-Stress Life
This list of helpful tips would not be complete without addressing the issue of stress management. It is incredibly important that your chinchilla feels secure in their environment or they will never be able to fully relax and experience quality rest.
Be sure to always handle them properly so that they develop trust in you. Never allow guests or other members of the household to put them into a defensive mental state that may cause them to be on high alert.
Due to their delicate nature and crepuscular sleep tendencies, chinchillas are not an ideal pet for children who may not understand why they aren’t awake during the times when humans typically conduct their activities. By providing a safe and happy home for your chinchilla you are ensuring that your little Sleeping Beauty will wake up from their various sleep sessions refreshed and ready to take on the world!