How do snakes sleep?

Snakes are such an unusual creature that there is still a great deal we do not know about them. Only one (published) study has been done on the sleep habits of snakes. In the 1960s, two French researchers did sleep studies on a number of creatures. They found that snakes do have a circadian rhythm. This is the natural “body clock” found in most living things including plants, animals, and fungi. A 24-hour cycle regulates our physical lives. It regulates us by keeps us active part of the day and in a resting state for another. Because they rarely respond to loud noises, (they do not hear airborne sounds as we do) or bright lights (their eyesight is exceedingly poor) it is difficult to try to “startle “them awake. The sleep study indicated that a snake could “sleep” (achieve a relaxed brainwave state) for up to 16 hours per day, 20 hours immediately following a feeding.

Snakes hooked to EEGs had brain wave patterns that indicated a sleeping state at regular intervals of the circadian rhythm, but we know that Snakes can sit immobile anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks. This stance is most often a hunting or foraging pose. They are waiting for an available meal to wander by, and do not wish to expend the energy chasing something down. Snakes have no eyelids, but instead have a thin clear membrane that covers and protects their corneas, called brilles. So even if a snake is sleeping, can it still see? There are some birds, dolphins, and whales who demonstrate “unihemispheric slow-wave sleep” In this unique state half of their brain is wide awake, often including one eye open to watch for passing food, or danger, while the other half of the brain registers as if sleeping on an EEG. Perhaps the snake can do something along the same lines using its tongue to watch for passing dangers or food while it grabs some shut-eye.

We also know that different snakes yawn. This action however may be more of an attempt to gather chemical clues in the air, reset the alignment of their jaw or regulate blood gas levels than to indicate a state of being tired. In conclusion, we can only assume, based on scientific evidence and natural observation that the snake does indeed enjoy some form of sleep- maybe not as we know it. At this point, we can only speculate on the sleep patterns of the snake. Not all creatures have the same physical requirements that we humans do. Perhaps the snakes rest cycle is something opposite ours, yet perfectly suited to its completely different physiology.

Read the How to get rid of snakes page for helpful information and to learn more about How do snakes sleep?

How do snakes sleep?

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