If you’ve got a hammy, you’ve probably wondered at first why he sleeps so much, especially during the day. Our guests always ask us where Teddy is, since he’s sleeping when they come over.
Turns out hamsters have a veeery different sleeping pattern than us humans. Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes you’ll wonder why you got yourself into this. But they’re always lovable.
When is your hamster sleeping ?
Hamsters sleep during the day, and are awake at night, or in the twilight hours. This is an instinct they’ve had since forever, and it’s what kept them alive for so long.
Hamsters are prey animals, and most of their predators are awake during the day. This means the hamster must hide, so he sleeps the day away in his little burrow.
Once evening sets in, he gets his little nose out and starts looking for food. But what about your domestic, furry little friend sleeping in his cage ?
He’s sleeping the day away too, even if there are no predators around. That’s simply his schedule, and don’t take it personally. He will wake up in the evening, around 8-10 PM, and stay up til morning.
His sleep pattern might change over the years a bit, but he is largely nocturnal, and it’s the best thing for him, given the way his body works.
You can change his sleeping pattern, but you’re mistreating him and causing much discomfort. We’ll cover that part too, and why it hurts the hamster.
How your hamster usually sleeps
Your hamster friend usually sleeps in his hideout, or the nest he’s made in a corner if he has no hideout. He sleeps in a big, knotted pile of paper towels, toiler paper squares, chewed up cardboard, and some bits of wood shaving from the bedding.
Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of him sleeping, with his little feet curled up and ears folded. Seriously, a sleeping hammy is about the cutest thing ever.
For example my Teddy is a Syrian hamster, and a male at that. Syrian males are notorious for having ridiculously large testicles, and they just… hang out… when he sleeps.
So I’ve had a few moments when I wanted to see him sleep and instead got a full view of the family jewels, and a furry foot.
Hammies sleep curled up, and very well hidden in their little nest. So actually seeing the hamster will not be easy. But you can sometimes see parts of the nest moving when he twitches or shifts.
Do hamsters sleep with their eyes open or closed ?
I’ve seen no hamster sleep with his eyes open, nor have other hamster owners told me about that. It’s not something hamsters do, unlike bunnies.
Hamsters sleep with their eyes closed, and they might crack one open if they hear something or feel the cage move.
If you don’t have a vet on call, or are not sure what kind of vet you need, look for an ”exotics” vet. Hamsters, like parrots and guinea pigs and lizards, are considered exotic animals and a regular vet won’t have very much experience with them.
No hamster likes being woken up
On the topic of waking a hamster up, well, don’t. No one likes being woken up in the middle of the night, unless there’s a disaster happening right this minute.
It might be 3 PM on a sunny afternoon for you, but it’s something like 4 AM for him. Let the little fella rest. Hamsters do a whole lot of sleeping for being such small creatures.
For example an adult Syrian can sleep between 6 and 8 hours per day ! That’s about as much as you or I need, and we’re much larger than a fistful of fur.
Hamsters need the rest, because they are always on high alert, and quite high strung. They’re jumpy and always on the move. Imagine your little friend on the wheel, all night long, running as far a 9 km/5.5 miles in one night.
He needs the rest.
If you do handle the hamster when he just woke up, that’s on your own risk. Hammies, like humans, are quite disoriented when they wake up.
That means you’ve got an equal chance at a docile, hazy hamster as well as a snappy, irritable one.
I usually leave Teddy alone when he wakes up, and only talk to him for the first few minutes.
Don’t change your hamster’s sleep schedule
Given the fact that you’re awake during the day, and sleeping at night, I know you probably don’t get to see your friend too often.
Maybe a couple of hours in the evening before bed, and in the morning when you’re rushing to get somewhere. I know that’s my routine with Teddy, and we do a whole lot playing and handling in the evening when he’s up.
It is at all possible to change your hamster’s sleeping pattern, and you’ll find plenty of guides on how to do that.
However that’s not very safe for your hamster. Hear me out here.
Hamsters have very sensitive eyes, even if their eyesight is almost non-existent. By forcing your hamster to stay up during the day, you’re putting a lot of bright daylight on his eyes. Even if it’s not direct, the light is still much too harsh for his sensitive night creature eyes.
Hamsters do best in low light conditions, and harsh lighting can be painful for them. A regular light bulb won’t hurt him much, but it’s nothing compared to the sunlight. I doubt you have the lights on in the middle of the day.
Then there’s the fact that hamsters are okay with humans handling them, but there is such a thing as too much for them. Handling your hammy too much might tire him out faster than you’d like, and faster than would be alright for him.
Finally, it’s about the other bodily functions that hamsters have as nocturnal creatures, that don’t work as well in the middle of the day.
So, again, please let your hamster have his normal routine, and try finding a happy medium between you both.
Keep your hammy’s sleeping area undisturbed
We’ve already covered the fact that hamsters don’t like being woken up. Neither do you, neither do I, for that matter. But the sleeping area is very important too.
You see, hamsters don’t see very well but rely a whole lot on their sense of smell. Their sleeping area, or bed if you will, is full of their scent. Your hammy took the time and effort to decorate his bedroom just the way he likes it.
But we can’t leave it like that, since it needs periodic cleaning. Now, there are way to clean the hamster’s nest without disturbing it too much.
One of them is spot-cleaning the nest, where you only pick out the droppings, and maybe a piece of the nesting material that got soiled. Add a few fresh pieces of paper towel, and your hammy will add them to his bedroom.
But what if you need to change the whole thing, since it’s been a while ? In that case remember to leave a few pieces of the old nest, and throw out the rest. The old bits will have your hammy’s scent, and make it much less annoying for him to rebuild.
Changing the entire nest at a time can be a bit stressful for your hamster. He is after all a creature of habit, and needs things to be the way they always were. He doesn’t do well with change.
The cage should be in a calm, secluded area
The area in your house where you keep the cage needs to be in a calm area. For example if your living room has lots of guests, a couple of kids, and a puppy running about, it’s not a good place for a hamster.
Find a room or a corner of the house where your hamster can hear the hustle and bustle of the house and get used to it. But, it should be a fairly private place where there’s not much traffic, and your hamster can sleep undisturbed.
Even if he’s not sleeping, your hammy doesn’t take well to stress. By this I mean an overly curious cat, child, or even adult prodding at him, tapping the cage and trying to interact with the hamster when he’s not up for it.
Truth is, hamsters are indeed friendly, but in short bursts. They won’t stay put long, and won’t stay in your hand for more than a couple of seconds.
Hammies are always moving and curious and need to see and smell and know and inquire about every little thing. You’re literally holding them in place when they want to investigate that rustling bag.
Maybe a bit exaggerated, but you get the general idea.
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Your hamster might be making odd, random sounds
Even when he sleeps, your hamster is still a funny little thing. Not only is he a cute, curled up ball of fur, but he might also be making the oddest sounds.
Maybe it’s just my Teddy, maybe it’s all Syrian hamsters. I know lots of hamsters make cute sounds, and I’ve heard of and read about other hammies squeaking in their sleep.
My Teddy can be fast asleep and still squeaking. It’s somewhere between a hiccup and a bark, like he’s going ‘hmph’ left and right.
Maybe your hammy does it too, maybe he doesn’t. But do expect odd noises coming from his nest when he sleeps. If it’s not the squeaking, it could be a rustle, or a chatter, or a chewing sound.
Those are all normal. Think about when you sleep. You do a whole lot of moving in your sleep as well, so don’t be surprised if your hamster is not very different.
Hamsters get midnight munchies and bathroom trips too
Ah yes, the midnight snacks. Like we’ve never woken up to grab something from the fridge, on our way to the bathroom.
Your hammy does that too. You see, hamsters designate a ”pee corner” and they only use that one. It just so happens to be on the farthest point from their nest.
Hammies are very clean animals, and they keep their nest very clean.
Even if your hamster doesn’t wake up too much for a quick snack, that’s fine too. While hamsters do sleep for a lot of hours, they don’t necessarily have to be continuous.
For example my Teddy wakes up randomly in the middle of the day (night for him) and takes a short walk of sorts. He might even get on his wheel for a bit, but he’s always up for just a few minutes.
Every hamster wakes up with his fur a bit ruffled, ears folded back, eyes half closed. He might even stretch and yawn, and look bleary. He did just wake up, after all. Usually after that he’ll start grooming himself, and start his day. apparently
A word from Teddy
I hope you found a lot of useful info here. I know us hammies seem to sleep a lot, but it’s just the time difference between us. If you work a night shift, your’re probably on the same pattern as us. You’re probably very tired all the time, though.
If you want to know more about us hammies, you an check out the articles below on how to take care of us properly.