Why Is My Hamster Sleeping at Night?

As a pet owner, you want your hamster to be happy, active, and sleeping during normal times. So when you notice your hamster is sleeping more at night instead of during the day, it can cause some concern. There are several potential reasons why your hamster may be sleeping at night more than usual. Let's explore some of the most common causes and what you can do about it.

Hamsters Are Nocturnal By Nature

The most basic reason hamsters tend to be awake at night is that they are naturally nocturnal animals. In the wild, hamsters adapted to become nocturnal as a survival mechanism to avoid predators that are awake and hunting during the daytime.

Being nocturnal means their internal circadian rhythm causes them to during the daytime hours and become active at dusk when natural light begins to fade. They will remain awake throughout the night, foraging for food, running on their wheel, burrowing and nesting, and going about other hamster activities until daylight returns. Then they retreat to their nests to sleep soundly during the day.

So an increased level of nighttime activity is perfectly normal for a healthy hamster simply expressing its natural nocturnal instincts. This is especially true if you've only had your hamster for a short time and are still adjusting to its normal sleep/wake cycle compared to your own.

However, if you've had your hamster for some time and notice a sudden significant increase in its night waking and less daytime sleeping, there may be an underlying issue causing the change in normal behavior. Let's look at some of the potential reasons.

Illness Can Lead to Excessive Sleeping

One of the first things to rule out if your hamster is sleeping more at night is whether illness may be the cause. Hamsters instinctively sleep more when sick as part of the body's natural healing process.

Some common hamster illnesses that can cause lethargy and excessive sleeping include:

  • Diarrhea – Loose stools cause dehydration and depletion of nutrients, leaving the body exhausted.
  • Constipation – Difficulty passing stools puts strain on the body.
  • Dental issues – Overgrown teeth make eating difficult and painful.
  • Respiratory infection – Labored breathing tires the body.
  • Diabetes – Causes fatigue as cells can't utilize glucose properly.
  • Cancer – Rapidly growing tumors sap the body's energy.
  • Kidney disease – Toxins build up and cause malaise.
  • Heart disease – The heart has to work harder, tiring the body.
  • Stroke – Lack of blood flow to the brain causes weakness.

If you notice any of the following symptoms along with increased nighttime sleep, have your hamster examined by a veterinarian to diagnose and treat any health issues:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy, lack of interest in normal activities
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Hunched posture
  • Labored breathing
  • Wet or soiled fur under tail
  • Squinting or swollen eyes
  • Abnormal discharge from eyes or nose
  • Bald patches or obvious tumors on body
  • Head tilt
  • Loss of balance or falling over
  • Walking in circles

Catching and addressing illnesses promptly can help your hamster return to more normal sleep patterns.

Stress Can Disrupt Healthy Sleep Routines

Hamsters are very sensitive creatures and can easily become stressed by changes to their environment and care. Stress takes a major toll on the body and can severely impact your pet's eating, activities, and sleep.

Common stressors for hamsters include:

Changes to Housing

  • Moving to a new cage
  • Altering cage layout by removing or adding accessories
  • Changing bedding material
  • Having cage cleaned by someone new
  • Disturbances from other pets or children tapping on cage

Diet Changes

  • Switching to a new food brand or formula
  • Introducing new treats
  • Inconsistent feeding times
  • Forgetting to restock food

Changes in Home Environment

  • Moving homes
  • Loud noises like construction or parties
  • Additions of new pets to the home
  • People coming and going like holiday visits

Health Stressors

  • Illness or injury
  • New medication
  • Vet examinations

Behavioral Stressors

  • Introduction of new cage mate
  • Conflict with existing cage mate
  • Lack of activity outside cage like free roam time

To reduce stress for your hamster, make any environmental changes slowly over a 7-14 day transition period. Keep noise and disruptions around the cage to a minimum. Provide a quiet space away from children and other pets. Stick to consistent feeding and playtimes. Monitor for signs of stress like bar chewing, pacing, agitation, hiding, or sudden aggression.

If stress is causing sleeping issues, focus on identifying triggers and minimizing them to help your hamster relax. Sometimes adding new chew toys in the cage or spending more free roam time bonding with you can also lower stress.

Depression Can Lead to Excessive Sleep

It may surprise some owners to learn that hamsters can actually suffer from depression that leads to behavioral changes like sleeping more than normal. Hamsters are intelligent, social animals that need stimulation and interaction to stay happy.

Factors that can cause depression in hamsters include:

  • Loneliness – Hamsters are social and can get lonely when kept solitary.
  • Boredom – Lack of mental stimulation and physical activity depresses hamsters.
  • Lack of human interaction – Hamsters bond with their owners and need regular playtime together.
  • Grieving – Hamsters grieve when cage mates or owners pass away.
  • Pain or illness – Chronic health issues lead to sadness and despair.
  • Small cage – Confined living space prevents natural behaviors.
  • Diet issues – Poor nutrition or sudden diet change affects mood.
  • Unsuitable environment – Excess noise, crowding, or improper temperature.
  • Routine disruption – Changes to sleep/play schedule or housing upset hamsters.

Signs your hamster may be depressed include:

  • Lethargy and lack of interest in playing
  • Sleeping more during night and day
  • Messy or lack of grooming
  • Appetite changes like under or overeating
  • Hiding and avoidance behaviors
  • Aggression when handled

To help a depressed hamster, identify what may be causing sadness and address those factors. Spend more hands-on playtime together. Make sure cage size, accessories, food, and environment are appropriate. Consider a companion if hamster is alone. Enrich lifestyle through toys, exercise wheels, treat puzzles and new experiences like supervised time in a hamster ball or play pen. Routines are important, so maintain regular waking, feeding, and sleep times.

If depression persists, have your hamster professionally examined to rule out underlying illness. In severe cases medication prescribed by a vet may be needed, but lifestyle and environmental changes can often treat mild depression. Getting proper sleep is very important for your hamster's health and happiness.

Could It Be Time for Hibernation?

Wild hamsters inhabiting temperate regions naturally hibernate during winter months when food becomes scarce. Breeding and raising hamsters as pets has mostly inhibited this hibernation instinct through selective breeding and artificial lighting to maintain steady circadian rhythms year-round.

However, pet hamsters may still attempt to hibernate if environmental conditions trigger their natural hard-wired programming. The main triggers are a drop in ambient temperatures and having limited food resources.

As days grow shorter in fall and winter, pet hamsters may receive less natural daylight from a window to maintain normal sleep cycles. The burrows and nests inside their enclosure can become colder than during warmer seasons. Limited exercise and food intake during these periods can signal to a hamster's instincts that scarce winter has arrived, so time to enter a hibernation state.

During hibernation a hamster will sleep much more than normal – up to 20 hours a day or only waking for brief periods to drink and eat a little. This is their natural mechanism to conserve energy and survive on limited winter resources until spring returns.

To prevent hibernation in a pet hamster:

  • Maintain ambient room temperature between 65-75°F year-round. Avoid hamster enclosures feeling cold to the touch.
  • Use artificial lighting like table lamps to ensure 14 hours of daylight reach the hamster when daylight hours decline. Automated timers work great to control secondary lighting.
  • Insulate the enclosure if it will be near drafty windows in winter. Add extra nesting materials.
  • Make sure food resources are consistent year round. Count and weigh food portions to monitor appetite.
  • Gently rouse hibernating hamsters every few days to eat and drink. Limit sleep to no more than 48 hours consecutively in hibernation state.
  • Increase exercise like supervised playpen time to keep metabolism normal.

With proper lighting, temperature, food, and activity a healthy hamster should remain in normal circadian rhythms year-round without attempting to hibernate. But if you see signs of attempted hibernation, take active measures to keep environmental conditions and food intake normalized. If not reversed, hibernation can lead to dangerous malnutrition, dehydration and possibly death for pet hamsters unprepared for true winter survival.

Age Can Lead to Changes in Sleep Patterns

Like humans, hamsters naturally begin to slow down and sleep more as part of the aging process. Hamsters only live an average span of 2-3 three years as pets. So by one year old they are considered middle aged or “senior” in hamster lifetimes.

Around 18 months old, senior hamster tendencies begin to emerge:

  • More napping throughout day and night
  • Lower energy and activity levels
  • Spending more time sleeping in nest
  • Loss of interest in toys and exercise wheel
  • Forgetting previously learned habits like using a litter area

While increased sleep is normal for senior hamsters, you still want to ensure it does not become excessive to the point of skipping meals or avoiding all activity. Implementing the following care tips can support healthy sleep cycles for older hamsters:

  • Keep food and water near sleeping areas
  • Provide softer, easy to chew diet options
  • Increase cage warmth up to 78°F
  • Limit kibble portion and provide fresh vegetables
  • Switch to a smaller, single-level cage if climbing is difficult
  • Provide nesting materials to keep cozy
  • Gently encourage activity like time in play pen
  • Check often for signs of pain or illness
  • Bring to vet for wellness checks every 3-6 months

With a little extra care and patience, senior hamsters can enjoy their golden years with their human families. The right amount of good quality sleep is an important part of maintaining health and vitality in older age. Monitor changes closely and discuss any concerns with an exotic pet veterinarian.

Cage Placement and Environment Can Disrupt Sleep

Hamsters are highly sensitive to light, temperature, sound, and other environmental factors within your home. Disruptions in their cage area environment make it difficult to get quality restful sleep at normal times.

Be aware of cage placement in your home and minimize disruptions:


  • Avoid placing cage near windows where daylight or outdoor lights affect sleep.
  • Use blinds/curtains to block light at sleep times.
  • Turn off room and hallway lights at the hamster's .
  • Don't turn on bright lights during its sleep hours for cleaning, etc.


  • Don't position the cage near heating/cooling vents.
  • Avoid drafty locations like near exterior doors.
  • Maintain optimal temperature of 65-78°F.


  • Keep the cage away from high traffic areas like kitchens.
  • Prevent exposure to loud televisions, music, machinery like vacuums.
  • Closely supervise young children near the hamster during its sleep times.

Other Pets

  • Dogs, cats, and birds stress hamsters. Keep cages separated.
  • Dogs/cats staring at the cage or pawing to get inside frightens them.
  • Loud pet birds disrupt hamster sleep. Cover birdcages at night.

Optimizing their cage location and closely monitoring your home environment is key to supporting your hamster's natural circadian rhythms. Make adjustments to minimize disturbances to the hamster during daytime sleeping hours. This allows them to sleep soundly and prevent abnormal over-sleeping at night.

How Much Sleep Does My Hamster Need?

Now that we've covered the main reasons why your hamster may be sleeping more at night, you may be wondering what are normal, healthy sleep ranges. In general, the average hamster sleeps during daylight hours for 8-12 hours and is awake active for 10-14 hours overnight.

Here are general sleep range guidelines by age:

  • Baby – 16-20 hours per day
  • Juvenile (1-6 months) – 14 hours daytime sleep
  • Adult (6 months – 2 years) – 8-12 hours daytime sleep
  • Senior (2+ years old) – 10-16 hours sleep, napping more

Of course individual hamsters can vary a bit in their preferred sleep patterns. As long as you are providing a safe, consistent environment and your hamster is alert and active when awake, the amount of sleep is likely normal for that hamster.

Signs your hamster is sleeping too much include:

  • Difficulty waking from sleep
  • Minimal interest in exercise or play time even when awake
  • Declining appetite or missing meals
  • Ignoring favorite toys and activities
  • Sleeping over 20 hours in a 24 hour period

If you observe these behaviors, monitor closely and contact your exotic veterinarian if it persists more than 2-3 days. Excessive sleeping could signify an underlying health issue requires diagnosis and treatment.

Changes to Try If Your Hamster Sleeps Too Much During the Night

If you determine your hamster is suddenly sleeping too much at night beyond normal nocturnal behaviors, here are some changes to try:

  • Gradually make the sleeping area darker during daytime hours to promote day sleeping. Remove lights near the cage during the day.
  • In the evenings, turn on low lighting near the cage to encourage waking up.
  • Play music or television softly near the cage when you want the hamster awake and active.
  • When hamster is sleeping excessively at night, gently rustle bedding or tap cage to rouse them.
  • Increase daytime playtime and interaction to stimulate alertness during awake hours.
  • Check that the cage temperature is not too cold at night, dipping below 60°F. Add extra nest material if so.
  • Review diet and add treats/favorites at night you want hamster awake for.
  • Switch out toys, chews, and accessories to provide mental stimulation.
  • Verify the cage is located away from disruptive lights, sounds, pets, or children.
  • Take the hamster to an exotic veterinarian for wellness exam to identify any issues.

Persistently abnormal sleep cycles almost always indicate an underlying problem. Make reasonable efforts to encourage wakefulness when desired. But if not resolved within 2 weeks, seek professional veterinary guidance. Proper sleeping habits are vital to your hamster's health and wellbeing.

The Bottom Line

Hamsters naturally sleep more during daylight hours and are alert and active in the nighttime. But excessive sleeping, particularly sleeping at night instead of during the day, can signify an issue needs to be addressed.

The most common reasons hamsters sleep too much at night include:

  • Illness like diarrhea, dental problems, or respiratory infections
  • Stress from changes like new cage or environment
  • Depression from lack of stimulation or loneliness
  • Attempting to hibernate from cold temperature or limited diet
  • Normal aging – elderly hamsters sleep more
  • Disruptive environment like noise, light or other pets

If your hamster is suddenly sleeping too much at night, identify and remedy the probable cause through improving home environment, scheduling more interactive awake time, and seeking exotic pet veterinary care if concerning symptoms arise.

Getting adequate healthy sleep is vital to your hamster's wellbeing and longevity. Be observant of sleeping habits and patterns to ensure your pet stays happy and active during its preferred waking hours


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