How Long Do Snails Sleep?

Snail on a branch with a moon in the background

Snails are amazing animals and great pets. While here we focus on their sleeping habits, you might want to check out other important facts about them, like their anatomy or mating process.

Do Snails Need Sleep?

Sleep is important to most animals the same way it is important to humans. It is the time the body (and mind) need in order to heal itself and regenerate.

Several studies show that that snails do sleep. However, their sleep is very different from ours. They do not follow the 24 hours, day and night schedule.

small snail sleeping on a leaf

How Long Do Snails Sleep?

When Canadian researchers performed experiments on pond snails, the gastropods appeared to sleep in cycles, much in the same way that humans sleep, but with different time frames. 8 great pond snails, all of adult aged, were monitored over a period of 79 days using a number of methods, including time-lapse video.

Snail Sleeping Habits

When studied, pond snails – Lymnaea stagnalis – slept for around 20 to 25 minutes before waking up, doing a bit of feeding and slithering around, and then going back to sleep again for another 20 to 25 minutes. This cycle was repeated seven or eight times over 13 hours and was described as a “frequent but irregular” schedule.

That equates to roughly 2 hours and 20 minutes of sleep in 13 hours, and is the snail’s version of going to bed at night. They can sleep for as long as 4 hours and 20 minutes during those 13 hours.

Following on from that 13-hour sleep-wake cycle, the snail would then be constantly awake and active for between 30 hours and 40 hours. This is the snail’s version of being awake during the day.

how long snails sleep infographic

It didn’t seem to matter to the snails whether it was night or day when it was time to sleep, they continued to follow the same schedule — 13 hours of on/off sleeping in roughly seven bouts, followed by roughly 30 hours of awake activity.

Do Snails Sleep at Night?

Most snails are more nocturnal in nature. They usually do not follow what we humans call day and night. They are especially active around sunrise and sunset.

Many aquarium and tank owners state, their snails’ sleeping patterns are nocturnal. Although the snails might not be asleep during the day, they do appear less active then.

True or False: Snails Can Sleep for 3 Years

This is false: Snails can’t sleep for three years.

Some snails hibernate at winter, or go into a period of estivation during summer. It is thought that this last for up to three years, but it is rarely noted to last for quite that long in reality.

Hibernating

Although this is not part of the actual land snail life cycle, many species of land snails go under the process of hibernation. As common for hibernation for other animals (very known for bears), this happens mostly in the winter when the temperatures are going down, below what the snail finds as comfortable.

During the snail hibernation process, the snail will shut its front door and seal it with a layer of mucus that is called epiphragm. This will help the snail keep the moisture that is crucial to its health. In addition, the snail’s heart rate and metabolism will become slower to reduce its need to go out for food.

When the temperature rises again, the snail will bust its mucus door open and look for food and other activities.

In order to protect themselves during the summer high temperature, the snails have similar process to hibernation that is called estivation.

Hibernation vs. Sleeping

There are 2 quick ways to tell if your snail is sleeping or hibernating.

Duration – Snail sleep for 21-23 minutes. So if it is longer than that, your snail is probably hibernating.

Epiphragm – If your snail sealed its shell’s opening with a layer of mucus, it means he is getting ready to hibernate. In general, a sleeping snail looks very much like an awake one except that it is much more relaxed and less responsive.

Snail glow in the dark night

Will Snails Sleep for Long Periods of Time?

Snails do not sleep for long periods of time but they can hibernate for long periods of time. This happens more frequently with wild snails, such as land snails, than with tank, aquarium, or terrarium-based individuals.

Hibernation/estivation tends to happen when temperatures fluctuate hot and cold. Sleeping and slowing down the metabolic system helps the gastropod survive a long winter without food for energy, without damaging their organs. It is a process also adopted by other animals, such as bears.

Estivation happens in summer, helping the snail survive in seriously high temperatures, with very little water or moisture. A land snail is more likely to go into estivation than water-based ones.

The temperature in tanks, aquariums, terrariums, and other snail habitats do not fluctuate. They are kept stable. Because of this, gastropods in captivity are less likely to hibernate or be seen sleeping for long periods of time.

Is My Snail Asleep or Dead?!

Don’t fear; a sleeping snail can look very much like a dead snail, especially if they have gone into a period of hibernation or estivation.

If your pet snail has, sadly, gone over the gastropod rainbow, you will likely notice the following signs:

  • Open trapdoor on the snail

  • Not moving or responding when you touch the snail

  • An odd and usually vile smell

  • A shell with no animal inside

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