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Understanding Your Hamster’s Sleep Schedule

Learn to work with your hamster’s sleep schedule instead of altering it.

By Audrey Pavia

© Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
Always wait for a hamster to wake up on its own before interacting with it.

Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they’re active in the evening and sleep during the day. Understanding and working with a hamster’s sleep schedule is essential to developing a good relationship with it.

Each hamster is an individual, but a typical hamster schedule is to fall asleep around noon, wake a couple of hours later for a brief period, sleep some more, and then stay awake throughout the night. It helps to be a night owl yourself if you want to spend time interacting with a hamster.

Trying to alter a hamster’s sleep schedule is stressful for the animal and can cause poor health and unfriendly behavior. A hamster that’s disturbed frequently during the day will become cranky and is likely to bite. The following steps help you accommodate your hamster’s sleep needs:

  • Clean the cage, provide food and handle a hamster in late afternoon or evening.
  • Learn a hamster’s schedule, and handle and play with it during its waking periods.
  • Place the hamster’s cage in a dark, quiet area where the animal can sleep comfortably during the day and where its digging, scratching and wheel-running won’t disturb you in the middle of the night.
  • Provide a cozy enclosed space such as a small box or clay pot turned on its side where the hamster can sleep.
  • If you need to waken your hamster, talk to it quietly as you change its food and water. Your voice and the activity will bring it out of its slumber.
  • Wake your hamster at the same time every day to help it develop a regular schedule.

All hamsters are nocturnal, but some are awake more often than others during the day. Syrian hamsters dislike being disturbed during their normal sleep time, while Chinese hamsters are more willing to interact with people during the day. Winter Whites and Campbell’s are active for brief periods in daylight hours. Roborovskis are more likely than other hamsters to be active during the day and at night.

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Reader Comments
Hi my hamster has been acting weird she's sleeping kinda of funny and whenever she sleeps she like breathing really fast and her eyes are not all the way close and she sleeps like on her side and I have to say when she sleeps she looks dead I don't know if she sick but can you please help me and what to do?
Serina, Bellingham, WA
Posted: 7/9/2014 11:12:40 PM
I am very worried about my hamster because she sleeps at day AND at night! She wakes up to get some food and water and then moves to another spot in her cage. I remember when she used to be so active at night. Is anything wrong with her?!
Sabrina, Lakewood, CA
Posted: 7/9/2014 12:48:33 PM
My hamster was very active but since past one week he is not eating that much and sleeping all day long. She does not want to play on the wheel. We had her lower teeth clipped off few days back by a vet since they were long. Is she hibernating? I am really worried about her. Somehow I feel like her belly is getting fat.
Dee, Ellicott city, MD
Posted: 10/1/2013 2:16:18 PM
I love having my hamster. I work from 4pm until 2 am and he's awake and looking forward to coming out of his cage for hand time. He stuffs his cheeks and climbs to the door and waits ( so cute). On the weekends it's not as easy not to awaken him but I wait until he begins to rusle around in his cloth blanket :)
Brande, syracuse, NY
Posted: 5/18/2013 2:45:17 PM
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