Ball pythons (Python regius) are one of the most popular pet snakes. Since all snakes lack eyelids, you may be wondering if ball pythons sleep at all, and if they do, how do ball pythons sleep?
Ball pythons do indeed sleep. Virtually all animals sleep. It can be hard to tell if a ball python is asleep, but they can easily sleep for 20 hours a day or more.
Sleep in Reptiles
Many reptiles are known to sleep. It is debated whether reptiles experience REM or rapid-eye-movement sleep. However, all snakes do sleep. When they sleep depends on the species.
Everything you need to know about caring for Ball Pythons in captivity:
Read our Ball Python Care Sheet (Complete Setup & Guide)
Ball pythons are the most active at night, so you will see your ball python sleep during the day. Your snake will be most active for a few hours at night.
Snakes that have eaten recently will sleep more, and snakes that are shedding will also sleep for most of the process. You can expect that your snake may sleep for up to 20 hours a day.
Most ball pythons will sleep during the day in their hide. You may see them switch to the hide on the other side of the enclosure to help thermoregulate.
They may also peek out to get a drink before going back to sleep. Most ball pythons will wake up once the lights go out and spend some time exploring.
Hungry snakes or snakes that are ready for the breeding season will be more active. While ball pythons are ambush hunters, they do still search out signs of their prey.
This allows them to pick a good spot to wait for prey to wander by.
Each snake will have its own schedule. Babies and juveniles can vary, but adults will typically have a schedule. Most will have a set time when they will wake up and be active. You may not see it, since they prefer the cover of darkness. A night vision camera can help give you an idea of what your snake gets up to during its active hours.
One thing to note is that snakes in shed will change up their habits. Some snakes may sleep out of their hide more often and may change their typical sleeping position.
Most owners note that this seems to happen when the snake seems to be uncomfortable from the shedding. Once the snake sheds, it resumes normal sleeping patterns.
How to Tell if Your Snake is Asleep
Since snakes lack eyelids, it may be hard to notice when your snake is asleep. The most obvious sign is a lack of movement.
If you pay attention, you will see your snake relax more fully when it is asleep. A sleeping snake will not flick its tongue out.
They will also breathe more slowly. Ball pythons are very curious animals, so if they are awake they will be looking around. They will react to movement or loud sounds in their environment.
Most owners note that sleeping ball pythons will also sleep slightly on their sides.
You may be able to see their belly scales more easily. It can be hard to see since most snakes will prefer to sleep in their hide. If your ball python is awake, it will react when you open the enclosure or move things in the enclosure.
If the snake notices you reach in, it may peek out to see what you are up to. If you move the hide, a snake that was awake will look at you.
A snake that was asleep may have a delayed startle response. This startle response will also be more dramatic if you woke your snake up. You may also notice your snake seems grumpy if you woke it up.
Be careful if you want to handle your snake during its normal sleeping hours. If you do not see it moving before you open the enclosure, it may be asleep.
You should never try to put your hand on a snake before it is fully awake. If you touch it while it is asleep or still waking up, you may startle it.
It could bite to defend itself. You will also possibly lose some of your snake’s trust. Take the time to learn your snake’s body language and try not to handle it if it seems tense or if it was asleep.
One interesting fact about ball pythons is that some owners report that their snake may fall asleep during handling sessions.
This means that your snake trusts you not to hurt it while it is vulnerable. You should still be careful that you do not startle it awake. Try to move slowly and return the snake to the enclosure if you can.
Keep handling sessions to hours when your snake is awake. This could be early morning or late evening. You will learn over time what your snake’s schedule is.
Remember that snakes that are preparing to shed or have eaten in the past few days will sleep much longer than usual. You should not be handling your snake during the day anyway, so avoid bothering your snake.
Remember to let your snake get plenty of rest. If you notice that your snake seems unusually active, make sure your temperatures are in range and take your snake to the vet.
Ball pythons need plenty of sleep. They can sleep for 20 hours easily. While it isn’t easy to spot when your snake is asleep, you will learn over time.
Snakes that are still or don’t react to movement outside the enclosure are typically asleep.
If your snake is asleep, try to leave it alone so it can get plenty of rest.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.