Do Guinea Pigs Sleep in the Dark? (Solved!)


Guinea pigs have a very unique sleeping schedule. They are neither nocturnal (more active during the night and sleeping during the day) nor diurnal (the opposite). 

Guinea pigs will sleep in the dark, but that doesn’t stop them from sleeping during the light hours. Guinea pigs are crepuscular, and so are most active during dawn and dusk. They only require about 4-5 hours of sleep per day, and this is usually taken in small increments.

The sleeping patterns of guinea pigs are surprisingly complex. In this article I’m going to dive into their usual sleep schedule in detail, as well as lots of top tips on how to help your guinea pigs get the maximum amount of rest that they can.

Yawning guinea pig

Sleep Schedule in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are quite active and only really require 4-5 hours of total sleep a day.

This sleep is not usually done all in one go, but usually in small increments throughout the day. You may find a guinea pig resting and not moving much with their eyes still open.

Because they are prey animals, it’s common for them to be somewhat still alert while they are resting so they can be prepared for predators.

Each guinea pig is different and may have a preferred routine of sleep. You may notice they are the least active when you are around.

This may give them a sense of comfort and allow them to relax and not be on guard as much.

The opposite however may be true, that your presence may increase their energy and attentiveness and you may find that when you are around they are energetic and wanting to play. 

Light or Dark Preferred for Sleep in Guinea Pigs

It’s hard to say what guinea pigs prefer light or darkness.

Guinea pigs are crepuscular creatures and are most active at dawn and dusk. This may lead to the conclusion that guinea pigs prefer subdued lighting, similar to sun rise and sun set like you’d see at dawn and dusk [Source].

During the bright hours or the day, or the dark hours of the night, guinea pigs normally try to keep their activity hidden from prey. 

It is recommended to not have guinea pigs in direct sunlight all the time. Bright sun is not only harsh on the guinea pig’s eyes, but can also keep them a little too warm which is uncomfortable and potentially harmful for guinea pigs. 

Pick an area of your house that is similar to the light and dark cycle of a typical day. It should be an area that gets some natural light if possible and light that decreases and increases in intensity as the day progresses.

Sleeping in a Hide-A-Way – Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs tend to hide when they want to go to sleep – either in bedding or in a walled off enclosure.

If you have room in your crate/cage/hutch for an area for a guinea pig to hide that would be ideal [Source].

Some hutches/cages also have built-in areas that are separate from the main living quarters. Just make sure the area is kept clean, is comfortable and is big enough for your guinea pig to turn around and lay down. 

What About the Rest of my Guinea Pig’s Living Quarters?

Make sure your enclosure in general is big enough for your guinea pig. If you take up too much room with your hide-a-way that your guinea pig cannot comfortably move around the cage, you need to upsize. 

One guinea pig ideally should have a 7.5 square feet cage (at minimum) [Source].

Having enough room is beneficial for guinea pigs to exercise when you are not around to take them out to romp.

Having a bigger enclosure also helps keep things clean and not have extra build up of filth. Keep this in mind not only when purchasing an enclosure for your pet, but figuring out where to put it. 

If you don’t have much room space, you may consider getting a cage with multiple tiers. This will still give your guinea pig the room they want without sacrificing your floor space.

Just make sure all the tiers are stable and your guinea pig can safely navigate the different levels.

Some pets may not prefer this type of home, so observe your guinea pig to see how much time they spend going between the levels, or if they spend most of their time on the ground floor. 

My Guinea Pig is Not Sleeping At Night!

As much as we like being close to our animals when we sleep, sometimes it may not be as desirable.

Some guinea pigs are just more active at night, whatever the case may be. This may not be ideal if you are on a sleep schedule that has you sleeping during the hours of darkness.

It may be wise to have your guinea pig sleep outside your main bedroom at night if their nighttime routine is keeping you awake at night. 

Another solution is to give your guinea pig quiet time toys and treats to keep them occupied [Source].

You may hear them chomping away, but at least they aren’t doing the 100 meter dash back in forth in their crate all night. This will also keep them full and when animals are full, they are more likely to want to rest or nap.

Just be careful on what type of treat you’re giving your guinea pig. Read the ingredients and try to avoid anything like high amounts of sugar that may give them an energy boost or excessive calories that could cause unwanted weight gain. 

Guinea pig eating straw in its hutch

How Do I Adjust The Lighting to My Guinea Pig’s Preference?

If your guinea pig is active at night, it’s possible there may be too much light coming in to your sleeping area – telling your pet it’s time for play.

Maybe you live in an apartment complex where the outdoor lights are on 24/7 or maybe you are working the night shift and your guinea pig doesn’t realize that the day time is now a time to sleep.

Darkness may help your guinea pig feel hidden and safe and more willing to rest. Investing in good quality “black out” curtains may help or simply covering the cage at night with a light blanket (leaving some area for air ventilation/circulation) may do the trick.

If you find your guinea pig prefers a little bit of light, you can try soft dim lighting from a night light or dim string lights.

If those lights bother you, but you find a big difference in the activity of your pet, you may have to settle for using a eye mask for yourself at bedtime. 

To Sleep or Not to Sleep – Guinea Pigs

Ultimately it seems like your guinea pig will decide when they should and should not sleep.

When your guinea pig does decide to sleep, it may only be for a few minutes at a time and it may be in the night or during the day.

Your guinea pig will decide what sleep routine works best for them, but you can help in establishing that routine. Having a safe, clean and quiet area for your pet will make them most comfortable to doze off.

These tricks may not always work and instead you may have to adapt to their sleeping cycle, and perhaps have them sleep in a separate room at night if they are insistent on their nightly activities.

Be aware of your home environment during the day as well.

If you live with other people who are constantly walking about, cooking in the kitchen, playing video games in the living room – it may be best to find and area with the least amount of activity – even it it happens to be somewhere far away from your bedroom.

A guinea pig on edge constantly trying to figure out the smells and sounds they can detect around him, won’t be relaxed enough to take naps throughout the day. 

Sleep is important to all animals. If you notice a sudden change in your pet’s sleeping habits, there may be something going on medically and it is always wise to consult a veterinarian. 

So figure out what works best for you and your guinea pig to live (and sleep) in harmony! Sweet Dreams! 

[Source]
Guinea pigs. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2021, from https://scienceonline.tki.org.nz/Teaching-science/Ethics/Caring-for-Animals/Animal-care/Guinea-pigs

How to care for your pet guinea Pig ” small animal hospital ” College of veterinary medicine ” University of Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2021, from https://smallanimal.vethospital.ufl.edu/clinical-services/zoological-medicine/how-to-care-for-your-pet-guinea-pig/

Amy Benenson

Amy Benenson is a graduate student in Rhode Island, USA. She has been riding horses since the age of 10, and actively competing around the east coast of the US for the last 14 years. She had many experiences, including winning two national finals, training young horses, and working for a professional in charge of multiple top quality competitive horses. Amy enjoys writing on rabbits, guinea pigs, and her beloved horses. You can find out more about Amy at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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