Have you ever wondered if snails sleep? You might think that a creature with no eyelids and a shell for a home couldn’t possibly need to snooze. However, it turns out that sleep is a fundamental aspect of life, even for the tiniest organisms.
Snails sleep for around 13 to 15 hours and stay awake for approximately 33 to 41 hours before sleeping again. Snails don’t follow a strict day and night schedule – their sleep routines are consistent in normal conditions, but they sleep more during extreme weather.
The rest of this blog explores the science behind snail sleep and dispels the myth that they slumber for three years straight. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of snail slumber!
How to Determine If Your Pet Snail Is Asleep
Snails are fascinating pets, but some people find their slimy bodies off-putting or simply fear them. If you’re among the former group, you’ll agree with me on a few things.
During one of your routine welfare checks on your pet snail, you may have found it completely still and wondered if it was asleep, dead, or in hibernation. But don’t worry; we’ll debunk all the myths about sleeping snails in this article, including how to tell if they’re asleep.
Unlike other animals that obviously close their eyes while sleeping, determining if your snail is asleep can be challenging. Snails don’t breathe up and down like other animals and don’t snore, making it difficult to tell if they’re asleep.
However, you can tell that your snail is asleep when:
- Its shell hangs slightly away from its body.
- Its foot is in a relaxed position.
- Its tongue isn’t grabbing anything.
- Its tentacles are slightly withdrawn.
So, the next time you visit your pets in the garden or their enclosure, don’t panic if they appear still. They could just be taking a powerful siesta.
Note: It’s advisable to check on your snails more at night than during the day. Snails are nocturnal, and if they’re not moving when the sun sets, they could be dead.
Benefits: Why Snails Need to Sleep
While bullfrogs, fruit flies, jellyfish, and dolphins don’t need to sleep to function optimally, every other animal does – including snails.
Curious Canadian scientists conducted a study on sleeping snails that lasted 79 days and observed that snails could sleep in bouts that lasted an average of 22 minutes each.
Snails are completely unresponsive to external stimuli during sleep; even tapping on their shells doesn’t elicit a reaction. The study also showed that snails sleep anywhere, at any time, and their muscles completely relax during sleep.
Snails need to sleep for extended periods for a good reason. Unlike other animals, snails rely on moisture for their survival. While other animals only need to drink water to stay hydrated, snails need to sleep to conserve moisture in their bodies.
When the weather is unfavorable, snails retreat into their shells to take a nap. In summer, they estivate, and in winter, they hibernate.
While resting, snails secrete a mucus-like substance all over their bodies to prevent dehydration caused by hot, dry weather. Your pet snail will also sleep when it’s tired and needs to recharge, much like humans sleep to restore their depleted energy levels.
Seven bouts of 22-minute sleep sessions are quite long to be unresponsive, but it’s necessary for a snail’s survival.
If you want to learn whether snails can contract fish TB, check out my latest article on this topic.
How to Tell When a Snail Is Hibernating and Estivating
Below is an interesting video from the Natural History Museum detailing a snail that shocked scientists. The snail hibernated for 4 years!
If you keep pet snails, you may have noticed that they sleep several times a day but not for long periods. However, if your snail has been passive for over 24 hours, it may be hibernating or estivating.
Scientists differentiate between normal sleeping and hibernation or estivation by the number of hours the snail is inactive. Hibernation in snails can occur at any time of the year, and it is part of their survival strategy in the wild to escape harsh, cold weather.
You can identify hibernating snails by the following:
- The appearance of being dead.
- Weak heart rate.
- Unresponsiveness for more than 24 hours.
- Reduced metabolism.
- Lack of interest in searching for food.
- Closing of the entrance to the shell with an epiphragm.
- Possible duration of up to three years for some snail species
It is important to note that the myth surrounding snails sleeping for three years is untrue; snails do not sleep for that long, but rather, they hibernate.
However, snails hibernating for three years is uncommon and only occurs when their environment is too dry or cold for an extended period.
Estivation is another event that lasts longer than normal sleeping. Snails tend to estivate when their surrounding environment is too hot and dry.
Wild snails estivate to avoid losing all the moisture in their bodies. However, if you keep snails at home, you can ensure their enclosures have enough moisture and are not too hot.
You can identify estivating snails by their increased mucus secretions, which act as a protective coating from the heat. Some snail species may even dig shallow holes to hide in when they are estivating.
Should You Wake Your Sleeping Snail?
It is best to leave your sleeping snail undisturbed, as they only sleep for short periods of around 22 minutes at a time. However, if you need to wake your snail for some reason, you should do so gently by petting it until it awakens.
It is important to exercise more caution when dealing with a hibernating or estivating snail. Sudden changes in their environment can be fatal, and waking a hibernating snail can lead to its death.
If you must wake it up, you should gradually warm up the environment each day, similar to how it naturally warms up when winter ends. This will allow the snail to sense the changes and prepare to break out of its epiphragm, but it may take some time.
Alternatively, placing the snail’s favorite food near its shell could wake it up from a nap. However, it is crucial to remember that handling snails by their shells is dangerous, whether they are sleeping or active.
This is because the mantle, which is responsible for building and repairing the shell, is located at the base of the shell. Grabbing the shell forcefully can damage the mantle and even cause the snail’s death.
Snails have a natural sleep cycle that helps them restore lost energy and avoid extreme weather conditions. In addition to sleeping, snails also hibernate during winter and estivate during summer. If your snail is not most active at night, it may be cause for concern. It’s important to note that you should never wake a sleeping snail, as sudden environmental changes can be dangerous.
However, if it is absolutely necessary to interrupt their sleep, exercise caution and do so slowly. Paying attention to their activity levels and avoiding sudden environmental changes can help ensure a happy and healthy pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do snails sleep in their shells?
Snails do not sleep in their shells. Instead, they find various surfaces to attach themselves to using their slime. Their shells are typically suspended during their sleep periods, and their tentacles are retracted. This allows them to rest and secure themselves without actually sleeping inside their shells.
How long do snails sleep for?
Snails mostly sleep intermittently, ranging from 13 to 15 hours, and remain active after sleep. They don’t have a set pattern for sleep as humans do, and they sleep whenever they can and wherever they are.
Do snails sleep upside down?
Snails can sleep in various positions, even upside down, thanks to their slime acting as an adhesive that provides a solid grip on surfaces. This slime allows them to attach themselves to any surface, including aquarium walls, and nap whenever possible.
Do snails sleep at night?
Snails are primarily nocturnal creatures, which means they are most active at night. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will sleep during this time. However, snails do not have a traditional sleep pattern like humans do. They have sleep cycles lasting approximately 13-15 hours, and part of this cycle may include short rest periods or napping at night.
How do snails sleep?
Snails usually sleep by retracting their body into their shell and closing the opening with a layer of mucus called an epiphragm. They usually sleep during the day and are more active at night. While they sleep, snails continue breathing, and their heart rate slows.