How Do Turtles Sleep?

The way turtles sleep depends on what type of turtle they are, their environment, and what temperature is outside. Sea turtles usually sleep in the water using the “diving response”, while land turtles will find a shady spot on land to snooze in. 

While other people think all turtles can hide in their shells and sleep inside, only some types of turtles can do this. Let’s dig deeper into the sleeping habits of these cute creatures.

Types Of Turtles And How They Sleep

Sea Turtles

By inducing the “diving response” by slowing their heart rate and blood flow, sea turtles can sleep under reef ledges and rocks. They may need to resurface for air now and then, but they usually don’t have to come up for air for more than a few hours. They sometimes sleep above water by finding a safe place to stay afloat.

More research still needs to be conducted on how sea turtles adapt to sleeping in different environments, but one thing is certain- they’re masters of napping!

Land Turtles

Land turtles, popularly known as tortoises, usually find a shady spot on land to snooze in. They will find a location on land to sleep in during the day since they are cold-blooded and rely on the temperature around them to regulate their body temperature.

At night, they may hide in their shells and burrow into the ground or hide in bushes to stay warm. Some tortoise species are box turtles, Aldabra giant turtles, wood turtles, and desert tortoises.

Freshwater Turtles

Turtles that live in freshwater environments, such as ponds and lakes, will find a spot in the mud at the bottom of the body of water to sleep. Similar to sea turtles, they may need to come up for air now and then but can stay submerged for long periods. Fresh turtles like snapping turtles can spend most of their time in the water and only come up to bask in the sun or find food.

Why Can’t Sea Turtles Hide In Their Shells?

Sea turtles have flippers that are unable to withdraw their heads and limbs into their shell because of lack of space, unlike land and freshwater turtles which can completely retract their heads and limbs. 

This is because the sea turtle’s flat water-dynamic shell and front flippers have evolved into paddle-like appendages that help them swim long distances very quickly in the water. Even though they cannot tuck themselves away, sea turtles still sleep underwater.

What’s The Main Purpose Of a Turtle’s Shell?

A turtle’s shell is like armor because it is an exoskeleton. This means that the shell is a hard outer layer that protects the turtle’s inner organs and bones. The shell is also helpful for thermoregulation, which means it helps the turtle regulate its body temperature.


Turtles sleep in different ways depending on the type of turtle and their environment. All turtles need to find a safe place to rest and avoid predators while they sleep. Although they cannot all retract into their shells, turtles have evolved different adaptations that help them get the best possible rest.