How Much Do Snails Really Sleep?

snail sleep clock

Most of us have seen snails on our sidewalk or in the yard. 

They’re also found out in nature – traveling slowly along rocks and hiking paths. Believe it or not, some people actually keep snails as pets. That’s why it’s important to understand just how much snails need to sleep. While each snail is a bit different, for the most part, snails all share a similar sleep pattern.

It can be hard to tell when a snail is asleep or just taking a break. They travel awfully slow so it can be hard to determine when they’re really napping. As a kid, you may have tapped a snail’s shell to see if you can make it wake up or move. Ironically, this is the same way scientists test to see if they’re awake or asleep. That and a few other ways.

When you realize how much they do sleep, you may not be so interested in getting a snail. Who wants a pet that can sleep for up to 3 years, right? For the most part, however, snails only do that when they’re not in a safe or healthy environment. If you take care of your snail, they’ll probably follow a much shorter and normal sleep cycle.

Here, we’ll answer a few basic questions about snails and how much they sleep.

Some Basic Facts About Snails

Before we delve into how much snails sleep, let’s take a look at some basic facts about snails. They’re actually hermaphrodites – they’re born with both female and male sex parts. This is interesting. It means they can actually procreate on their own. But that doesn’t mean they do. They actually enjoy a courtship with another snail for anywhere from 2-12 hours. 

There are more than 500 types of snails just in North America. You can imagine how many there are in the entire world. They all share similar features. They have a soft inside but live in a protective shell.

This shell grows as they get older. Unlike other creatures, they don’t shed their shells as they get bigger. In fact, a snail’s shell is kind of like a tree trunk. You can tell how old a snail is by looking at the size of their shell. A giant shell means the snail is really old!

snail sleeps white background e1580934122472

Snails can see but they can’t hear. They sense things along the way using their instincts and sight. That’s why they probably don’t hear you scream before you run away. They also have no backbone. That makes sense when you think about it. Snails seem squishy and slimy – there really is no place for a backbone or spine.

Snails also don’t chew their food. They crush it kind of swallow it whole, breaking it into tiny pieces as it travels through the digestive system. This probably makes it hard for them to eat some of their favorite foods. These foods include:

  • Other snails
  • Mice
  • Turtles
  • Birds
  • Salamanders
  • Beetles
  • Insects

So, if you do plan on getting a snail for a pet, you know what kind of food they’re going to like. Although we recommend beetles as opposed to the other animals. Given how slow snails eat, it would be difficult to watch them eat any of these other little animals.

The Sleep Cycle of Snails

Snails aren’t like people or other animals. They don’t operate on a 24-hour sleep cycle. Instead, they operate on a sleep cycle that spans over 2-3 days. They usually sleep for the first 15 hours and then are up for about 30 hours. 

The sleep cycle of a snail doesn’t follow the sun like ours does. This is because they don’t have cycadean rhythms like other creatures. 

Snails have also been known to hibernate. They can sleep up to 3 years if they want to. If they’re in a situation where the weather is poor, or food is scarce, they’ll just go to sleep for months or years.

But, again, this doesn’t often happen if they’re a pet. Hopefully, their mom or dad wouldn’t keep them in an area that’s too cold or has no food.

do not disturb snail sleep

How Do We Really Know What Their Sleep Cycle Is?

It’s not easy to tell when a snail is asleep or just taking a rest. They move really slow. In fact, they only move 0.5-0.8 inches per second. It would take a week to make it around the block! They do everything slowly.

So, there are times when you might think they’re asleep when they’re really just taking a break from all this hard work.

Some of the ways researchers test to see if a snail is asleep is by doing the following:

  • They look to see when the snail is attached to the side of a rock or tank for a long period of time
  • They’ll poke the snail with a metal rod. If the snail responds, they’re awake. If they don’t, they’re asleep. Don’t worry – this doesn’t hurt the snail. They don’t feel a thing through their shell.
  • They try to lure it with a sugar solution. If the snail’s awake, they’ll smell the sugar and wake up. They like to eat sweet things!
  • They’ll tap the shell. If the snail moves, he’s awake. If not, he’s probably still asleep.

It’s these tricks that help teach us what the sleep cycle of a snail is. 

Final Tips About Your Friend the Snail

If you’re thinking about buying a pet snail, there are a few more things you need to know.

  • Salt kills them – They need moisture to survive. If salt touches their body, it dehydrates them and they will die. This is how a lot of homeowners get rid of unwanted snails on their property. They pour a pile of salt on the snail and watch it die.
  • They live about 2-5 years in captivity. Some snails, however, have been known to live up to 15 years.
  • They eat each other. One snail has no problem eating another snail.
  • People in France eat snails. It’s a delicacy called escargot.
Was this article helpful?