Do softshell turtles sleep in water? [Unveiling the Nocturnal Secrets ]

Have you ever wondered how Do softshell turtles sleep in water? With their unique characteristics and behaviour, these fascinating creatures capture the interest of reptile enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

Do softshell turtles sleep in water
Do softshell turtles sleep in water?

Softshell turtles are known for their leathery, flexible shells and impressive aquatic abilities, but how much do we know about their sleep habits?

Softshell turtles do sleep in the water. They often rest at the bottom or float near the surface while sleeping.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the intriguing world of softshell turtles, focusing on their sleeping habits, specifically answering the question: Do softshell turtles sleep in water?

We will also discuss the importance of their aquatic environment and provide tips on caring for these amazing reptiles in captivity. Join us on this fascinating journey and uncover the secrets of softshell turtle sleep.

The Aquatic Habitat of Softshell Turtles

Most softshell turtles live in freshwater habitats, but some species can be found in brackish or salt water. The habitat of a particular softshell turtle species varies depending on the geographical region in which it lives.

For example, the Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) is found in slow-moving waters of lakes, ponds, marshes, and swamps throughout the southeastern United States.

Softshell turtles are well-adapted to life in water. Their bodies are streamlined, and their legs are modified into flippers, which helps them swim quickly and gracefully.

Softshell turtles often sink to the bottom of their aquatic habitat and lie on their stomachs or sides when resting or sleeping.

How Do softshell turtles sleep in water?

Softshell turtles have different ways of sleeping in water, depending on their species and environment. Here are some common ways softshell turtles sleep in water:

1. Floating:

Softshell turtles can float on the water’s surface while sleeping, with their heads and limbs tucked into their shells. They may remain motionless for hours, conserving energy and staying safe from predators.

2. Burying:

Some softshell turtles, such as the Indian softshell turtle, bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of the water while sleeping. They may partially or fully cover themselves with mud, exposing only their nose and eyes to the water.

3. Resting on the bottom:

Softshell turtles may also rest on the bottom of the water while sleeping, with their limbs and head extended. They may find shelter near rocks or logs to avoid being swept away by currents.

4. Surface resting:

Softshell turtles can rest on the water’s surface, partially or fully submerging. They may be found in this position near banks, logs, or rocks, where they have easy access to air.

5. Unresponsive to stimuli:

Softshell turtles have been known to enter a deep sleep where they cease all movement, even when touched or exposed to bright light.

This is thought to be their most profound form of sleep, and they can remain in this state for several hours or up to several days.

Is Sleeping in Water Necessary for Softshell Turtles?

While softshell turtles are known to sleep underwater, it is not necessarily a requirement for their survival. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Habitat diversity: Softshell turtles are found in various aquatic habitats, including rivers, lakes, and ponds. While some of these habitats may have shallow areas where the turtles can rest on land, others may not, forcing the turtles to sleep underwater.
  2. Behaviour flexibility: Softshell turtles can adapt to their environment. For example, they may rest on land if they cannot sleep underwater due to the habitat’s conditions.
  3. Temperature regulation: Softshell turtles may sleep underwater to regulate their body temperature since the water tends to be more relaxed than the air.
  4. Safety: Sleeping underwater provides softshell turtles with greater protection from potential predators, which is important for this species with few natural defences and is vulnerable to predation.
  5. Comfort: Softshell turtles may find sleeping underwater more comfortable and enjoyable, although this is not a definitive motivation.
  6. Risk of predation: Sleeping underwater also reduces predation risk from land-based predators, as the turtles can remain out of sight.
  7. Energy conservation: Softshell turtles expend much energy to swim and search for food, so sleeping underwater may help them conserve energy.

While sleeping underwater can provide softshell turtles with some benefits, such as temperature regulation, safety, and energy conservation, it is unnecessary for survival.

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Ultimately, the decision to sleep underwater or on land lies with the individual turtle based on its specific environment and needs.

Sleep Behavior of Softshell Turtles

Softshell turtles exhibit unique sleep behaviours that allow them to rest and conserve energy. Here are some points about the sleep behaviour of softshell turtles:

1. Diurnal and Nocturnal:

Softshell turtles are diurnal animals, meaning they remain active during the day and sleep when it gets dark. Some softshell species can also become nocturnal depending on food availability or other conditions.

2. Semi-Aquatic:

Softshell turtles spend most of their time in the water, so they usually sleep at the bottom of rivers and lakes, often burying themselves in mud or sand to hide from predators.

3. Torpor:

Softshell turtles enter a state called brumation during cooler months when their activity levels drop, and they become less active. This behaviour allows them to conserve energy and stay warm.

4. Seasonal Breaks:

In the spring and summer, softshell turtles may take long breaks from activity due to warmer temperatures and increased food availability. They may not emerge from the water for weeks or even months during these periods.

5. Hibernation:

During the coldest months, softshell turtles may enter a hibernation period for several days or weeks. This behaviour helps them conserve energy and survive long periods of inactivity.

How Much Time Do Softshell Turtles Spend Sleeping at a Time?

On average, softshell turtles spend about 4 hours of sleep at a time. However, they can sleep up to 7 hours if they feel safe and secure in their environment.

When softshell turtles are resting, they usually remain in the water with their heads and necks extended above the surface.

This sleeping behaviour lets them be immediately aware of potential dangers that may arise and provide a sense of security.

Advantages of Sleeping in Water For a Softshell Turtle:

There are many advantages of sleeping in water for a softshell turtle:

  1. It helps to keep the turtle’s shell hydrated and healthy.
  2. It keeps the turtle warm and comfortable. Additionally, sleeping in water can help the turtle avoid predators and escape from dangerous situations.
  3. Softshell turtles can regulate their body temperature by controlling their movement in and out of water. As a result, sleeping in water can help them maintain an ideal body temperature during colder days.
  4. It also helps them to rest better and feel more relaxed when they sleep. Lastly, sleeping in water reduces stress levels, as the turtle is buoyant in water and doesn’t have to expend energy trying to stay afloat while they sleep.
  5. It protects them from predators, as they are harder to spot in water than on land. Furthermore, their watery homes are less likely to be disturbed by human activity or inclement weather.

Practical Tips for Ensuring That Your Softshell Turtle Gets Enough Sleep:

You can do a few things to ensure that your pet gets the sleep it needs, regardless of its preferred sleeping location. Here are 10 tips to help you out:

  1. Keep a close eye on your turtle during the day and observe its sleeping habits. If you notice that it tends to sleep on land more often than in water, make sure there is a suitable spot for it to do so in its enclosure.
  2. Provide a basking spot for your turtle if it doesn’t already have one. This will allow it to warm up on land if it wants to.
  3. Ensure the basking spot’s temperature is appropriate for your turtle’s species. Too much heat can be just as harmful as too little.
  4. If your turtle sleeps in the water, make sure the tank is large enough to move around freely and turn over if necessary. A crowded tank will make it difficult for your turtle to rest properly.
  5. Try to create a dark, quiet environment for your pet. Turtles don’t do well in loud environments and may become stressed if exposed to too much light at night.
  6. Don’t disturb your turtle when it’s sleeping, as this will make it harder to fall asleep in the future.
  7. Ensure your turtle’s food is balanced and nutritious to get all of the energy and nutrients it needs during the day. Too much of a particular nutrient or an unhealthy diet could lead to poor sleep patterns.
  8. Provide plenty of exercise opportunities for your pet throughout the day so it gets tired enough by nightfall to enter a deep state of restorative sleep.
  9. Keep its habitat clean and free from excess waste, as this could be disturbing, and keep your turtle awake at night.
  10. Ensure adequate air circulation is in its enclosure, as a lack of oxygen can disrupt its sleep cycle or interfere with its breathing while sleeping underwater.
Do turtles sleep underwater?


Though many theories exist, no one knows why softshell turtles sleep in the water. Some scientists believe it has something to do with the turtles’ need to breathe air at the water’s surface, while others believe that sleeping in water helps them stay cool and avoid predators.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that softshell turtles find some comfort in spending their nights floating in ponds and lakes.

I hope this answer has provided insight into why softshell turtles sleep in the water. Regardless of why they do it, it’s an intriguing behaviour that certainly lends itself to a bit of speculation and wonder.

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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