How Long Do Chameleons Sleep? A Guide To Night Time Care

by Dave

Now whisper… You don’t want to wake them because they look so cute just softly sleeping there and look at their colourful pyjamas! They’re so pretty!

How long do chameleons sleep? OK we can talk a little louder now. Chameleons, like all living creatures do sleep. How long they sleep will vary from species to species and will relate to the time of year but on average they sleep for around twelve hours every night.

In this guide I’m going to tell you all about chameleons sleeping habits, how long they sleep for and what you need to do to ensure they get a good night’s rest from all that.. err… sitting around.

How long do chameleons sleep?

Like you and me the amount of sleep a chameleon needs depends on many factors such as it’s age, how much it’s eaten, time of year and just how much energy it’s expended during the day and some days are more tiring than others.

On average though chameleons will sleep around twelve hours a day. Whether they actually need that much sleep is debatable but they tend to sleep as long as the lights are off and are often in position to sleep around half an hour before lights go off. Yes they do know when it’s lights out time, mostly.

You can alter the lighting schedule a little bit as the seasons change, so ten hours day light and fourteen dark in winter and vice versa in summer but I never found this necessary with my chameleon and just stuck to twelve hours on and twelve hours off.

The best way to regulate these sleep patterns is to just get yourself a couple of digital timers. You need two to regulate the USB light and the basking heat lamp. This pair from Amazon served me well the whole time I had my chameleon.

Do chameleons sleep with their eyes open?

Chameleons may sometimes sleep with one eye open a little bit but by and large you can tell they’re asleep as they sink their eye turrets in just a little bit and they close the centre part of the eye so it looks like a little slit.

This is the main way to tell if a chameleon is asleep or not. They will also display their most beautiful colours, what I meant by wearing their pyjamas in the opening paragraph. Some will look like they’re almost white. They also display some beautiful colours if you wake them up too but this is because they’re annoyed that you woke them up.

My beautiful sleeping veiled can be seen in the main picture. I think chameleons are at their most cutest and prettiest when they’re asleep.

Where do chameleons sleep?

You name it they’ll sleep there, especially if it’s inside their enclosure. I don’t think there’s a single spot in my chameleon’s cage that he didn’t sleep on at some point in his life.

Captive chameleons do get into a bit of a routine. They have certain ways of sleeping, certain places they like to sleep and they will follow these routines for a while until something, subtly or not so subtly, changes in their environment at which point they’ll change it up again. This could be the result of a slight move of a tree or more people around than usual.

My chameleon went through a phase of sleeping like this:

It surely can’t have been very comfortable but it was apparently good enough for him every now and then.

Don’t worry if you see them sleeping on the side of the screen like this or even upside down. Seeing my chameleon sleep upside down would absolutely terrify me and thankfully he rarely did it but them sleeping in weird positions is ok and just them sleeping wherever they find it comfortable.

The only time I would be concerned about a sleeping position is if it’s on the floor. Again my chameleon rarely did this. It’s ok every now and then but when they start doing it regularly and spend a lot of time on the floor in general then you may have a health problem developing that would require further investigation.

Are chameleons nocturnal?

Chameleons aren’t nocturnal and definitely do not sleep during the day. A day sleeping chameleon is usually a sign there’s something wrong.

This could be something easy to fix like too much uvb being provided, sap from plants might be bothering your chameleon’s eyes or an early warning sign of dehydration which can be fixed by increasing mistings. My article I wrote about watering chameleons has good advice on this.

I wouldn’t start to worry if you catch your chameleon closing their eyes for a few minutes at a time here and there as this is more likely just a result of a bit of stress they might be experiencing at that time as a result of something in their immediate environment, baby chameleons are particularly prone to this.

Also don’t worry if you see their eyes closed around an hour or less before their lights are due to go off as this is just them getting to sleep earlier than usual but yes, if you see them closing their eyes during the day regularly and for longer than a few minutes have a look at your chameleon’s enclosure and see what might be causing this and how you can fix it.

Do chameleons sleep in the dark?

They certainly do and the darker it is for them the better. This doesn’t mean you have to keep them in a room all to themselves so they can sleep better or make sure your lights are a certain level of dimness so as not to disturb them but they do need some level of darkness.

My chameleon lived in my living room and I’m a bit of a night owl so I had lights on, music playing and laptop screen on until the small hours and he was in bed at around six.

I probably had more chance of bothering my neighbours than I did him. He slept like a log most nights. Having lights that are too bright will bother them a little but as long as they’re not too near the enclosure your chameleon will sleep well. That still begs the question:

Do chameleons need heat and light at night?

The short answer is no but this is a reasonable question to ask because a chameleons lights are different to yours. They need light for heat and for uvb. There are red night lights available to buy but these are completely useless as they do nothing for your chameleon.

Chameleons need to have a temperature drop at night to cool off and induce deep sleep. In fact this temperature drop is much more important for their sleep quality than whether or not they’re in pitch darkness.

The amount needed varies from species to species but anywhere around ten degrees is ideal. Veiled chameleons are particularly hardy and can cope with a light frost just fine. Where I live the winters can get pretty damn cold at times and my heating isn’t that great but my veiled was just fine with no heat.

If you do have concerns that the room your chameleon is in might get too cold then get a ceramic heater for night time. These just fit in a lamp fixture like a normal light bulb but chances are you won’t need one.

As for UVB at night this isn’t necessary at all. The sun doesn’t come out at night so need to mimic the sun coming out at night for your chameleon! They’ll get plenty of UVB during the day if you have your setup done correctly.

Night time humidity for chameleons

You can approach this in one of two ways depending on what type of chameleon you have, how great you want your enclosure to look and how much you want to replicate a chameleon’s experience in the wild.

If you have a chameleon with forests and mountains as their natural habitat, like Jacksons or Panthers you’ll probably need to have something in place to keep the humidity level up at night.

For this you can get a reptile fogger (not to be confused with a mister) to create a fog that will descend over the cage during the night. This can be timed to run during the night, I wouldn’t recommend more than twice at the most, and to run an hour or so before your chameleon wakes up so it leaves a dew on your chameleon’s plant leaves for it to drink from in the morning.

I have to admit these do give a really cool looking affect when you see it misting over the plants. I’ve seen this one from Amazon in action and was really impressed. Don’t get the reptifogger though. It’s five dollars cheaper but it’s really not worth it, I speak from experience.

If you have a veiled chameleon there’s no need to do anything at all to increase humidity at night because veileds are from a dry climate. Too much humidity will be harmful to them and they only need a humidity rate of between 30% and 50%, something that’s naturally achieved anyway.

Related article: Chameleon Humidity

Do chameleons eat at night?

I do not recommend attempting to feed your chameleon at night. You should make sure they get enough to eat during the day. Trying to do a feed at night will disturb their sleep patterns and stress them out.

Furthermore it is bad for their digestion as they won’t be able to digest feeder insects effectively in their sleep.

Try and remove any leftover feeder insects before your chameleon goes to sleep. Feeders like morio worms will be ok to leave in at night but locusts and crickets will cause stress as they like to sometimes sit on top of your chameleon and have the odd nibble on them.

Misting them to try and get them to drink at night is also unnecessary. Fogging at night is one thing but misting them at night will just wake them up, stress them out and they won’t drink anyway. Again, make sure they get enough to drink during the day.

Can chameleons see in the dark?

Chameleons definitely do not have the ability to see in the dark. On a number of occasions I saw my chameleon open his eyes and have a look around when the lights were out but this is more him trying to see if something is near by.

Can chameleons sleep walk?

Do chameleons sleep walk? I don’t know for sure but I do know they can certainly be a bit restless in their sleep at times. My chameleon would shuffle about some times while his eyes were closed, especially if he chose to sleep in a less conventional spot like on the screen. Scientists have observed REM in reptiles and certainly I saw my veiled’s eyes move around while they were closed so there’s a good chance they dream too. I wonder what they dream about?

My chameleon sleeps on me

Just wanted to give this a quick mention before finishing up. Many people report this and think this it’s cute. It certainly will seem that way but your chameleon is not sleeping on you. Remember I said earlier how chameleons sleeping during the day is a bad sign? Well chances are this is happening during the day when you’re handling your chameleon so this won’t be a good thing.

Also, chameleons just won’t feel comfortable sleeping on you. They may look like they’re sleeping but it’s far more likely they’re terrified and stressed because you’re handling them. If you see your chameleon doing this just be nice and put them back in their enclosure where they’ll be happy. I know chameleons are beautiful and you want to hold yours but they really would prefer it if you left them alone. It will be better in the long run for both of you.

So hopefully this guide about sleeping chameleons didn’t turn you into a sleeping human and you got some useful information out of it. Any questions, comments or suggestions then please leave them belows and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.

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Comments

  1. Do chameleons absorb the water o their skin? This is my cute baby chameleon Bean he is very adventurous when out of the enclosure and loves to sleep on my bamboo plant thanks for the info very helpful.

    Bean is my sweet Veiled chameleon and is loving life in his enclosure again thanks for the info

    1. Author

      Hi, Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately I can’t see a picture of Bean but I’m sure he’s very cute as I never saw a baby chameleon that wasn’t cute!

      As for your question about absorbing water through their skin, the answer is no. This is a dangerous myth that unfortunately won’t die! Don’t worry though I believed this myth myself when I first got my chameleon as there’s a lot of bad information out there. Have a read of my article on chameleons and water to learn about how they drink and how to provide water for them.

  2. Hello I have had my daughters veiled chameleon for 7 months he’s spoiled but for for the last month it’s like he’s hibernating… do chameleons hibernate ??

    1. Author

      Hi Naomi,

      Thanks for the comment. Chameleons don’t hibernate as such but they have been known to bruminate. This means they sort of slow down a bit in the winter months and are less active. If he’s actively sleeping during the day then that is cause for concern but if he’s just less active then I wouldn’t worry.

      If by ‘he’s spoiled’ you mean your daughter holds him a lot I recommend giving him a bit of space for a while. Chameleons can be held but they would really prefer to be left alone as they’re not really the cuddling kind! Holding them too much can stress them out and that can cause health problems in future. Try leaving him be a while and just watching him from afar and see if he perks up a bit after a week or so.

  3. Hi,
    Almost a week ago I got two Jackson Chameleons (one boy, one girl) and while Nita (the girl) is doing fine moving around all the time, Kenai (the boy) is sleeping during the day. And not just quick naps, Ill leave for an hour or two and find him in the same spot I saw him last still sleeping/with his his eyes closed. I read how you said chameleons don’t sleep on you, they’re just scared or stressed out and when I place him on me he immediately closes his eyes. I’ll try to “wake him up” and move him but his eyes stay shut while he still moves. I’m just worried that something is seriously wrong with him, and I’m hoping it’s just because I “play” (touch) with him too much. I just could really use some advice because I’m so worried and stressed about his healthy.

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch and sorry to hear your chameleon is having problems. Chameleons don’t sleep during the day so yes, it is likely that something is bothering your male. Are you housing them together in the same cage? If so you should separate them as that is probably causing both of them a lot of stress. Chameleons are solitary creatures and should be housed separately unless you have a lot of experience with keeping chameleons and have a large enough space.

      It’s difficult to try and begin to know what might be wrong as I don’t know what your setup is. Make sure the temperatures and humidity are correct, I have written articles on both of these topics on this website. Also, have a look at my article about how chameleons get sick as I have listed possible health problems there that you might be able to see with your male Jackson chameleon. Try all these things first but if the problem continues I recommend you take him to a vet to get him checked over. I hope things get better soon.

  4. Hi Dave! I just got my first pet chameleon for my 19th birthday. His name is Swiffer wet jet, Jet for short. The name is an inside joke with my best friend. He is a 6 month old male Veiled Chameleon and I love him so much. I have been doing research for the last 2 years and my parents finally let me get one. My question is what should I do if he refuses to eat? Given i’ve only had him for a day and the stress of the move probably has something to do with it but what if he doesn’t eat within 2-3 days? Also monitoring the temperature of the bottom of his enclosure has been difficult. Any tips for keeping the bottom at the right temperature? i also have a hand held mister because the stores around me are all sold out fo them and obviously can’t get any shipments in. About how many times should I mist the enclosure? I’ve been doing it every time the plants in there seemed a bit dry. Sorry for all the questions. I just want to ensure this little guy has the best possible life. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Julia,

      Cool name for your little guy I like it! You will find answers to your questions if you browse but I will answer the ones you asked here.

      1. I suspect him refusing to eat is related to stress and nothing to worry about. He’s in a new environment and needs to settle. Try and cup feed him. Check out my ‘how to feed a chameleon’ article for more info but I recommend it as a good starting point. When you feed him I recommend walking away and leaving him alone for a while. He’ll more than likely feel comfortable enough to eat.

      2. For temperature monitoring I recommend getting an infra red thermometer where you can point it at different spots to get the temperature reading. I wouldn’t worry too much about the ambient temperature of the cage because if you get the basking spot correct the chances are the rest of the cage is a good temperature too. I listed an infra red thermometer on my accessories article.

      3. Have a read of my article about how much water chameleons need for more info on misting. I also really recommend you get an auto mister to make things much easier. Check out my best mister article for the ones I recommend. There’s no need to mist every time the leaves are dry as that is overdoing it a bit. Just give the plants a good soaking a couple of times a day and then walk away. Your chameleon will feel more comfortable with drinking then.

      I know it’s difficult but try not to worry so much. You researched for 2 years before getting him and you’re asking the right questions so that’s excellent!

      I hope these answers are helpful.

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