When Do Hamsters Wake Up? (Explained for Beginners)

By Dawn | Hamster Behavior
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So you’ve just been to the pet shop, you’re excited about your new addition to your family but you’re wondering when your hamster will wake up so that you can start to enjoy your new furry friend?

Well, that’s a question a lot of new hamster owners ask, and I certainly did too.  Here’s my answer:

Hamsters wake up at different times and not all hamsters are the same although most are active at dawn and dusk.  Some hamsters wake up between 9pm and 10pm whilst others wake up at 12am and some wake up slightly earlier around 830pm.

Our hamster Richmond wakes up at around 930pm but he has been known to wake up even later than that at around 11pm.  

When I wake up in the morning at around 7am, he is usually under his wooden log sleeping again, so it really does depend on your hamster.

Are hamsters nocturnal?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, hamsters are not diurnal like us humans.  Diurnal means we sleep at night and are awake during the day.

According to the ASPCA, hamsters are nocturnal in nature.  However, in the wild, hamsters are more crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk.  

This tends to be when the temperature has dropped and there are fewer of their natural predators about.

In the wild, during the bright hours of the day, hamsters stay underground in their burrows, mostly sleeping but also snacking, digging and arranging their nests.

It is very rare for a wild hamster to come above ground during the day because it is typically not very safe for them to do so.

Domesticated hamsters are slightly different in that they tend to alternate between being crepuscular and nocturnal, and although it is not known exactly why this is, it is speculated that this could be down to the use of artificial lighting and heating in our homes.

Do hamsters sleep all day?

Although hamsters are ‘most’ active at night, that doesn’t mean that they sleep all day long.

In fact, it’s not that unusual to see your hamster pottering about a few times during the day.

And I can certainly confirm this, as I have seen our hamster pottering about his cage, looking for food.  

We also hear him on a regular basis in his bed munching away on his favorite food – sunflower seeds! (Amazon, #CommissionsEarned).

Hamsters are usually only awake for a few minutes at a time during the day and tend to spend this time grabbing a snack, having a drink, going to the toilet or rolling around in the sand bath.

Richmond Hamster In Nest

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Well, yes.  Some people do have hamsters that sleep all night and are awake all day.  It is not totally beyond the realms of possibility for this to happen with domesticated hamsters.

If your hamster does have these kinds of sleeping habits, then it really is nothing to worry about so long as your hamster is healthy and does actually get the opportunity to sleep.

How many hours do hamsters sleep?

Again, this depends on the individual hamster but as long as your hamster is generally healthy, he or she will sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day, with the majority of those hours spent during the day.

It’s important to keep an eye out and get to know your hamsters’ sleeping patterns and learn what is ‘normal’ for your hamster.

So if you know that your hamster sleeps for 7 hours a day on average, and suddenly you notice that your hamster is sleeping for 12 hours a day, or is sleeping both day and night, then it might be time to call the veterinarian to get your hamster checked out.

Can you change a hamsters sleep pattern?

You might be wondering if it’s possible to change your hamsters’ sleeping habits, especially if your hamster only wakes up at 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening like our hamster does.

Although this is possible, it is considered inhumane and is definitely not in the best interests of the hamster.

Let’s think about this.  In order to change your hamsters’ sleeping pattern, you’re going to have to repeatedly wake your hamster up and keep them awake when they are tired and just want to go to bed.

This causes a great deal of stress to your hamster, so if you really care about your pet, then I would strongly advise against doing this.

There are however a couple of stress-free options which will enable you to bring your hamsters’ wake up time forward by an hour or two (at the most) and we will look at that in the next section. 

But generally, if you want to see more of your hamster, then it’s best to either wake up a bit earlier or stay up a bit later.  That is, unless you’re lucky enough to have a hamster that’s a bit of an oddball and prefers to sleep at night of course!

How to change your hamsters’ sleep cycle safely

As I alluded to earlier, it is possible to change your hamster’s sleeping pattern safely, but only by an hour or two.  Any more than that, and that is considered inhumane as it is going against what your hamster instinctively is programmed to do.

So, as you know, hamsters sleep mostly during the day, so if you were to leave the cage in a brightly lit room in the evening, your hamster may think that it is still daytime and will therefore stay in bed until it begins to go dark.

So the trick is, if you want to interact with your hamster more and you want your hamster to fit inline with your routine, then feed your hamster at the same time every evening.

I would offer him a treat at this time, maybe a little bit of apple or blueberry, or veg like broccoli or carrots.  Now it’s up to you to decide what time, but I really wouldn’t attempt to feed your hamster any more than a couple of hours of his usual wake up time.

What will begin to happen is that your hamster will become accustomed to this new feeding time and when you’re rustling around in your hamsters’ cage, he or she will hear your presence and wake up for their tasty nack.

The most important thing to do here is to keep your hamsters’ cage in the darkest corner of the room.  You don’t necessarily want it to be pitch black, but you definitely don’t want it to be bright either.

In fact hamsters don’t like bright light any time of day or night.

After about 3-4 evenings of doing this consistently, your hamster will adjust and begin waking up at around the same time every evening. 

Is it ok to wake a hamster?

As with any nocturnal or crepuscular animals, you really want to avoid waking them during the day as much as possible.

Your hamsters’ rest is just as important as ours, so if you can avoid it, then it’s best to wait until they wake up naturally.

There may however be some situations where you can’t avoid waking your hamster, like for instance, if you plan on travelling with your hamster, or you need to visit a vet or get them out of their cage in an emergency.

For either of these reasons, it’s fine to wake them.  Waking your hamster in the middle of the day because it fits in better with your routine, is not a good reason.

Understandably though, you will want to clean your hamsters’ cage and this may involve waking up your hamster.

Ideally, you should wait until they wake up naturally, but this isn’t always practical, especially if your hamster wakes up late at night.

So what do you do?  Well, you should try and wait until later on in the day, when it’s a lot closer to your hamsters’ normal wake up time.

Alternatively, if you do happen to notice your hamster pottering about in its cage, seize the opportunity there and then and clean out the cage.

If you do have to wake your hamster, do so slowly and gently.  Don’t simply rip the roof off your hamster’s house, because that can be extremely terrifying (imagine if someone did that to your house!).

Instead, simply scuffle the bedding outside of their house and then tempt them out of bed with a tasty snack.

Wait until your hamster comes round before picking him or her up, else you might still freak them out.

Wrapping up

This post has been all about your hamsters’ sleep (yawn).  We’ve looked at some of the times your hamster may wake up and we’ve discussed the sleeping habits of hamsters in general.

We’ve also talked about changing your hamster’s sleeping cycle and why it’s not a humane thing to do.  But we’ve also provided some tips, to help bring your hamsters’ routine forward just a little, so that you can spend more time with your hamster.

To sum up, you should adhere to your hamsters’ natural routine as much as possible, don’t try to change it and provide an environment that closely matches your hamsters’ natural habitat.