Scientists believe that there are about 8.7 million different species of animals in the world! This includes mammals, birds, reptiles, lizards, invertebrates, and even insects! Plus, it is thought that every single one of these animals sleeps!
Sleep looks a bit different for all animals. It can range from sleeping virtually all day (sloths sleep for up to 18 hours every day) to just taking little naps (giraffes only sleep about two hours a day).
Some animals fall into deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that allows them to dream, while other animals sleep by just becoming relatively still and letting their bodies rest.
So, what about spiders? How do they sleep?
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Do spiders sleep?
Like all living animals, spiders do sleep! But their sleep is a little bit different than what we think of when we think of sleeping. One reason for this is that spiders cannot close their eyes – they do not have eyelids! Instead, they have cycles of activity and rest every single day, and when they sleep, they simply reduce their activity levels and lower their metabolic rates.
This helps them to conserve energy and get the rest that they need to survive.
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How do spiders sleep?
Just like humans, spiders follow a circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a natural process that helps to regulate sleep in creatures, and it goes through a cycle that is approximately 24 hours long. This rhythm is internalized, and it tells the spider when they need to sleep and rest.
But unlike most humans, the circadian rhythm of a spider leads them to be awake more at night and in a more restful state during the day.
Spider sleep positions
When a spider is sleeping, it can take different forms. Larger spiders that do not weave a web (and instead hunt for their prey themselves), such as wolf spiders, might make a burrow underground that they will go into sleep.
Other spiders, like the tarantula, sleep on the ground, right on their back with their legs up!
While it might not seem the most comfortable position, spiders often feel most comfortable upside down, so they like to lay on their backs when it comes time to rest.
Some web weaving spiders will sleep upside down, too – but instead of laying on their backs, they may hang from their web upside down to take a rest.
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Asleep but alert
But even while spiders are asleep, they are still partially alert. For example, if a fly lands in a spider’s web while they are sleeping, the spider will probably wake up to get their snack and then go back to sleep!
The same goes for spiders who burrow instead of making a web – a large spider may sleep and just wait for something tasty to walk by their burrow.
This also comes into play if a spider has not had enough
What do spiders do at night?
Most spiders are nocturnal, which means that they are more active at night. But this depends on the spider species because some species are diurnal (more active in the day). For the spiders who do most of their sleeping during the day, what do they do all night long?
A lot of spiders have evolved to be nocturnal in order to avoid becoming prey. Think about it: many animals that like to snack on spiders, like birds, monkeys, and lizards, are diurnal, so they are more at risk of becoming a meal if they are out and about during the day.
The nighttime is also the best time for spiders to catch prey of their own! Spiders are carnivores, so they eat other animals. Spiders that build webs will usually eat flying insects, such as flies, mosquitos, butterflies, and moths.
Hunting spiders (spiders that hunt for their prey without the use of a web) will eat larger insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles.
Do spiders crawl on you at night?
There is a well-known wives tale that is something along the lines of this: People swallow about eight spiders while they sleep every year. So is this true? Do spiders really crawl on you at night, and how likely are you to swallow one?
Luckily for all of us with arachnophobia, this is just a myth! The myth of “spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them” is much more accurate, and this is why spiders do not crawl on you while you sleep.
Spiders tend to shy away from humans as much as possible, which does not change just because you are asleep.
Plus, if a spider were to crawl over a sleeping human, it would probably just crawl over them uneventfully. Spiders rarely bite without being provoked, and human blood is not a part of their diet, so they will not purposefully bite a sleeping human.
How many spiders did you eat last night?
As for a spider ending up in your mouth while you are sleeping? That is even more farfetched! From the point of view of a spider, a sleeping human would be just as scary as an awake one.
Even while we are sleeping, we are still moving and making sounds – such as quiet sounds you might not even think about, like the beating of your heart and your steady breathing, to louder sounds like snoring.
These sounds create vibrations, and they warn the spider that there is danger and that it is best to stay far away. A sleeping person is just not something a spider would willingly approach.
And if a person has their mouth open (the only way a spider could get in there to be swallowed), they are probably snoring, which means they are making even more noise which would scare the spider away even more.
So rest assured, knowing that the odds of a spider crawling on you while you sleep (and accidentally eating a spider in your sleep!) are fairly low.
If a spider is completely still, does that mean that it is sleeping?
Often, if we see a spider, it is very still and in an almost frozen-like state. Does this mean that it is sleeping? Not exactly! Spiders are excellent at remaining motionless. Spiders will stay still for many reasons besides just sleeping.
A spider that is waiting for prey will likely be very still. A spider may just sit on its web and wait, without moving, until something flies into its web and gets trapped.
Plus, weaving a web uses a lot of energy for spiders. And they may have to wait months or more until an insect flies into it and they are able to eat. So while they are waiting for prey, a spider will remain still to conserve energy until they are able to eat.
Additionally, a moving spider is more likely to draw attention to itself. This puts them at risk of being eaten by a predator. A still spider is less likely to become the next meal of another animal, like a bird.
Lastly, spiders are pretty timid creatures. House spiders are especially wary of people and can be easily startled. A spider might just freeze in its spot from fear when the light gets flicked on in the house.
Do spiders dream?
Since we simply cannot see into the mind of another animal, it is unclear if spiders dream or not. There have not been many studies on the dreams of spiders (as you can imagine), but scientists believe that for an animal to dream, they need to go into REM sleep.
Scientists have discovered that almost all mammals and birds go into REM sleep, which means that they likely dream!
Some studies have shown that some aquatic invertebrates (spiders are considered to be invertebrates) also achieve REM sleep, so spiders may do too!
Do spiders hibernate?
A common misconception on hibernation is that a hibernating animal is just simply sleeping. But hibernation is more than just sleep!
During a state of hibernation, the animal’s metabolism is decreased even further than when they are sleeping, and they go into an extended state of torpor. Are spiders one of the many animals that hibernate?
Spiders do hibernate in the cold winter months! Different types of spiders have various life expectancies, and the spiders that live for more than one year (the average life expectancy for spiders is about two years old, with female spiders usually living longer than male spiders) will hibernate in order to survive the winter.
Spiders will usually find a place to hibernate under the bark of a tree, under rocks, or they will even burrow themselves into the soil to stay warm. Then they will hibernate until the spring!