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Care Guide: Chameleon Sleep




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!

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 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 night. 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 daylight 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 reptile power strip. You need it to regulate the UVB and heat light.

Sleeping with 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 center 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 colors, what I meant by wearing their pajamas in the opening paragraph. Some will look like they’re almost white. They also display some beautiful colors 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 they 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 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 is 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 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.

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 take a look at your chameleon’s enclosure and see what might be causing this and how you can fix it.

Darkness for sleeping

The darker it is for them, the better they will sleep. 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 first 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 slept soundly through it all.

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.

Heat & light at night

Chameleons do not need either of these at night. They need light for heat and for UVB during the day only. 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 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.

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.

Nighttime 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.

All three of the main species kept as pets require high levels of humidity at night. To achieve this, you’ll need to have a fogger in place. This is not to be confused with a mister, which is used to provide drinking water.

Foggers create a fog that will descend over the cage during the night. This should be on a low to medium setting so as not to over saturate the cage. I wouldn’t recommend more than a few hours at most. In addition, you can set it 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 as supplement to their water supply.

I have to admit these do give a really cool looking affect when you see it misting over the plants.

Nighttime eating

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.

Sleeping on your shoulder

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.

If you see your chameleon doing this while you’re handling them, 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.

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14 responses to “Care Guide: Chameleon Sleep”

  1. Dakota avatar

    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. Dave avatar

      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. Naomi Arriaga avatar
    Naomi Arriaga

    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. Dave avatar

      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. cyera montelongo avatar
    cyera montelongo

    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. Dave avatar

      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. Julia Tesoriero avatar
    Julia Tesoriero

    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. Dave avatar

      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.

  5. Anne Schreiber avatar
    Anne Schreiber

    I think I messed up our panther chameleon’s sleep schedule. It’s getting colder at night and my son suggested turning on the red light for heat. I wasn’t thinking and placed it above his day time perch but he was sleeping on his night time perch. This morning I found him on the day time perch under the red light. But then he went to his night time perch and now he is sleeping! His day time lights are over his normal perch where he spends a lot of time during the day. How do I right this?

    1. Dave avatar

      Hi Anne,

      The best way to fix it is to remove the red light entirely. Most of the time chameleons don’t need extra heat at night and, as I said in the article, red heat lights are largely useless for chameleons and can actually disturb their sleep. Unless the room you keep your chameleon in gets so cold at night that you feel a chill and can see your breath vapor, there’s no need for extra heat at night. Chameleons need a temperature drop at night to have a deeper sleep.

      So remove the red light and run the usual light schedule of 12 hours on and 12 hours off and your chameleon will readjust in no time.

  6. Kim avatar

    Hi Dave,
    So glad that I found your blog with all of this great info- was hoping that you might have some insight on a panther chameleon sleeping issue. I got my chameleon several days ago and he is about a year old. He was beautiful and the previous owner was great just some life changes or would not have given him up-so I have the whole set up and left it identical to hers. I have plans for a bio set up but anyway- the first night moving all around -curious but he was sleeping low in the enclosure- now he is completely on the floor sleeping -I thought it would be ok to put him in my bedroom, but he was in spare in hers-getting daily visits. Could it be that he is just adjusting to new environment or should I put him in the much quieter spare room – he will be able to see things going on but not be exposed to so much activity- also when I came home from work yesterday(first day that I had him) -he was sitting on the planter dirt at the lower section of the cage too- he was alone all day so it was nice and quiet for him – awake and his tail was curled – I wasn’t sure if that was normal. Again, many thanks for all of your great info and the links.

    1. Dave avatar


      Sorry for the late reply. If you can then yes, put him in the spare room as the quieter for a chameleon the better. From what you’ve described though it just sounds like normal settling in behaviour. Chameleons usually find a place they like to sleep and they will move back and forth between the basking spot and the rest of the enclosure. Being low down is fine as long as they’re not on the floor all day there’s nothing to worry about.

  7. Jo avatar

    Hi Dave,
    I just got a male veiled chameleon. I know they don’t hear a lot of noises we do but when it gets very windy outside my windows rattle a little. I just wanna know if this would bother him in his sleep and if so what do you recommend? Your website is amazing I have done research before getting him but this is by far my go to website!!

    1. Dave avatar

      Hi Jo,

      Thanks for your kind comments. I’m really glad you find my website useful .
      Chameleons don’t have very good hearing and only hear at extremely low frequency. They do feel vibration very well though. Slightly rattling windows are unlikely to bother him when he’s sleeping but make sure he can’t feel the vibrations of them, that way hell have a great night sleep every time.