Are Bearded Dragons Nocturnal?

Bearded Dragons are a fantastic pet. They are docile, easy to care for, and live a decent lifespan. But, do they come out at night, or are they daytime lizards? To answer that question, we will take a look at how the Bearded Dragon lives. We’ll start with the short answer, though.

Bearded Dragons are what is called a diurnal species. That means they are active during the daytime. And that also means that they are not awake at night. So, Bearded Dragons are not nocturnal.

Okay, so we’ve established that Bearded Dragons are a daytime species who sleeps at night. But what do they do all day? And, if a Beardie gets woken up at night, can it see in the dark? These are the next things that came to mind after I first learned that these fantastic lizards are diurnal. Let’s dive a bit more into what the Bearded Dragon does all day and find out more about their behavior in the day and at night.

A Typical Dragon’s Day

We’ve discussed how the Dragon’s a diurnal reptile and not nocturnal. So, it makes sense to start from the time the lizard wakes up. Usually, these lizards wake with the sun, or shortly after that. However, there are a few factors that can affect the time. And these factors can be broken down into two distinct groups: Environmental and Physical.

Environmental Factors

As reptiles such as our Bearded Dragon are ectothermic (cold-blooded), the outside temperature plays a huge role in the lizard’s day to day life. It includes influencing the time the Dragon rouses from his or her slumber.

Think of this as you would for yourself for a moment. You know when you are cold you shiver, right? Well, that’s a function of an exothermic organism, that is, a mechanism your body has to create heat. A reptile, like the Bearded Dragon, doesn’t shiver as we do, though. When they get cold, they tend to turn a dark color because it helps them absorb more energy from the sunlight.

Cold And Sluggish Beardie Behavior

Another thing that happens to many reptiles is that they tend to be sluggish when cold. So, crisp morning and the Beardie might sleep in a bit.

When they do wake, the lizard will usually go first to their favorite basking site. The basking spot should be set up in their enclosure so that a particular place within the enclosure is warmer than the others. You can accomplish this by placing a warm lamp over a specific part of the compound. There are other ways to do the same thing, but we won’t get into that in this article.

Credit: Jeremy Shantz

Once the Dragon is at the basking site, they will remain here, flattened out with as much of their body in the sunlight as possible. They often like to choose a darker rock for basking as it absorbs heat and can also warm the lizard from beneath.

As mentioned, the Bearded Dragon will flatten itself out in the morning to absorb light and heat from the sun. But, it will hold its body close to the ground, or rock if using that as a basking site. It does this to absorb the warmth of the basking site rock or stick to help speed up warming their body.

Once the Bearded Dragon has absorbed enough energy and is warmer, it will often lighten in color and become active. It is the ideal lizard time to hunt. Once they have the power and their core temperature reaches the day’s comfort zone, their stomachs start rumbling (metaphorically speaking), and they start looking around and investigating things.

The Bearded Dragon is most active after they have absorbed the energy they need to be comfortable.

For the rest of the day, the Bearded Dragons spend a mixture of time basking and looking for food. Basking being the majority of their day. It makes for a relatively docile pet and a cute little scaly one at that. But, what do they do at night if they are diurnal and not nocturnal? Let’s find out, shall we?

A Typical Dragon’s Night

These Dragons aren’t sleeping in their caves on a mountain of gold. Although that would be pretty interesting if they did. No, these Bearded Dragons spend their night in slumber.

Beardie’s sleep is triggered by light, for the most part, anyway. And with that, they sleep during the nighttime. These incredible little reptiles will sleep in all kinds of funny positions too.

In the wild, Bearded Dragons sleeping up in trees, in nearly vertical positions is not uncommon. They like to climb up out of harm’s way. Remember for a moment that our scaly friends come from Australia. And what is Australia known for? That’s right, Australia’s variety of venomous snakes. And it’s not just venomous snakes, there’s all kinds of predators there that come out at night and would love to have a Bearded Dragon snack or meal.

For this reason, the Bearded Dragon likes to seek out the high ground for it’s night resting location. In captivity, they don’t seem to care so much, but it can lead to some funny-looking behavior. Sleeping with their face and even part of their torso pressed up against the side of their enclosure. It can look like they were trying to climb up the wall and fell asleep in the upright climbing position.

Dreams Of Bearded Dragons

This sort of behavior has led to some pretty comical positions for the little lizards. And while they sleep in these odd positions, it’s entirely possible they are dreaming. There have been studies done that show that these fascinating lizards have REM sleep (rapid eye movement) cycles and also slow-wave sleep cycles. Recognized in humans, these sorts of sleep cycles are common, but few other reptiles have had these sleep cycles identified. It makes you wonder if these cute little lizards are dreaming. Could it be that these reptiles are also smarter than previously thought as well?

Bearded dragon, Pogona close up, shallow dof.Bearded dragons go through a type of hibernation called brumation. File ID 127879205 | © Balazs Lengyel | Dreamstime.com

Super Sleep – More Than Just Diurnal Behavior

Sometimes, your Beardie may sleep-in. Like a lot. They can even appear to sleep through the whole day. But, they will still be breathing, of course, not to be confused with not being alive, heaven forbid!

During the colder months of the year, lizards such as the Bearded Dragon can do something that is called brumation. Brumation is a kind of hibernation that some reptiles go into when it is the colder time of the year.

When a lizard enters a state of brumation, they can often sleep throughout the day and night as well. Sometimes this behavior can even last for weeks or months. The Bearded Dragon is no exception to this happening.

During a brumation cycle, the lizard may considerably slow down its eating habits. However, you will want to keep an eye out for any signs of weight loss. If it’s a typical brumation, the lizard won’t lose much or any weight. It is due to their body processes slow down considerably, so they don’t require extra energy like they usually would if they were active.

The temperatures that trigger brumation for a Bearded Dragon are nighttime temperatures of sixty to seventy degrees Fahrenheit (fifteen to twenty-one degrees Celsius). Also, daytime temperatures of up to seventy-five to eighty degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-four to twenty-six degrees Celsius) are a part of triggering brumation. The daytime temperature would only reach this range for eight to ten hours a day.

These temperature ranges correspond to the natural winter cycle in Central Australia. During these colder periods of the year, it is not uncommon for the Bearded Dragon to sleep most of the day as it conserves energy.

Summary

Bearded Dragons are diurnal lizards that spend their days primarily basking and their nights sleeping. These reptiles are not nocturnal and seldom wake throughout the night. During the winter months, brumation may occur, and these lizards can sleep for extended periods, even throughout the whole day. One of the few lizards to have a known REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle, it is also possible these amazing little lizards dream. But, what they dream about, that’s an entirely different question for another day.

Bibliography

  1. Brattstrom, Bayard H. “Social and Thermoregulatory Behavior of the Bearded Dragon, Amphibolurus Barbatus.” Copeia, 1971, no. 3 (1971): 484-97. Accessed April 9, 2020. DOI:10.2307/1442446.
  2. Wikipedia – Pogona
  3. Bartlett, Patricia P., Bartlett, R.D., Griswold, Billy, D.V.M. Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates – An Identification and Care Guide. New York: Barron’s Educational Series Inc., 2001.
  4. Petmd.com – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Bearded Dragons.