This is a rather obscure subject that most people don’t even think about. However, there may be people out there who have pet snails or have been diving down the online rabbit hole in a quiet evening. In either case, this article should sate your curiosity.
Snails tend to seemingly appear out of the blue during the early morning or after some rain. What have they been doing before they pop out? Let’s find out how snails sleep in this article.
How Long Do Snails Sleep?
First of all, not all snails are the same. “Snail” refers to a whole family of shelled gastropods that can include land snails, sea snails, and freshwater snails. There are also gastropods that either lack a shell or only have an internal shell, which are usually called slugs.
For the purpose of this article, we are referring to land snails, such as the garden snail you may commonly find in your backyard.
Certain species of land snails can stay asleep for three years in hibernation, which seems like a very long time. While it seems like snails enjoy sleeping for that long, that long hibernation is actually triggered by conditions that are less than optimal for their survival.
Why Do Snails Sleep for So Long?
Snails require moisture to live, so they go to a long sleep during dry periods to preserve themselves. They can go into hibernation during winter and estivation during summer, letting them escape extreme temperatures and low humidity brought on by these seasons.
Before and during their long sleep, snails secrete extra mucus throughout their entire body to protect them from the elements. They then wake up once conditions are more ideal, especially when it’s raining. If the weather is just right for them, they follow a regular sleeping schedule until the next dry spell.
They don’t follow the same circadian rhythm as humans. In conditions that are normal for snails, they would have sleep for 13 to 15 hours. They then stay awake for the next 30 hours, wherein they’re more energetic and would go about feeding and exploring.
How Can You Tell If a Snail Is Asleep?
It may be difficult for the untrained eye to determine whether a snail is actually asleep or not. They don’t tend to show explicit physical signs of sleep like closing their eyes, snoring, lying down, or so on like a human would.
Despite that, they do show some signs other than immobility that indicate that the snail is merely asleep and not actually dead. For instance, the shell may slightly hang away from the rest of their body as it’s in a completely relaxed state.
Similarly, the foot—the “underbelly” that touches the ground—that the snail uses to move around is completely relaxed. Its tentacles—or eyestalks—may seem to be a bit withdrawn.
If the snail shows these physical signs and doesn’t seem to be in the midst of decomposition, then you can assume it’s just asleep.