Can Turtles Dream?

When turtles sleep do they dream? And if so what might be the nature of their dreaming and what do they dream about?

Dreaming occurs when an animal is in the REM stage of sleep. Previously it was thought that reptiles do not enter REM when they are sleeping. New scientific evidence has called this into question showing that reptiles do indeed enter REM. Turtles enter into REM sleep so they do indeed dream, but this dreaming would be radically different than that of humans.

Interestingly enough all animals sleep in some form or another. If they have been deprived of sleep than their body must make up for it with more sleep later on. The only exception to this rule are just a few basal organism that either have no brain or an extremely simple one.

Now turtle sleep remains a yet fully unexplored realm of science. But it would be logical that if they do indeed experience REM sleep than they also probably dream in some way or another. It’s important to note that while all animals sleep not all animals have the deep stages of REM sleep like humans do.

For example insects and fish do not participate in REM sleep. Some birds and other mammals however do. Many scientists now believe that reptile also enter in REM sleep and even that the dreaming might of humans and others mammals might be an evolutionary holdover from the brains of our ancient reptilian ancestors.

Why Do Turtles and Other Animals Dream?

Dreams still remains a mystery to scientific understanding. But there are several possible theories as to what purpose it might serve.

  1. Dreaming helps the brain to form new neural connections from the various sensory experiences that the turtle or other animals experienced during the day. Birds might be reliving experiencing the song of their mate while small mammals like rats and hamsters could be running echos of the various obstacle courses that they ran through out the day.
  2. The next possibility does not exclude the first one and could be entirely complementary. Infants of all species dream more than adults do. One possibility for this is that dreaming helps in memory and learning of new skills. So a young baby turtle might through dreaming help their brain to memorize things like what predators and other dangers to watch out for. As well as what is good to eat and who or what might be friendly to the young turtle.

REM Sleep in Humans and Reptiles like Turtles

Humans like you and me generally will enter into REM sleep four to five times in a single night of rest. Increased blood pressure and an increased heart rate occur during REM sleep. In this stage of sleep is when dreaming happens as well. Slow wave delta sleep does the opposite. When a human or animal is in delta wave sleep little to no dreaming occurs and brain activity is greatly reduced.

Some reptiles like lizards and turtles seem to sleep in a similar way as humans do. A scientific study as reported by scientific american by a team of researchers in Germany was done on the sleeping patterns of reptiles.

Electrodes were implanted in the brains of bearded dragons, a type of lizard native to Australia, that showed brainwave patterns similar to what slow-wave sleep and REM (also called rapid eye movement, due to the rapid eye movements that tend to occur in it) looks like in humans.

This serves as pontential evidence that reptiles like turtles may have dreams just like people and other animals do. This would also suggest that sleep evolved in an animal that was a common ancestor of humans, mammals, birds and reptiles.

Interestingly, these brain wave ripples did not occur in the reptillian equalivalent of the hippocampus, which is where human dream occurs. But rather instead took place in a part of the reptiles brain called the dorsal veentricular ridge.

What this might mean for turtles and other reptiles dreaming scientists are not sure yet.

What Might Turtles Dream About?

There is no scientific answer to this question at this time. Though hopefully with more research we might know sometime in the future. But based upon what we know of the purposes of dreaming in humans and other animals we can venture to give an educated guess.

Turtles most likely dream about the things they do in their day to day life. This could be something like about catching and eating a delicious fish. Or perhaps munching on a carrot. Being that dreams are often the brains way of processing the sensory impulses that it recieves during the day. A turtles brain would dream its favorite and most significant activities.

Turtles might experience dreams about the water, its temperature and feel, while swimming in it. Or simply the feeling of warm embrace of the sun, or the turtles basking lamp if it lives indoors. Turtles are beautiful but fairly simple creatures, so as its day are filled with swimming, basking, and eating so to would their dreams likely be filled with these sorts of things.

Who knows the turtles might also dream about it’s keeper and the activities they do together. Being that a turtles owner is a big part of its life it would only make sense that they would also appear in the turtles dreams.

If there are any new skills or experiences the turtle had during the day. They would dream about this as well. As one of the other purposes of dreaming is to cement into the brain new things learned. New tastes and experiences as well as dangers.

We might not know for sure what turtles would dream about but we can make good guesses based upon what their lovely days are filled with.


Scientists have discovered that reptiles enter into REM sleep. The form of sleep that is associated with dreaming in humans and other animals. Knowing this, though it is a presumption, it could be safe to conclude that reptiles and turtles as well dream.

Their dreams would have many of the same patterns we observe in the dreams of other animals. Turtles would dream about regularly occurring activities as well as significant new experiences in order to help the turtle to process and remember it later.

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