We’ve had several readers ask us if cockroaches sleep. Roaches don’t sleep the same way that mammals do, but cockroaches spend most of the day in a period of limited movement and rest. Entomologists call this a ‘period of immobility’, but most of us would call this sleep. Research has shown that roaches have a mostly nocturnal circadian rhythm.
For example, in 1986, Irene Tobler conducted an experiment where she kept cockroaches active and stimulated when they normally rest. She found that the time that cockroaches “spent in immobility corresponds to a resting state”. Further, she found that cockroaches resting, immobile state corresponded to prior activity. From this, she concluded that cockroaches’ immobile, sleep-like state might ‘exhibit similar regulating mechanisms as rest or sleep in vertebrates.”
Tobler’s groundbreaking study inspired many more follow-on insect sleep studies. For example, Stephenson, Chu, and Lee (2007) found that when cockroaches are kept awake during their normal resting period, they’ll react similarly to how humans and other mammals react to sleep deprivation—cockroaches’ metabolic and mortality rates are affected by their ‘sleep-like rest’ state.
How long do cockroaches sleep?
Cockroaches don’t sleep a full eight hours as most humans do, but roaches do sleep for an extended period of time. The exact amount of time cockroaches sleep varies dependent on predator activity, light levels (they’ll sleep less if their habitat has significant light levels), and temperature (they’re more active in warmer weather) but it seems that roaches are immobile for multiple-hour periods of immobility (what we might call deep sleep).
Do roaches sleep at night or during the day?
Roaches tend to be nocturnal, meaning they’re most active at night. Cockroaches tend to move around and look for food at night and give their nervous system a rest during the day. Cockroaches seem to have evolved to prefer low-light conditions as a way to evade the detection of their predators.
This is the reason why some people who first find cockroaches in their room at night choose to sleep the remainder of the night with their lights on. Light seems to make most cockroaches scurry back to their hiding places.
This is also a reason why people don’t often notice cockroach infestations until they’re well-established. When you only have a few cockroaches in your home and they sleep in a well-hidden place, you’re not likely to notice them if you hit the sack early.
If, however, you have hundreds or thousands of cockroaches in your home, you’re more likely to spook one of them from their resting spot during the day and notice their presence.
If you see roaches in your apartment or home during the day, your first instinct is likely to squish them. I’d do the same. But keep in mind that seeing roaches in your home in daylight suggests it’s probably that you have a significant cockroach infestation that you’ll want to get removed as soon as possible.
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Do cockroaches sleep on their backs? I think I saw a roach sleeping upside down.
Typically, if you find a roach on its back, it’s likely dying or sick. Most insects, including roaches, tend to perish upside down due to their center of gravity.
If you find a cockroach lying on its back in its death throes (maybe it just ate some cockroach poison), it might still be moving its limbs or antennae slowly, which leads some people to think roaches sleep on their backs.
Cockroaches will sometimes, however, lie on their backs and play dead to trick a predator (or human) into losing interest in them. Normally a healthy cockroach that’s acting like it’s dead won’t actively move its legs and antennae beyond minor movements (since doing so wouldn’t exactly be great acting).
Where do cockroaches sleep during the day? Do they hide during the day?
Since roaches rest during the day, they prefer to spend daylight hours in hiding. Cockroaches like damp or warm areas that are dark and offer some protection to them.
In homes or apartments, this means that cockroaches commonly sleep under or in electrical appliances because they provide warmth and darkness. For example, roaches are often found hiding and sleeping under fridges, stoves, inside TVs, gaming consoles, or computers. Roaches can even get into electrical outlet boxes, hiding and napping there during the day.
It’s also fairly common to find roaches sleeping below kitchen and bathroom sinks or near other plumbing. They like to be near some moisture. You’ll also sometimes find them in cabinets.
If you treat for cockroaches on your own, focus your efforts on areas where cockroaches hide and bed down for the day.
What do cockroaches do at night when I see them scurrying around?
Cockroaches look for food during their active locomotion period—usually at night. In homes or apartments, roaches often scavenge for crumbs of food on the floor at night but can make their way into your food cabinets or inside your trash cans too. Regular cleaning helps prevent cockroach infestations by reducing their food source.
What should I do if I see a roach at night?
If you see a cockroach outside at night, you usually don’t need to do anything. If you see many roaches outside but near your garage, deck, doors, or elsewhere near your home, you should try to figure out what’s attracting them. Sometimes, it’s simply your trash can. Other times it might be a wood pile or some debris they’re hiding in.
If you find roaches in your home or apartment at night, it’s best to contact an exterminator but you can also try treating for roaches yourself with baits and traps. Cockroaches reproduce fast, though, so if you see a roach in your apartment or home, take action as soon as you can.
The first action you should do is a thorough cleaning of your kitchen. Vacuum or sweep up surfaces to remove crumbs and food residue. Ensure all your food is well sealed and remove your kitchen trash nightly.
Summary of cockroach sleeping habits
To conclude, roaches are essentially nocturnal, resting during the day and active at night. While roaches seem to sleep to replenish their nervous systems, similar to humans, roaches don’t sleep completely the same way that mammals do.
Cockroaches prefer spending their days in warm, dark, hidden places, so you can have quite a few roaches in your home and not notice them until their population expands. If you notice roaches during the day (when they normally sleep), you likely have a significant cockroach infestation and should contact a pest control professional.