Do Cicadas Sleep? An Exploration of the Sleep Habits of These Nocturnal Insects

Cicadas are fascinating insects that have captured the curiosity of scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. They have a unique life cycle and vocal abilities that have made them a subject of study for many years. But have you ever wondered whether cicadas sleep? Do they experience periods of rest like humans and other animals do? In this article, we take a closer look at the sleep habits of cicadas and explore how they differ from humans and other insects.

Understanding Cicada Behavior

Before we dive into cicada sleep habits, let’s take a moment to understand their behavior. Cicadas are nocturnal insects that are most active at night. They are part of the order Hemiptera, which includes insects such as aphids, leafhoppers, and bed bugs. Cicadas have a long life cycle, spending most of their life underground as nymphs before emerging as adults. They are known for their distinctive sounds, produced by males to attract females for mating.

Cicadas are fascinating creatures with a unique life cycle. They spend most of their life underground as nymphs, feeding on sap from tree roots. Once they emerge from the ground as adults, they shed their skins and begin their short but intense adult life. Cicadas are often seen in large groups, making their distinctive sounds that can be heard from far away.

The Life Cycle of Cicadas

The life cycle of cicadas is divided into several stages. After hatching from eggs, cicadas spend anywhere from one to 17 years underground as nymphs. During this time, they feed on sap from trees and shed their skins several times before emerging as adults. Once above ground, cicadas mate and lay eggs before dying. The newly hatched nymphs then burrow underground to begin the cycle anew.

Did you know that cicadas are one of the longest living insects in the world? Some species of cicadas can live up to 17 years underground before emerging as adults. This long life cycle is one of the reasons why cicadas are so fascinating to scientists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Nocturnal vs. Diurnal Insects

As mentioned earlier, cicadas are nocturnal insects, meaning they are active at night. This is in contrast to diurnal insects, such as bees and butterflies, that are active during the day. Being nocturnal has an impact on cicada sleep habits, which we’ll explore in the next section.

Nocturnal insects like cicadas have adapted to living in darkness. They have special adaptations that allow them to see in low light conditions, such as large compound eyes that can detect even the smallest amount of light. Cicadas are also able to produce their distinctive sounds at night, which is when they are most active.

Cicadas are fascinating creatures that have captured the attention of scientists and nature enthusiasts alike. From their long life cycle to their nocturnal habits, there is always something new to learn about these amazing insects.

Defining Sleep in Insects

Before we can determine whether cicadas sleep, we need to define what sleep is in insects. Sleep is characterized by a decreased activity level and a reduced responsiveness to stimuli. It is a state of rest that is essential for all animals, including insects, to maintain optimal health and performance. However, the specific sleep patterns of insects differ from those of humans and other animals.

Sleep Patterns in Insects

Insect sleep patterns are not well understood, but studies have suggested that they experience both active and restful phases. During active phases, insects engage in behaviors such as feeding and grooming, while during restful phases, they exhibit reduced activity levels and decreased responsiveness to stimuli. Like humans, insects have a circadian rhythm that regulates their sleep-wake cycle.

One study conducted on fruit flies found that they exhibit a sleep-like state that is characterized by reduced movement and responsiveness to stimuli. This state was found to be regulated by the same neurotransmitter that regulates sleep in humans, suggesting that there may be some similarities in the sleep mechanisms of insects and humans.

How Insect Sleep Differs from Human Sleep

Despite some similarities, insect sleep differs from human sleep in several ways. While humans experience distinct stages of sleep, such as REM sleep, insects do not. Additionally, insect sleep is not characterized by changes in brain activity, as it is in humans. Instead, insect sleep is thought to be regulated by chemical signals in the brain.

Another major difference between insect sleep and human sleep is the duration of the sleep cycle. Insects typically have much shorter sleep cycles than humans, with some species sleeping for only a few minutes at a time. This may be due to the fact that insects have a faster metabolism than humans, and therefore require less sleep to function properly.

Despite these differences, the importance of sleep for insects cannot be overstated. Sleep is essential for maintaining proper cognitive function, memory consolidation, and overall health and wellbeing. Without adequate sleep, insects may experience a range of negative effects, including decreased immune function and impaired learning and memory.

The Sleep Habits of Cicadas

Now that we have a better understanding of insect sleep, let’s explore the sleep habits of cicadas. While not much is known about cicada sleep specifically, we can make some educated guesses based on what we know about their behavior and the sleep habits of other insects.

Periods of Activity and Rest

One thing we know for sure is that cicadas are nocturnal and spend most of their time active at night. This suggests that they likely experience periods of rest during the day. However, it’s unclear how long these periods of rest last and whether they might be broken up by bouts of activity.

Interestingly, cicadas are known for their loud and distinctive mating calls, which they produce by vibrating their tymbals, a pair of specialized membranes on their abdomen. These calls can be heard from up to a mile away and are most commonly heard during the day, suggesting that cicadas may be more active during the day than previously thought. It’s possible that cicadas have adapted to be more active during the day in order to attract mates and communicate with other cicadas.

Factors Affecting Cicada Sleep

Several factors could potentially impact cicada sleep. For example, temperature and humidity are known to affect insect activity levels, so it’s possible that they could also play a role in regulating cicada sleep. Cicadas are also known to be sensitive to changes in light, which could impact their sleep patterns. Research has shown that exposure to artificial light can disrupt the sleep-wake cycles of other insects, such as bees, so it’s possible that cicadas could be similarly affected.

Additionally, cicadas rely heavily on sound for mating and communication, so disturbances in their environment could also impact their sleep habits. For example, if a loud noise were to occur near a group of cicadas during their period of rest, it could potentially wake them up and disrupt their sleep.

Cicada Life Cycle

Cicadas have a unique life cycle that spans several years. Depending on the species, cicadas can spend anywhere from 2 to 17 years underground as nymphs before emerging as adults. Once they emerge, cicadas typically live for only a few weeks to a few months, during which time they mate and lay eggs before dying. This short lifespan may impact their sleep habits, as they may need to maximize their activity levels in order to reproduce and pass on their genes before their time is up.

Interestingly, cicadas are known for their synchronized emergence, which occurs when large groups of cicadas all emerge from the ground at once. This behavior is thought to be an adaptation to avoid predation, as the large numbers of cicadas can overwhelm predators and ensure that at least some individuals survive to mate and reproduce.


While much is still unknown about cicada sleep, it’s clear that these fascinating insects have a unique set of sleep habits that are shaped by their behavior, environment, and life cycle. Further research into cicada sleep could shed light on the broader question of how and why animals sleep, and could have important implications for our understanding of sleep in general.

The Role of Sleep in Cicada Survival

While the specific role of sleep in cicada survival is not well understood, we know that sleep is essential for all animals to maintain optimal health and performance. This likely holds true for cicadas, as well. In fact, recent studies have suggested that sleep plays a critical role in insect immune function, which could have implications for cicada health and survival.

Sleep’s Impact on Cicada Health

Research has shown that sleep is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system in insects. During sleep, immune cells are more active, allowing the body to better fight off infections and diseases. This suggests that cicadas, like other insects, may rely on sleep to help maintain their health and well-being.

Sleep and Cicada Mating Behavior

Mating and communication are critical for cicada survival, and it’s possible that sleep plays a role in these behaviors as well. While not much is known about how sleep impacts cicada mating behavior specifically, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can impair mating in other insects.

Comparing Cicada Sleep to Other Insects

Finally, let’s compare cicada sleep habits to those of other insects. While sleep patterns in insects are not well understood, some insects have been studied more extensively than others.

Sleep Habits of Similar Insects

Bees and fruit flies are two insects that have been studied extensively in terms of sleep habits. Like cicadas, both bees and fruit flies are active during the day and have circadian rhythms that regulate their sleep-wake cycles. However, their specific sleep patterns differ from those of cicadas.

Unique Sleep Characteristics of Cicadas

One unique aspect of cicada sleep is their nocturnal behavior. Cicadas are one of the few nocturnal insects that have been studied in terms of sleep habits, making them an interesting subject for further research.


So, do cicadas sleep? The answer is not entirely clear, as much of their sleep habits are still shrouded in mystery. However, based on what we know about their behavior and the sleep habits of other insects, it’s likely that cicadas do experience periods of rest and reduced activity. And while the specific role of sleep in cicada survival and behavior is not well understood, it’s clear that sleep is essential for all animals to maintain optimal health and performance.