How To Set A Healthy Sleep Schedule For Cockatiels

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

Cockatiels, like us humans, need enough sleep to be healthy and functional the next day.

Unlike us humans, cockatiels can’t rely on coffee to wake them up after a bad night’s sleep.

Wild birds will sleep from dusk until dawn, a pet cockatiel’s sleep schedule might be a little different depending on what the owner arranges for them.

In this article, you’ll learn how cockatiels sleep and how to establish the best sleep schedule for your cockatiel to ensure they’re well-rested and active the next day.

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How Do Cockatiels Sleep?

Cockatiels can sleep very lightly.

Humans sleep with their senses dimmed to allow us to sleep easier.

Cockatiels on the other hand are still very alert while they sleep, even the slightest of noises will disturb their sleep.

Quiet footsteps past their cage at night will easily wake them.

cockatiel sleep

According to Patty Jourgenson, an expert in avian behaviour:

Wild cockatiels can sleep unihemispherically, meaning they’ll only rest half of their brain during sleep while the other half is alert.

This is because they’re naturally prey birds who need to be alert to predators.

She also states that most pet cockatiels won’t sleep unihemispherically as they know there are no threats in the cage.

So, cockatiels can sleep both deeply or lightly if they choose.

Their main sleeping position will be on a perch with one foot raised. Their heads will be turned 180 degrees into their feathers for extra warmth and comfort, just like the image below:

Cockatiels sleep
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

Looking like cute little fluff balls while they’re sleeping.

There have even been videos of cockatiels sleeping on their backs, but this is pretty rare. A cockatiel needs to be very trusting to sleep on their backs near their owners. All birds have a natural instinct to protect their underbelly as that’s where they’re most vulnerable.

Cockatiels exposing their bellies is a huge sign of trust.

Can Cockatiels Sleep With Noise In The Room?

Cockatiels will sleep well with low-volume noises in the room. As long as those noises aren’t loud and sudden, your cockatiel’s sleep shouldn’t get disturbed. Some quiet white noise in the room might actually help your cockatiel sleep better as it’ll filter out other sounds.

White noise can come from YouTube videos or an air purifier if you have one.

You could even have a T.V. on in the room if the volume is low and the cage is covered with a thick blanket to block the T.V. light.

The Best Sleep Schedule For Cockatiels

“What time should my cockatiels go to sleep?”

Your cockatiel needs at least 10 – 12 hours of undisturbed sleep every single night.

If you cover their cage at 8 pm, you should wake them up at around 8 am the next day.

My cockatiel gets covered at 10 PM and is awake at 10:30 AM the next morning.

This might seem like a late bedtime, but he always wants to hang out and sing at about 9 PM and I don’t want to put him to bed when he’s wide awake and active.

This is a perfectly fine bedtime routine.

do cockatiels sleep with one eye open
(Arthur at 9:30 before bed)

No matter what time you decide to put them to bed and wake them up, it needs to remain consistent.

If the sleep schedule is consistent, your cockatiel will sleep better.

Just don’t let them stay up too late…

Putting a cockatiel to bed too late will result in them not wanting to wake up early the next morning.

This will significantly shorten their precious daylight hours.

Try to set their bedtime between 8 – 10 PM so they’re willing to wake up in the early hours of the morning. Cockatiels in the wild wake up just after the sun emerges, so having them sleep until the afternoon is not natural bird behaviour.

Covering Their Cage While They Sleep

A cover will help reduce the amount of light that enters the cage.

Although a cage cover isn’t required, it might be a good idea if light can slip into the room your bird is sleeping in.

If you don’t wake your bird up before 7 AM, a cage cover would be good.

Black-out curtains in the room also work pretty well.

Sunlight can easily slip into the room during the early morning hours which can disturb your birds’ 12 hours of sleep.

cockatiel sleep
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

I use a thin quilt cover for my cockatiels cage, I also have curtains that block most of the sunlight from entering the room.

Pretty much anything large enough to cover the cage will suffice.

As mentioned, cockatiels can sleep lightly and the slightest disturbances can wake them.

And sunlight is a pretty annoying disturbance when trying to sleep.

Related: Covering Your Cockatiel’s Cage: Do’s & Don’ts!

Settling Your Cockatiel Before They Sleep

Before turning the light off, you should make sure your cockatiel is actually ready to sleep.

You don’t want your cockatiel to be moving around when the lights go out.

When it’s time for bed, I’ll cover the sides of my cockatiels cage, which tells him that it’s bedtime soon. I’ve kept a pretty consistent routine with my cockatiel ever since I adopted him, so he understands what happens before bedtime.

9 out of 10 times I cover the sides of the cage, he’ll climb in through the front and get cozy:

cockatiel cage cover

Both sides are covered while the front is open.

After I see that he has calmed down and started beak grinding, I’ll wait a little bit and then cover the front of the cage.

I’ll then turn the main light off and turn the slightly dimmer light on.

This makes it dark near the top of the cage while still allowing for some light to enter through the uncovered gap.

The aim here is to prepare your cockatiel for darkness.

Making the room instantly dark might scare your cockatiel which can cause panic.

You need to ease them into sleeping before making the room completely dark.

Doing this will make your birds sleep easier as they weren’t immediately thrown into darkness.

Cockatiel Sleeping During The Day

It is perfectly normal for a cockatiel to sleep during the day.

I used to get very worried when Arthur, my cockatiel, became inactive and sleepy in the afternoon.

“He must be sick!” was the only thought running through my mind.

Turns out, it’s perfectly fine for cockatiels to sleep during the day.

Although poor rest the night before can cause daytime snoozing, they may still nap even if they got enough sleep the night before.

cockatiel sleeping during the day
(Arthur the cockatiel taking an afternoon snooze)

All that eating, flying, and preening makes a bird tired.

It’s true that inactive/lethargic behaviour can be a sign of sickness in your cockatiel.

However, if sleeping during the day is the only symptom they’re displaying, they’re probably fine and just want a nap. I had my cockatiel checked by the avian vet multiple times due to this behaviour.

There was never a single problem discovered.

They told me that excessive sleeping during the day might be caused by a lack of sleep the night before. If you’re still concerned about your cockatiel sleeping during the day, a vet visit wouldn’t hurt for a little peace of mind.

Do Cockatiels Sleep With One Eye Open?

In short, parrots can open one of their eyes during unihemispheric sleep.

You may have even seen this happen with your cockatiel during their daytime naps.

If you make a sound, they’ll open their eye to see what’s going on without moving their heads.

They’ll peek just to see if everything is ok and then go back to sleep.

Do cockatiels sleep with one eye open
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

Cockatiels will only peek when disturbed and they’ll sleep with both eyes closed most of the night.

Night Frights

I want to briefly talk about night frights in this article because cockatiels seem to suffer from them the most.

I have a full article on cockatiel night frights here if you want to know more.

Overall, night frights are a terrible experience for both the cockatiel and the owner.

A night fright is when a cockatiel starts panicking and thrashing around inside the cage because they got scared of something.

As mentioned, cockatiels can be light sleepers and are easily disturbed.

Any sudden noises can send a cockatiel into a panicking frenzy in the middle of the night.

Here’s some footage of a night fright:

(Video Credit: Jay Groh)

The video isn’t very clear, but you can see two cockatiels sleeping and then suddenly waking up to start thrashing around in the cage.

While thrashing around, cockatiels can and often do get injured.

This is why it’s important to try to prevent it.

Preventing Night Frights In Cockatiels

There is no way to 100% guarantee that your cockatiel won’t have a night fright.

However, there are preventative measures you can take to lower the chances of it happening:

  • Close the windows and curtains in their room (this will prevent any sounds or lights from entering the room)
  • Play a low-volume background noise such as rain sounds or white noise (this will make other sounds less shocking as they’ll blend into the background noise)
  • Keep a dim light in their room (Pitch blackness can be scary for birds, a dim light will keep them comfortable)

These preventative measures are only necessary for cockatiels who frequently have night frights.

Some cockatiels will be perfectly fine without any of these measures.

Quick Note: If your cockatiel suffers a night fright, make sure to check their bodies for any injuries that may have occurred.

Sleeping With Your Cockatiel? Think Again…

Look, I know we all love our parrots and we want to show them affection…

But sleeping with them nearby is definitely something you should avoid.

It does sound like a cute and loving idea to fall asleep with your parrot, but the main concern is what you may find when you wake up.

While you’re in a deep sleep, you could suffocate or crush your bird without even knowing.

The bird could be moving around or they might fly over to you while you’re sleeping, which could also be the moment you roll over…

It has happened before and the owners were guilt-ridden and devastated.

Having an affectionate moment with your cockatiel is not worth this risk.

Besides, I think cockatiels are much more comfortable inside their secure cages while they’re sleeping.

I thought I would mention that in this article because I know people still consider sleeping with their birds despite the risk.

“What If My Cockatiel Is Sleeping On Me”

Your cockatiel taking a nap on your shoulder, hand, or head is not nearly as risky as you falling asleep with them. Feel honoured if your cockatiel ever sleeps on you as that’s a huge sign of trust and friendship. Cockatiels would never sleep anywhere near someone or something that they’re scared of.

Parrots are most vulnerable in the wild when they’re sleeping.

Keep them safe and don’t rudely disturb their sleep, otherwise, you may lose their trust.

Once their foot is raised on your hand, accept your fate…

You can no longer move until your bird is ready to wake up 😂


Setting up a good sleep schedule for your cockatiel is important for their health and happiness.

10 – 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep is essential for most parrots.

Here are a few examples of good bedtime routines:

  • 8 PM Bedtime – 8 AM Wake Up
  • 9 PM Bedtime – 9 AM Wake Up
  • 10 PM Bedtime – 9 AM Wake Up

Examples of bad bedtime routines:

  • 12 AM Bedtime – 12 PM Wake Up (Cuts most of their daylight hours)
  • 10 PM Bedtime – 7 AM Wake Up (Not enough sleep)
  • 7 PM Bedtime – 11 AM Wake Up (Too much time to be covered)

While they’re sleeping, it’s a good idea to cover their cage at least halfway.

Without a cage cover, your cockatiel will wake up from the slightest movements that happen around the cage.

This will greatly disturb their sleep.

Without 12 hours of undisturbed sleep, cockatiels will become angry, short-tempered, and sluggish the next day.

They may even stress out and pluck their feathers.

Even with enough sleep, cockatiels might still take afternoon naps which is perfectly normal.

I hope you found this all helpful.


Categories: General Care


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