I could snuggle this cute little fella for hours. Nah, make that days. Such a sweet little ball of fur. The calico markings on it are really pretty, they remind me of tiny fuzzy kittens.
Laying a rabbit on it’s back doesn’t actually make it fall asleep. There’s even a name for what it’s called when you do so. It’s called Tonic Immobility, more often referred to as “trancing.”
In the wild when a rabbit is caught by a predator it will often use this as a last ditch defence mechanism. The rabbit will essentially pretend to play dead, hoping that this will create a moment of pause in the predator causing it to release it’s grip; therefore, allowing the rabbit to slip away.
In domestic rabbits, if you lay them on their backs and flex their heads against their necks it puts them into a hypnotic state. It will stay this way for as long as the head is flexed.
Studies have shown, that while a rabbit is in this state their heart rate decreases along with their blood pressure and respiratory rate. Their response to sound and pain is also lowered.
While they appear to be super relaxed and at ease when they are in this position, it’s actually not recommended except for as a last resort to calm the bunny.
After they come out of this trance like state, they are actually more stressed. They generally show a higher heart rate and increased respiration. In some cases it even affects their behavior to where they will groom themselves more or hide somewhere peaceful. The severity of these after attacks increases when the duration of the trance lasts for an extended period. The more often this is done the more it will stress the rabbit.
The bottom line is, rabbits don’t sleep on their backs. They sleep in their normal sitting position. Being nocturnal animals they sleep during the day and often do so with their eyes open. So, you may not even know that they are asleep. But like all creatures, they do sleep; just not on their backs.