Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


What Do Sloths Do at Night?

i Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are two families of sloths, two-toed and three-toed. Although they're largely similar, two-toed sloths are slightly faster, larger and have a more varied diet compared to the three-toed variety. Two-toed sloths are completely nocturnal. Although three-toed sloths are both diurnal and nocturnal, they're largely inactive during the day. Sloths don't do all that much on the whole, but what they do, they do at night.


Sloths do most, if not all, of their eating at night. Three-toed sloths have very specialized diets, mostly eating leaves and the occasional tree bud or soft twig. Two-toed sloths eat a larger range of foods, chomping their way through leaves, twigs, fruit and occasionally insects and small rodents. They have a very slow metabolic rate, which means they don't need a great deal of nourishment from their food. They spend a lot less time eating and foraging for food compared to other animals that eat a mostly plant-based diet.


Most sloths spend the entire day motionless, so it's at night that they move. Their average speed is 480 feet per hour, but they often move even slower than that. They can move at speeds of up to 900 feet per hour, though they do this only to avoid danger, as it expends too much of their energy. On average, a sloth will only spend between six and nine hours a day being active.


Female sloths initiate mating by calling out to attract any male sloths in the area. The don't have any intricate mating rituals and, once the male reaches the female, the whole mating process is over in just a matter of seconds. After a period of gestation, which varies between species -- usually between six and 10 months -- female sloths give birth to their offspring, usually while upside down, who then cling on to their mothers until they're strong enough to fend for themselves.

Pass Waste

Like other activities, sloths pass their waste products at night. Due to their slow metabolism, sloths only have to pass waste once every one to three weeks. When nature calls, they descend to the base of a tree then urinate and defecate onto the forest floor. Their waste matter not only helps to fertilize the trees, but its slow decomposition rate might even help to slow down the high recycling rates of some trees and provide long-term nutrients for these trees.