Where Do Squirrels Sleep? | Information and Facts

Written by Thomas Matthews

Most squirrel species are diurnal creatures, which means that they are more active in the day and they sleep at night. Different species may have different habitats and sleeping nests, depending on the weather. Squirrels can be pets but can also be a nuisance, which is why it helps to know their sleeping habits.

Where do squirrels sleep? Squirrels sleep on their nests and dens, depending on the species. They make a net using twigs or branches. Additionally, squirrels rest in holes in trees created by woodpeckers or other purely natural phenomena, such as the weather.

Tree squirrels can invade your house, while ground squirrels can damage your garden and backyard. Flying squirrels can do both of them, but they have different sleeping patterns. Therefore, understanding each of their sleeping behaviors is very important. Continue reading to learn more about them.

Do Squirrels Sleep?

Do Squirrels Sleep

Squirrels do sleep just like most animals. In fact, they spend long hours sleeping as compared to other rodents such as rats and mice, and also longer than most mammals. Interestingly, squirrels also enjoy longer sleeping hours than humans. During summer and winter, they sleep longer than they usually do.

Do Flying Squirrels Sleep During the Day?

Flying squirrels sleep during the day. They are the only squirrel species that are strictly nocturnal, which means they are only active at night. Unlike other species, they have big, round eyes for better night vision. Flying squirrels don’t fly, but they can glide at impressive distances using their parachute-like membrane.

How Many Hours a Day Do Baby Squirrels Sleep?

Baby squirrels (called kittens) are born blind and without fur. They usually open their eyes once they are already 4-6 weeks old. These tiny kittens need proper rest to develop their required physical growth. To achieve this, they sleep for about 22 hours daily, which means that they are awake for only 1-2 hours a day.

How Do Squirrels Sleep?

How Do Squirrels Sleep

Squirrels usually curl their bodies while sleeping to keep them warm, especially in colder months. During warmer months, they sleep the whole night and in the middle of the day. Males usually sleep alone, while females sleep with their young. However, their sleeping nests may not be too far from each other.

Do Squirrels Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Do Squirrels Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Squirrels don’t sleep with their eyes open. Just like most mammals, they have eyelids, and they close their eyes while sleeping. This is to keep the lights out and to protect their eyes from drying out and from debris that may be caught in their eyes. Squirrels also blink and have excellent eyesight during the day.

Do Squirrels Sleep Together?

Do Squirrels Sleep Together

Tree squirrels are solitary animals, and they don’t sleep together. Instead, they sleep separately in trees. But during the winter season, they sleep together to keep each other warm. However, male and female squirrels rarely sleep together even after mating. Females prefer sleeping with their young and taking care of them.

Ground squirrels sleep together most of the time, regardless of the weather. Being social mammals, they don’t mind sharing their place with others. Meanwhile, flying squirrels are also solitary mammals but will sleep in groups in the winter, usually with family members but very rarely in couples.

Do Squirrels Stay In the Same Place?

Squirrels prefer staying in the same place rather than moving from one place to another. However, they may search for another area once their current place is infested with pest insects such as fleas and mites, or if predators disturb them. In short, they will not move unless they no longer feel safe.

How Long Do Squirrels Sleep?

On average, squirrels sleep for about 15 hours a day, or 62% of the whole 24 hours. This is because they still sleep for a few hours in the daytime despite being diurnal creatures. Generally speaking, they are most active only in the morning and in the late afternoon, and they sleep in the middle of the day.

Ground squirrels hibernate during winter seasons. This means that they sleep longer than usual in the colder months. In fact, they are only awake for 12-20 hours within a week during the hibernation period. Tree squirrels don’t hibernate and are active throughout the year.

Related: Do Squirrels Hibernate | Facts and Myths Debunked

When Do Squirrels Sleep?

When Do Squirrels Sleep

Aside from sleeping at night (or day), squirrels also have different sleeping patterns, depending on the species and the weather. Ground squirrels hibernate while some tree squirrels, such as red squirrels estivate. Hibernation is winter dormancy, while estivation (also spelled aestivation) is summer dormancy.

During hibernation, which is usually five months, the body temperature of squirrels will drop, while their heart rate and breathing rate will both slow down. They sleep for many days continuously and will wake up only every few days to search for food. After eating, they will go back to sleep for several days again.

Squirrels in very hot climates go into estivation during the summer months to escape from the heat. Just like in hibernation, the squirrel’s body temperature will drop, and its metabolic rate, heart rate, and breathing rate will decrease. Therefore, they will also sleep for several days and nights continuously.

Where Do Squirrels Sleep at Night?

Tree squirrels and flying squirrels usually sleep on nests called drays. These smart mammals collect dry leaves, twigs, and grass and build their nests on tree cavities and holes or a tree branch high enough against predators. But during bad weather, most mothers with babies will invade houses to seek shelter.

Ground squirrels sleep in their underground dens by digging burrows at about 2-3 feet deep and around 4 inches in diameter. In some cases, their dens may even be 6 feet deep or more. Some of the dens are used solely for sleeping, but the deeper ones may also be used for sleeping and food storage.

Where Do Squirrels Sleep When It Rains?

When it is raining, tree squirrels and flying squirrels prefer to sleep in hollow trees rather than in their leaf nests. Adult squirrels use their tail as an umbrella. This is to protect them from getting wet, especially if the strong winds have destroyed their nests. Unfortunately, if there’s a storm, many baby squirrels fall to the ground and die.

Ground squirrels remain underground during rainy days. But to avoid getting drowned in flood, they dig deep burrows in well-drained soil. Their burrows are also usually connected with a series of tunnels. This strategy does not only help protect them from drowning but also from hungry predators.

Where Do Squirrels Sleep in the Winter?

In general, squirrels sleep in their nests and dens in the winter. However, tree squirrels use tree holes instead of the usual leaf nests. But if the cold is too much for them, they will be forced to enter houses and sleep in attics, chimneys, or any dark, hidden areas. This usually happens to mothers worried for their babies. 

On the other hand, ground squirrels sleep in their underground dens during the winter season. To keep their bodies warm, they usually sleep in groups or colonies. They don’t sleep in trees and rarely invade homes. Before winter arrives, these smart squirrels collect tons of food and store them in their dens.

Do Squirrels Sleep in Trees?

Do Squirrels Sleep in Trees

Squirrels sleep in trees except for ground squirrels because they sleep in deep burrows. Tree squirrels such as fox squirrels, gray squirrels, and red squirrels sleep in tree branches, tree holes, and bark. Flying squirrels also sleep in trees, but only in the daytime. This is because they are most active at night.

Do Squirrels Sleep in Nests?

Do Squirrels Sleep in Nests

Squirrels sleep in nests, but different species have different kinds of nests. Aside from leaves and twigs, the nests of tree squirrels and flying squirrels can also be made of pine needles, feathers, and other soft materials. However, flying squirrels don’t build nests. Instead, they sleep in burrows they dug.

List of Sources

Baldwin, R. A. (2016). Tree Squirrels. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources.

Quinn, N. M., Dimson, M. J., Baldwin, R. A. (2018). Ground Squirrel. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources.

How Much Do Animals Sleep? University of Washington.

Thomas Matthews
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