How and Where Do Squirrels Sleep?- Everything You Need to Know.

Eastern Gray Squirrel
© iStock.com/Dgwildlife

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: September 20, 2023

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Squirrels are medium-sized members of the rodent family. Squirrels can be found worldwide except on two continents; Australia and Antarctica.

Like most animals, squirrels require a safe place for refuge, sleeping, and raising their young ones. In this article, we will be sharing details on where squirrels go to get their much-needed shut-eye after a long day. Let’s find out how and where squirrels sleep. 

Do Squirrels Sleep? 

uinta ground squirrel eating blade of grass

Squirrels sleep in trees or in underground burrows.

©iStock.com/Michael Chatt

Squirrels are unique diurnally active creatures who spend a large percentage of their lifetime sleeping. The squirrel family consists of three major types. There are flying squirrels, ground squirrels, and tree squirrels. A unique attribute of these squirrels is that each one sleeps in a different place. For instance, after tree squirrels are born, they sleep and live only in their nest for about six weeks.

Afterward, they open their eyes, check out their surroundings and start to spend time outside their nests. When they are fully grown, at about ten months for most types and eighteen months for the flying squirrel, they start to build their nests to live and sleep.

Different Types of Squirrels

There are about 200 squirrel species. There is hardly any continent on earth where they cannot be found. 

Flying Squirrel

Even though their name suggests so, flying squirrels do not actually fly. The flying squirrels use these web-like skin flaps to glide from one tree to the other. This movement simulates flight. Flight squirrels build their homes with small twigs, leaves, barks, and moss. 

Tree Squirrels

Just like flying squirrels, tree squirrels sleep in dreys. They make it using branches, twigs, and leaves. The most common squirrels in this class are the fox, gray and red squirrels. 

Ground Squirrels

round squirrel (Xerus inauris), in rainy season, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Kalahari desert, South Africa.

Ground squirrels spend 84% of their day sleeping.

©Gaston Piccinetti/Shutterstock.com

According to the Journal of Mammalogy, ground squirrels spend 84% of their day sleeping. As their name implies, they are always on the ground. 

Do Squirrels Live in Nests?

All kinds of squirrels live in a nest called a drey. This nest is made of small twigs, grass, leaves, and moss lining. Usually, it is built inside the holes of a tall tree. Sometimes it is built in the attic of a house where we see it most of the time. During winter, squirrels sleep together in these nests to keep each other warm.

Where Do Squirrels Sleep at Night?

Squirrels sleep either in trees or in underground burrows at night. After a busy day of playing around, searching for and burying food, they retreat to their nests at night to sleep.

Tree squirrels sleep in dens or nests at night. They sometimes build these nests themselves, and other times, they move into made nests found in trees. Ground squirrels, on the other hand, are skilled at burrowing into the ground. That’s where they go at night to stay warm and sleep.

Some squirrels, like grey squirrels, are crepuscular creatures which mean they are primarily active during twilight and dawn. This accounts for why they spend several hours sleeping during the day while taking several short naps during the night. These short rounds of sleep at night are a defensive mechanism developed to keep themselves alert against threats from their predators. 

Where Do Squirrels Live In Winter?

Squirrel Teeth - California Ground Squirrel

Ground squirrels go into prolonged sleep during winter.

©Salty View/Shutterstock.com

Some squirrels hibernate during winter, but this depends mainly on the type of squirrel. Ground squirrels hibernate during winter while flying and tree squirrels do not hibernate.  What they do is make their nests stronger such that it protects them from the cold weather. During this period, flying squirrels prefer to live together in groups. 

Ground squirrels go into a state of prolonged sleep in the winter. During this period, ground squirrels go into their burrows to sleep. At these times, their body temperature drops, and their heartbeat slows down. They save their energy by sleeping longer. This period could last for as long as five months.

However, they do not completely disappear during this period, as they stay awake for an average of 12 -20 hours per week to forage for food.

Where Do Squirrels Sleep When It Rains?

Squirrels protect themselves from getting wet by hiding in their nests when it rains. Because they are small animals, if they get wet, it becomes difficult for them to control their body temperature.

However, one of the tricks squirrels use to protect themselves from the rain is to use their tail as some sort of umbrella. Even though their tail might get soaked, the rest of their body is kept relatively dry.  This only works as protection from light rain.

During heavy downpours and thunderstorms, squirrels hide in their nests. This is possible because of the positioning of their nests which is strategic enough to offer the utmost protection from those downpours. 

Should You Feed the Squirrels in Your Yard?

Funny Close-up of Woman Feeding a Red Squirrel on the ground somewhere in Quebec, Canada.

Feeding wild squirrels may be fun but its not a good idea.


Image: Benoit Daoust, Shutterstock

©Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock.com

It’s fun to watch squirrels go about their daily business of playing, chasing each other, and gathering food. Watching them enjoy a pecan or some other tree nut just makes a person feel good – they obviously enjoy every bite! It is quite tempting to leave a few raw peanuts on your deck rails so you can watch them twirl it around with glee before cracking them open. They are so cute and seem so appreciative! Is it a good idea to feed squirrels? Unfortunately, it’s probably not.

When well-intentioned humans start giving squirrels food, they grow dependent on the free buffet – and when it stops – they may not be able to fend for themselves again. Another potential problem – is word of mouth – the squirrels enjoying the gravy train tell all of their furry friends about it. You may walk outside with a handful of nuts and be met with a crowd.

The lazy, entitled squirrels may become more aggressive – just walking up to you for a handout when you don’t have any food. It could become a real problem. If you want to help the squirrels and birds out and enjoy watching them in your garden – try a birdbath. It’s as much fun to watch squirrels guzzle the water as it is to watch the birds frolic in it.

Fun Facts About Squirrels

Squirrels are very wonderful creatures. They have several unique attributes. We’ll be looking at some of those here:

  • Squirrels are known to have excellent vision. Their eyes are positioned so that they can see things behind them.
  • Squirrels are also famous for storing nuts and acorns for cold seasons. A study done by Princeton University pointed out that grey squirrels can locate buried nuts by their odor. They can also remember the exact locations of the nuts they have buried. Male squirrels can smell a female in heat who might be located as far as a mile away.
  • Their tail is used for balancing and as some sort of parachute when jumping.
  • Squirrels can jump a distance of up to 20 feet. They have long, muscular hind legs and short front legs that work together to aid in leaping.

Bonus: How Do Squirrels Communicate?

Portrait of American red squirrel screeching by its alarm call in the wild in summer.

Squirrels sound the alarm if a predator is near.


Image: Saeedatun, Shutterstock

©Saeedatun/Shutterstock.com

Squirrels are clever little creatures with a surprisingly complex language that plays a crucial role in their survival and interactions with each other. Their vocalizations range from the familiar chattering to barking and whistling. Each sound serves a specific purpose, whether it’s to warn others of danger, express distress, or attract a mate.

Each type of sound they make can vary in intensity to reflect their emotional state. Rapid, high-pitched vocalizations usually indicates distress while slower, rhythmic chatter may serve as a general alert. Squirrels have been observed screaming false alarms to trick other squirrels into thinking a predator is near so they can steal food. Their language is so nuanced that certain barks are used for hawks and others for ground predators like cats. The ability to assign specific calls to certain threats further demonstrates the squirrel’s amazing communication skills and general intelligence.


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