As humans, we want to snuggle up in a nice cozy bed with soft sheets. As a squirrel lover, I did a little detective work and found out lots of helpful information on how do squirrels sleep, and where!
So join me in this article and find out more about the nocturnal habits of these popular little creatures!
Before we get right into the details, let’s find out the short answer so all you budding planet rangers can understand the bedtimes of squirrels.
Gray and Red squirrels sleep in trees in dreys for up to 7 months of the year. They sleep mostly at night and curl up in the nest or huddle. How a squirrel sleeps depends on its type, where they live, and seasonal climate. Ground squirrels sleep for up to 7 months of the year in underground burrows
Ok with the mini answer covered, let’s start by looking into whether or not a squirrel hibernates so we can understand a little more about his sleeping arrangements!
Do squirrels hibernate?
Although we may think that all squirrels hibernate because of busy autumnal work gathering and storing nuts, it might surprise you to find out that not all squirrels are like a lie-in!
Our favorite furry-tailed grey and red squirrels aren’t winter-sleepers, but ground squirrels could even take the gold medal for sleeping.
Here’s a list of animals that hibernate. Let’s discover more about these chilled-out critters.
California ground squirrel
This energetic little creature hibernates – or as humans understand it, sleeps during the winter.
They can emerge from their burrows as early as the end of January, but some don’t become active above ground until late February/March.
The male California ground squirrels often come out from hibernation earlier than their female counterparts. They often emerge from sleeping 10 to 14 days before females.
It’s worth noting that due to the mild climate during winter, some ground squirrels in Southern California don’t sleep at all through the winter.
Belding’s ground squirrels
These relaxed squirrels spend the majority of their time curled up, asleep in hibernation mode before becoming active again.
Before they go to sleep, they embark on a food binge and almost double their body weight to prepare themselves for their long sleep in hibernation
They usually settle down for their marathon sleep-in at the end of July with males sleeping alone and females in groups.
Their body temperature will drop, and their heart rate and breathing slow down.
Once their long sleep is over, which can be as long as 5 or 7 months, the males return to activity first followed two weeks later by the females.
Ok, so that’s given us the low down on sleepy ground squirrels.
Let’s find out a little more about how grey and red squirrels sleep which are common in our backyards and the trees of nature.
Grey and red squirrels
As we saw in our short answer, Gray squirrels sleep in tree nests during the winter and usually only venture out during the morning and evening. This makes them crepuscular.
Although squirrels seem very active and even playful, they can sleep for a whopping 16 hours a day.
As they don’t sleep in the way we know as hibernation, they live in nests sheltered in trees called dreys which help to protect gray squirrels from weather conditions and predators.
Squirrels build up fat reserves for winter
We’ve all seen a gray squirrel busy gathering nuts during the fall. This is so he can build up fat reserves to protect and keep him strong during the long cold winter months.
Gray squirrels along with his more colorful cousin the red squirrel, sleep in a comfy nest they have built made of twigs and sticks.
Squirrels sleep in more than one drey
A squirrel of both the gray and red variety has both a cozy winter pad and his summer drey.
This is constructed in a lighter way (like a summer tog duvet!) and may sit between branches rather than the fork of the tree-like his winter den.
Squirrels may sleep together in winter for warmth
The squirrel will lie up in his drey in very cold weather, coming out now and then to search out hidden stores of nuts buried in the ground in autumn.
Winter dreys are often shared for warmth. As it sleeps, the squirrel curls its tail around its body to act as a blanket.
Squirrels often sleep in the fork of trees
The busy little squirrel will then line it (just like a human duvet!) with moss and grass.
The nest is usually built in the fork of a tall tree but can also be constructed in the attic of a house or in the outside walls of a home.
Gray Squirrels will sleep in their nest both during the day and night time when they are resting from their busy foraging activities.
What about baby squirrels? How much sleep do they need and where do they prefer to nestle down?
Where do baby squirrels sleep?
After birth, baby tree squirrels (both red and grey) do not leave the drey. As they are deaf and blind when born, it can take many weeks of sleeping in their drey before they are ready to open their eyes.
Baby squirrels are weaned at about eight weeks. When they are ready to go off on their own, they leave home to establish their own sleeping spots.
Baby squirrels huddle in their nests (dreys)
They prefer to sleep huddled up in their drey with their brothers and sisters for protection from the elements and safety.
So now we’ve found out about how many squirrels like to sleep. You might be wondering whether squirrels nap when the sun is high or whether they are just like humans and prefer to sleep in the dark of night.
Let’s find out.
Do squirrels sleep at night?
Squirrels like many small mammals are ‘Crepuscular’ which means they are particularly active for a couple of hours in the early mornings and late afternoons but during the main body of the day can sleep for as much as 18 to 20 hours.
Many species of squirrels go about their business in daylight hours in daylight hours and will sleep throughout most of the night.
Ground squirrels can be found in their underground burrows at night when they want to catch up on beauty sleep! They are even less active during the day than tree squirrels and as we found out earlier, can sleep for several months at a time!
And to finish on…
I hope you’ve enjoyed my research on how squirrels sleep! Who knew tree squirrels didn’t hibernate!
A squirrel who always seems very active is actually a very long sleeping mammal and so next time you see a squirrel, you’ll know that he was most probably dozing peacefully a short time earlier!
Don’t forget to check out my other articles on squirrels, including what do squirrels eat, and what eats a squirrel!
And lots of other information for budding nature enthusiasts!