Where Do Squirrels Sleep? Interesting Night Habits

where do squirrels sleep

When we think of squirrels, we think of a small furry, energetic mammal that dashes back and forth between our yards’ trees! These ubiquitous backyard visitors may stimulate our curiosity, prompting us to wonder, “When and where do squirrels sleep?”

There are over 200 species of squirrels known worldwide. The ground squirrel, the tree squirrel, and the flying squirrel are the three primary groups. Each of these squirrels sleeps in a unique environment.

Where squirrels sleep and reside is influenced by the type of squirrel, the time of year, and their location. Gray and red squirrels sleep in tree nests called dreys, whereas ground squirrels sleep in underground burrows with tunnels up to 30 feet long.

Where do squirrels sleep?

The first thing to understand about squirrels is that not all of them are made equal. As previously said, squirrels come in various shapes and sizes, each with its sleeping patterns and nocturnal habits.

So, here’s a quick rundown of the elements that may influence where squirrels sleep in the wild.

Geographical location

There are hundreds of squirrel species throughout the world, as we’ve already established. Except for a few differences, many of these squirrels are very similar in practically every aspect of their lives.

We may divide all of these species into three groups based on their typical geographical environment.

  • Ground squirrels. They spend most of their time on the ground and have thin tails. They’re highly nimble and speedy on the ground, but they’re not as rapid when climbing. The nests of ground squirrels are frequently dug into the earth.
  • Tree Squirrels. They prefer to live in and around trees, especially in coniferous woods with many acorns and nuts. The bodies of these squirrels are often larger, and their tails are bushier. The majority of tree squirrels will find a suitable location in a tree and construct a nest to sleep.
  • Flying Squirrels. Despite their name, these squirrels cannot fly. Instead, they jump using skin flaps between their legs to help them glide. Because they are members of the tree squirrel family, they usually make their nests in trees.


Because there are so many distinct squirrel species around the world, it’s tempting to believe that some of them sleep in different ways. In North America, there are five common squirrel species.

The eastern grey squirrel is the most common squirrel species in the United States, and it may be found from the East to the Midwest and in Canada.

On the other side of the continent, the western grey squirrel is rather prevalent, and they both have the same whitish-grey fur.

Black squirrels are smaller than other squirrel species and have distinctive black fur. They live and sleep separately due to their rarity and antagonistic attitude toward other squirrels.

Red squirrels are significantly smaller and have reddish fur, while fox squirrels and brownish squirrels with bushy tails prefer open places with large wooden trees.

The three species listed above are the most common in North America and are classified as tree squirrels. Another American squirrel, the California Ground Squirrel, is the most prevalent ground dweller.


Baby tree squirrels do not exit the den or nest after birth. Baby squirrels are blind and deaf when they are born, just as many mammals. They don’t open their eyes for several weeks.

At the age of eight weeks, baby squirrels are weaned. After that, they begin to eat solid meals and leave the cave or nest. They can gather their food after 10 weeks. They leave home when they are ready to venture out and establish their sleeping quarters.

Time of the year

Hibernation and estivation are two unique sleeping patterns found in animals all around the world. To cope with weather extremes, many squirrels employ these strategies.

When winter arrives, ground squirrels may sleep in their burrows in the earth. Ground squirrels, unlike tree squirrels, hibernate throughout the winter months. One species of ground squirrel, in particular, can hibernate for up to eight months.

These squirrels rarely leave their homes during hibernation. They do, however, occasionally need to urinate outside of their burrows in the earth. Internal body processes do not entirely stop, unlike in bears. They still have to urinate and may eat food on occasion.

Hibernation and estivation patterns will influence where the squirrels sleep since they require a relatively safe location to store enough food to last the season.


Even for forest critters, there’s a lot that goes into building a house, as you could expect! It’s not as simple as slapping together a few sticks and twigs and calling it a day, and an adult squirrel is said to spend roughly five to six hours to create a full nest.

A dray’s placement is critical to offer enough support for it, in addition to creating a cozy, safe dwelling. Most squirrel nests are built at least 20 feet in the air. The foundation must be strong enough to support an entire family of squirrels during nights or lengthy periods of inactivity.

Near to a grapevine, close to the tree stem, on a sturdy limb, or at a site where multiple little branches stretch out from a single bigger branch are the finest places for drays. Squirrels are instinctively aware of this and will seek out areas that will give ample support.

Have you ever seen a squirrel nest fall from a tree or come across one that has already fallen and is resting on the ground? Probably not; they’re more skilled than they appear!

A dray’s foundation is made out of weaved twigs with moss and leaves on top, flattened to form the base. A spherical shell of twigs identical to the foundation is braided around the base and then layered with other leaves, moss, and twigs to offer insulation and protection.

This outer covering can be either thinner or thicker depending on the weather and season to give more or less insulation.

The inside of the nest is lined with soft grass, additional leaves, moss, and even the mother squirrel’s fur to give a cozy spot to sleep and care for delicate, bare-skinned infants once the outside of the nest is complete. These drays usually have a width of two feet and a height of one foot.

Ground squirrel dens are dug and burrowed till they’re satisfied with their underground abodes. The placement of the ground squirrel’s den is crucial once again. Sloped terrain, where flooding is less frequent and behind rocks, logs, or other natural formations that help reduce disruptions and danger from other burrowing predators, are popular hiding spots.

Ground squirrels make it a point to have a variety of escape routes and entrance and exit holes. This can result in a complex underground network of tunnels, especially in areas with significant populations of ground squirrels. To give you an idea of the size of these dens, a ground squirrel hole is typically four inches in diameter, with tunnels and burrows being no more than three feet deep.

How to spot a squirrel nest

Now that you’ve learned more about squirrels and their nests, here’s a quick rundown of the most frequent squirrel shelters and how to find one.

Tree squirrel nests

Squirrels that live in trees make up the bulk of common squirrels in North America. Squirrels make drays or dens in trees to establish their nests. Squirrels look for pre-existing cavities in trees and establish their nest inside.

These cavities are usually abandoned woodpecker holes, but they can also be caused by rot or other factors.

Squirrels use moss and leaves to line their nests as bedding. The squirrel dens are designed to provide shelter and protection from the wind and rain.

If squirrels cannot locate suitable cavities in which to construct their dens, plan B is to build a dray, a nest made of leaves and small tree branches.

In some circumstances, squirrels will switch between dens and drays depending on the weather, thus in the winter, you’ll essentially see dens in surrounding trees and drays on tree branches, and in the summer, you’ll mostly see drays on tree branches.

Because newborn squirrels can be located inside the dens and drays, you should avoid disturbing the nest. Observe from a safe distance.

Ground squirrel nest

Ground squirrels are often smaller and more agile than tree squirrels, allowing them to move around the tunnels easily and withdraw to their burrows when frightened.

Squirrels that sleep underground are known as ground squirrels. These creatures enjoy burrowing and frequently construct underground tunnels and small holes. These tunnels can be anywhere from 15 to 30 feet long, with several exits and passages.

Some tunnels are only used for sleeping, while others are utilized for storing food. In most cases, the holes are likewise spotless. In contrast to a gopher hole, there will be no excavated earth around the hole’s location.

Ground squirrels stick together, whereas tree squirrels seek privacy and do not share nests. A colony of ground squirrels with a sophisticated social organization, similar to other rodents, may live in an underground home for a ground squirrel.

The little dirt pile left close to the exit hole is one of the factors that makes a ground squirrel hole easy to notice.

In favourable areas, ground squirrels may share many burrows. You’ll see a lot of holes adjacent to each other, each with a small amount of dirt beside it.

When do squirrels sleep?

Squirrels are diurnal, which means they sleep at night and are active throughout the day. Squirrels generally search for food and water during daylight hours. Small nuts and seeds, pinecones, and acorns make up most of the small woodland creature’s diet. As the light fades, squirrels will return to their nests to care for their young, relax during the day, or sleep at night.

Squirrels, on the other hand, don’t only sleep at night. Ground squirrels hibernate or estivate in their nests at different periods of the year. During the winter months, hibernation consists of a protracted period of inactivity and deep slumber, whereas estivation consists of the same thing during the hotter summer months. Ground squirrels will bulk up and add to their nests as needed to prepare for both of these yearly occurrences.


Ground squirrels usually hibernate in their burrows for up to five months during the harsh winter months, depending on their location. Hibernation helps animals to conserve energy by lowering their body temperatures to only a few degrees warmer than outdoor temperatures. During this extended seasonal slumber, their heart rate and respiration decrease, and they only wake for 12 to 20 hours every week.

Tree squirrels, unlike ground squirrels, do not hibernate. To get surviving the frigid winters, they usually create incredibly warm, robust dens. Squirrels need less energy to maintain their body temperatures during the colder months when they create a den rather than a thick winter dray, according to research.


Similar to hibernation, estivation is a means for animals to remain resourceful and safe in the face of harsh weather. You might think of estivation as the polar opposite of hibernation; it occurs during the hot summer months, as well as during droughts or periods of extreme heat. An estivating squirrel will remain dormant during this phase, comparable to hibernation, to adapt to and survive the circumstances of its physical surroundings.

Ground squirrels estivate for two to three months a year by storing body fat and blocking their nests with compacted earth. Additionally, throughout the summer months, adult ground squirrels are usually the only ones that estivate.

What time can squirrels go to sleep?

So, how can squirrels get that incredible sounding over 15 hours of sleep every day?

Because they are crepuscular, they are only active at dark and dawn. That is, at least, the case for the vast majority of these organisms. Some species, particularly tree squirrels, like the sun and may spend the whole summer away from their nests.

When squirrels aren’t out seeking for and hoarding food or mating, they’ll be sleeping or resting within their nests. Because the bulk of the predators that feed on squirrels in the greater Austin area are nocturnal, they probably try to avoid them by staying in their nests at night.

Where can squirrels sleep when it rains?

Squirrels are little rodents. Because they have a small body to surface area ratio, they lose body heat more quickly than other species. As a result, their bodies mustn’t become wet in the rain, as the water makes it more difficult for tiny mammals to regulate their body temperature.

How can we avoid getting drenched during Austin’s unusual yet regular rainstorms?

They’ve got a couple of gimmicks up their sleeves. They use their tails to defend themselves in the rain, for starters. They use the tail as an umbrella of sorts, reversing it above their entire body. Even though the tail can get swollen, the rest of the human body is essentially sterile. However, this is an excellent way to protect yourself from light rain.

Squirrels hide in their nests to avoid intense downpours. The nests are frequently built and placed so that they give optimal shelter from the cold and rain. A squirrel can withstand strong downpours and thunderstorms in this manner.

When can squirrels move in your property?

Like many other wild creatures, squirrels may be lured to your house because it is shielded from the elements, such as severe temperatures, predators, and bad weather.

That concludes the first portion of your response. They migrate in if the conditions inside appear to be better than the conditions outside. So, what does that imply? Squirrels may be attracted to your home due to a variety of factors.

Hot weather

What would you choose if you had to choose between temperatures of over 100 degrees and the comfort of air conditioning? For a squirrel, this may be the same option.

Cold weather

Even though some places do not experience as extreme cold as many northern nations, weather can become still be rather cold. While this is going on, your house is probably looking reasonably well for squirrels.


Why chance being blown away from your wet bush when you can just set up business in the lovely, comfortable house with lots of nooks and crannies?

When predators are nearby

Owls and hawks. Foxes. Weasels. If one or more of these heinous beasts were on the loose in your home, you’d want security and protection as well. That is what your house stands for.

Final thoughts

Tree squirrels sleep in trees while ground squirrels sleep on the ground, to put it simply. Tree squirrels are also prone to living alone, but ground squirrels are more likely to reside in groups.

Tree squirrels prefer to dwell in nests made of twigs, leaves, and other natural materials. Ground squirrels develop elaborate tunnel systems by digging holes in the ground.

Ground squirrels may hibernate in their holes during the winter. The tree squirrels, on the other hand, are still busy. They can get food and clean up their nests if they haven’t done so already.

Squirrels, like all other animals, require sleep. If you happen to come upon one of their dwellings, treat it with respect and avoid harming their sleeping quarters.

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Emma Olsen
I’m a gardener and blogger with over 20 years of expertise writing about and cultivating fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I have extensive experience in organic and sustainable gardening, perennials, annuals, and sustainable and urban farming. I’m a nature freak and I enjoy bird watching and swimming with sea creatures.