How Do Owls Sleep? Cute Baby Owls
Sleep Face Down! (Pics)

Does the thought of how do owls sleep fascinate you? Read this post to find out about their sleeping habits and more.

David A. Swanson Profile Picture

David A. Swanson

October 10, 2021

How Do Owls Sleep? Cute Baby Owls Sleep Face Down! (Pics) Thumbnail

What’s This Post About?

Different species of owls exhibit a range of varying behaviors that cannot be classified into one or associated with other species. Owls usually have a round flat face and dark eyes. They have a mix of white, grey, and rusty brown plumage covering their entire bodies, and at times, it can be a bit darker, too, depending on the species. They have a downward-facing bill and brown extended wings.

Birds, mammals, and humans have different sleeping habits that may or may not be similar in nature to one another. The owl also has a very distinct sleeping pattern observed by many bird watchers and researchers over the years.

Owls usually sleep facing downward, and at times they turn their head backward and sleep in hollow spaces or cavities, trees, abandoned buildings, cliff ledges, or building fractures. They actively avoid sleeping in areas where human activity is high.


Where Do Owls Sleep?

Owls prefer to nest in cavities and enclosed spaces that provide them with enough shelter to protect them from predators and keep them away from the incessant noise of the outside world since they sleep during the day.

Owls prefer sleeping in cavities because they provide them an enclosed space to snooze away without outside noises disturbing their slumber. As a result, you’ll often find them sleeping on branches, tree holes, chimneys, and abandoned buildings. These birds sleep close to their nests but never in them.


Although it may seem made up, the owl was given its unusual name because its species like to roost and nest in abandoned spaces, shelters, and houses.

They prefer nesting indoors rather than outdoors because this helps them protect themselves and their nests. In addition, their size is small, and unlike most other owl species, they have babies several times within a year.

Owls are nocturnal creatures that tend to hunt during the night. Since their sleep cycle varies significantly from that of an average bird or an animal, they tend to avoid certain areas where they might face disturbance during their sleep during the daytime when human, animal, and bird activities are at their peak.


An owl may not look like a raptor, but it is classified as one. It is a nocturnal bird of prey like eagles, hawks, and falcons.

In order to get a day of good sleep, owls look for a spot that is far away from the incessant chirping of overly joyed birds and the daily rumble of heavy cars crossing the roads. Owls also actively avoid predators like raccoons and possums that may sneak up on them during their sleep.

How Do Owls Sleep?

Owls sleep either facing downwards or by turning their head to the back, which is not seen as frequently. They sleep during the daytime away from all human and animal activity. During the night, they stay awake and hunt for their prey to fill their small bellies.


The owl’s sleep cycle plays an essential role in keeping it healthy. Just like food, shelter, and water, this bird needs to sleep. They snooze during the daytime when everyone else is awake and hunt during the night. They are nocturnal beings and rely heavily on their well-established sleep cycle to keep them fit.


Some owls snooze with their face down since they cannot hold their heads up; their heads are too heavy for their tiny bodies because of their head to body ratio!

Owls And Their Sleeping Pattern


Owls have a pretty distinct sleeping pattern like no other bird. They are nocturnal, just like cats, and tend to stay awake during the night hunting for prey to feed on. Owls’ eyes are made for the purpose of hunting down smaller prey; their binocular vision helps them with the process.

Since owls can see better during the night, their eyes aid them in hunting down food which they consume during the night. Whereas, during the daytime, they tend to move farther away from the human population to get a good rest.

Incessant noise and disturbance may cause them to be sleep-deprived. To avoid that, they find a safe and sheltered cavity close to their nests, which they use to sleep in and stay out of trouble.

Their sleep pattern complements their way of living and how they are naturally meant to function. Therefore, any disruption in the sleep cycle may cause them to feel unwell or die in rare cases.

Do Owls Use Torpor State?

Torpor state is very different from hibernation as it only lasts about twenty-four hours max. Although there are some similarities between the two, the two conditions are entirely different. Some birds like owls go into a torpor state during winters to conserve their energy.


Some animals hibernate while others go into a state of torpor. So, how exactly can you tell the difference between the two? Well, there are quite a few similarities and dissimilarities that make the two quite different from one another.


Unlike most birds, owls can rotate their necks 270 degrees which is quite bizarre and scary if you happen to spot one during the night.

Torpor may be a little similar to hibernation, but it doesn’t last very long. Instead, it is a short-term daily sleep in which the animal’s metabolism, heart rate, and temperature drop, greatly influenced by the food consumed and climatic conditions.

When an animal is in a torpor state, it can wake up quite quickly when there’s a threat nearby or when they need to do something unavoidable like giving birth. One remarkable thing about torpor is that it lasts only for about 24 hours.


Animals go into a torpor state during extreme weather conditions. This helps them survive frigid winters when the weather is harsh, and food sources have dried up. However, this process requires a lot of energy, and to prepare for that, they’ll consume copious amounts of food before winter starts.

Several bird species have been observed to go into a torpor state during the winter season, some of which are hummingbirds, poor-will, whip-poor-will, doves, and some species of owl.

 Owls have been observed to go into torpor state mainly because they are year-round residents and rarely leave their habitats. They stay there even during harsh winter conditions, which is why they go into a torpor state to help them survive the cold weather.


A high mortality rate has been recorded for owls during winters between December and March. Starvation is the main cause of their death.

Is It Necessary that Owls Sleep?

Birds, just like animals and humans, require enough sleep to function properly. When owls do not get enough sleep, they tend to get tired over time, affecting their eyesight and hunting abilities.

Like any other living creature, Owls rely heavily on sleep to keep themselves energized during the night when they are on a lookout for prey to feed on. Therefore, their sleep cycle plays a critical role in keeping them healthy and well-fed.


These ghostly pale birds need a good day’s sleep to maintain their health and functionality. They need a break from constant activity and recharge so they can hunt better when it’s time. Owls that do not get enough sleep might become agitated, aggressive, and unwell over a period of time.


If you want to help owls in your area get good sleep, provide them with nesting boxes away from the hustle and bustle of urban life as they are likely to use those boxes over other cavities available to them near the city.

Sleep plays a crucial role in determining their eyesight and hunting abilities. When Owls do not get enough sleep, they become poor hunters mainly because their bodies are too tired to focus on the prey right before their eyes.


Babies of the owl or any other owl species sleep like human babies.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Patterns in Owls

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is a sleep pattern observed in human babies and mammals but not as much in birds. The owl, however, beats all the odds and exhibits a REM sleeping pattern which allows it to stay in an awake-like state.


One thing that researchers have observed is how baby owls, baby mammals, and human babies sleep. Baby owls and baby mammals, including humans, sleep similarly—they spend the same amount of time in a phase that is dangling between sleep and being awake. This awake-like phase is called Rapid Eye Movement (REM), in which dreams occur.

Rapid Eye Movement sleeping pattern is the lightest stage of sleep studied and observed in humans because the eyes keep moving underneath the eyelids rapidly. During this stage, humans have vivid dreams.

When owl babies are born, they exhibit the same sleeping patterns as human and animal babies. However, researchers have found while studying the owl closely that their sleeping pattern changes as they grow up.



On average, an owl lays about four to seven eggs, but sometimes, eggs can range from three to eleven laid one after the other; it takes about three days for an owl to lay its eggs.

This is because of the production of the gene responsible for making melanin-rich feathers in this bird. The REM state and the presence of the gene are correlated. The owl is less likely to go into REM state when there is more production of the pigment-producing gene.

Baby owls and human babies have similar sleeping patterns, but their sleeping patterns change over time as they start to mature. But unlike humans, the REM phase of the sleep cannot be observed because their eyelids cannot be seen moving around beneath their eyelids.

One way that scientists concluded that owls exhibit REM sleeping patterns is by studying an owl’s brain. The electrical activity in their brain is similar to the one observed in humans.


Keep Reading!

Owls are astonishing creatures. They usually sleep facing downwards, especially owl babies, because their heads are too big for their tiny bodies, and this ratio does not allow them to keep their heads upright when snoozing.

Although humans and owls are not related in any way, owls share similar sleeping patterns with humans and mammals, which has raised many questions for scientists. But whatever the situation may be, at least we have cute pictures of owls, and baby owls snuggled up in a corner sleeping.

If you’re interested in learning more about other birds and their sleeping habits, then you need to read this post . It has all the information that may shock you about how often do Hummingbirds sleep.

How Often Do Hummingbirds Sleep? You’ll Be Shocked!

Hummingbirds sleep like they are dead! Read on and find out more about how and why hummingbirds sleep so uniquely. Trust me, you’ll love this one!

David A. Swanson Picture

By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Posted in:

David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



You may also like:

Keep Learning!

Our latest tutorials, guides & bird watching tips straight to your inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time, but almost everybody stays. We must be doing something right!