Do Possums Sleep Upside Down?

Have you seen a possum sleeping upside down, hanging by its tail? Possums are marsupials and have been around for 70 million years. Hanging upside down is normal behavior for possums, but can they actually fall asleep while hanging upside down, or is this just a myth? In this post, we will get to the bottom of how possums sleep and if they really sleep upside down.

When Possums Sleep, Do They Sleep Upside Down?

Possums are weird and fascinating creatures. They are fondly called living fossils because they have existed longer than any other mammal. You have probably seen a few cartoons with possums sleeping upside down, but is this how they sleep?

Contrary to popular belief, possums do not sleep upside down. Instead, possums sleep in nests in trees, caves, burrows, and other dark places. Possums do not like the light and, during the day, seek out dark places to sleep in. Possums do not sleep upside down in trees either.

Some possum species spend most of their life on the ground and little time in trees, while other possums spend most of their time in treetops. Many possums only climb trees to look for food. Possums cannot protect themselves from predators and move around frequently and sleep in different places to escape predators.

Do Possums Sleep Hanging From Their Tails?

Possums do not sleep hanging from their tails. Possums have tails similar to a rat’s tail but much more robust. A possum’s tail cannot hold the weight of their body while they sleep, and they sleep for 16-18 hours per day.

Although they have great tails that allow them to hang from tree branches for a short period and help them climb, their tails do not let them sleep upside down. Possums use their tails to grasp things and for balance. They often wrap their tails around trees and use their tails to help them climb to get fruit or leaves from trees.

What Do Possums Do Upside Down If They Do Not Sleep That Way?

While possums do not hang upside down and sleep, they hang upside down when reaching for food or getting materials to build their nest. Unfortunately, many adult possums cannot hold this position for long before getting tired. 

Baby possums can easily hang from their tails for a more extended period compared to adult possums. However, possums have many quirks, and hanging by their tail may be just another strange thing that possums do.

Most people are unaware that it is impossible for possums to sleep upside down, hanging from their tails. Possums sleeping upside down is a myth created by those observing a possum hanging from its tail for a while.

How Do Different Types Of Possums Sleep?

Possums sleep close to a water and food source. Therefore, many possums would rather sleep in another animal’s abandoned den than dig their own den. There are a few different species of possum, and each has its preferred place to sleep.

The Tasmanian Pygmy Possum

The Tasmanian Pygmy Possum is found in Tasmania and is the smallest possum species. This possum species is fond of sleeping in nests made of tree bark and can also be napping in the forest’s undergrowth. 

The Tasmania Pygmy Possum strips bark from fresh or rotting trees and uses it to construct a dome-shaped nest in the hollow of a tree not only to sleep in but for protection from predators.

The Ringtail Possum

The Ringtail Possum is found in South Australia and prefers living in dense forests. These possums make nests from dry leaves and tree branches or nest in hollow trees. They are sociable possums and can have many nests widely spread to sleep in.

The Western Pygmy Possum

The Western Pygmy Possum is native to Australia and more solitary than the other possum species. In the daytime, the Western Pygmy Possum will sleep in tree hollows, abandoned nests that other animals have left behind, and dense vegetation. They move around a lot and will nest and sleep in areas where food is readily available.

The Pygmy Gliding Possum

The Pygmy Gliding Possum is known as the smallest gliding mammal and is found in eastern Australia. Most of the Pygmy Gliding Possum’s time is spent in trees above the ground. They prefer eucalyptus trees and are social nesters, sharing a nest with 5 or more possums. 

The Pygmy Gliding Possum will create a nest in a tree hollow and use leaves and bark to make their nests to sleep in.

The Brushtail Possum

The Brushtail Possum can be found in Australia and New Zealand. This possum species makes its own dens in caves to sleep in and prefer to be alone. They are also known to sleep on the roofs of houses and sheds.

The Rock Hunting Ringtail Possum

The Rock Hunting Ringtail Possum is native to Australia. This species of possum hides between rocks and sleeps there during the day. The Rock Hunting Ringtail Possum is hardly spotted during the day, preferring to find food at night and make a home in largely covered rocky areas.

Do Possums Sleep During The Day Or Night?

Possums are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active at night. Possums spend their entire day sleeping and will stay awake the whole night. They are very busy between 10pm, and 8am and conserve their energy during the daytime so they can look for food at night.

Possums never stay in one place too long. Most possums are nomads moving from one sheltered and protected area to sleep in to another sheltered area. Possums are in danger of being hunted by predators and will seek a well-sheltered and hidden place to sleep.


Now that we have explored how possums sleep, we can deduce that possums do not sleep upside down or sleep by hanging from their tails. Possums instead sleep in dark, well-hidden places where they feel safe, like caves, tree hollows, nests, and forest undergrowth.