Why Do Rats Sleep on Their Heads?

Do you have a rat who likes to sleep on his or her head? It might seem like a strange habit, but it’s actually quite common for rats. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why rats sleep on their heads and what it might mean if your rat starts doing it regularly. We’ll also discuss some of the health concerns associated with this behavior and how you can get your rat checked out by a veterinarian if necessary.

Why Do Rats Sleep on Their Heads?

At first glance, rats may seem like an odd choice for a pet. After all, they are often regarded as filthy, disease-prone creatures that can pose serious health hazards to humans. However, despite their less-than-desirable reputation, rats actually make excellent companions and are surprisingly intelligent and affectionate animals. 

One of the things that really sets rats apart from other pets is their odd sleeping habits. While most pets sleep on their bellies with their limbs tucked in, rats often prefer to sleep on their heads with their front paws outstretched.

There is no definitive answer for why rats sleep this way. Some experts believe that it depends on the environment, while others claim that sleeping on their head helps to block out light. Whatever the reasoning behind this unusual behavior, one thing is clear: rats are fascinating creatures whose quirkiness only adds to their appeal as pets. 

Rats Sleep Positions Vary Depending on Their Environment 

When it comes to sleep positions, rats have a lot of flexibility. Whether they’re curled up in a tight ball or sprawled out across the bed, rats can adapt to a wide range of environments with ease. 

This is partly because of their intelligence and mobility, but also because of the structure of their bodies. Rats have long, flexible spines that allow them to easily curl into different positions and stretch out when they need to. They also have strong stomach muscles that help them shift position quickly and sturdily. 

In addition, rats tend to be quite comfortable in most environments. However, their sleep position will vary depending on the environment they are in. For example, a rat in a familiar and comfortable environment will sometimes sleep on its back, as it has total trust and feels safe. 

A rat in a more stressful environment might sleep in a more timid position, like curled up tightly into a ball. This position is most common, as rats tend to be instinctively protective of their precious internal organs. Sometimes, they will curl up into a ball, and rest on their heads from this position. 

Rats Sleep on Their Heads to Block Out Light

Most people are familiar with the common image of a rat sleeping in an upright position, with its head positioned underneath its body. While this may initially seem strange, there is actually a very important reason behind it. 

Rats have sensitive eyes just like humans, and you probably know how hard it is to sleep with the lights on. As such, they often use their bodies as shields when sleeping. By blocking out glare and sticking their face into the ground, rats can sleep more comfortably and uninterrupted, ensuring that they will get enough rest to stay healthy and active during the day. 

So the next time you see a rat resting with its head underneath its body, don’t be tempted to disturb it —just appreciate this unique survival mechanism, as it’s totally relatable! 

Is It Ever a Bad Sign When Rats Sleep on Their Heads?

It’s not always a bad sign, but there are a few things to watch out for, as it might be an indicator of an underlying health issue. It may not be sleeping on its head entirely, but if your rat has started sleeping with its head hanging off of something more often, it could be a sign that it’s not feeling well. 

For example, it may be sleeping on top of a box with its head hanging over the edge, or in a hammock in a similar position. This doesn’t always indicate something wrong, but there could be an underlying issue. This is especially true if your rat is also exhibiting other unusual behaviors, such as lethargy or loss of appetite. 

If you notice these kinds of changes, it’s best to take your rat to the vet for a checkup, just to be on the safe side. If your rat falls asleep in similar positions while out of its cage, during “playtime” you should take it to get checked out as soon as possible.

Do Rats Always Sleep on Their Heads?

One of the most enduring myths about rats is that they always sleep on their heads. However, this is not the case. While rats do spend a considerable amount of time grooming themselves, they are just as likely to sleep on their backs or sides as they are to sleep on their heads. 

In fact, the position that a rat sleeps in is largely dependent on its mood and environment. If a rat feels safe and secure, it will be more likely to sleep on its back or side. However, if a rat feels threatened or anxious, it will often adopt a more defensive posture by curling up into a ball as described earlier, and sleeping on its head. 

In a way, this is similar to an ostrich burying its head in the sand to avoid danger, but it isn’t always an indication that your rat feels unsafe. In many cases, it’s probably just a comfortable habit! So, while rats do sometimes sleep on their heads, it is by no means their preferred sleeping position.

What Positions Do Rats Sleep In

Rats sleep in a number of different positons, some of these being rolled up in a ball, hanging partway out of a tube or hammock, on their backs, in a “dog pile” formation if you have more than one or sleeping on their heads.


Rats sleep on their heads for a variety of reasons, including blocking out light to help them sleep better, to protect their sensitive eyes, or simply because it’s a comfortable habit. However, it’s not always a bad sign if your rat starts sleeping in this position more often. If you notice your rat exhibiting other unusual behaviors, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, it’s best to take it to the vet for a checkup.\