Every mammal that has a pulse, from humans to dogs, needs to rest. While us humans need between six and eight hours of sleep per night (which for some is easier said than done), dogs need about twice that much.
Dogs are very flexible sleepers with the enviable ability to fall asleep almost anywhere. They can also wake up and become alert immediately, no matter how much sleep they got. Luckily for them, our fur children don't need that cup of coffee us humans do in order to function upon waking up in the morning. They certainly don't need to hit the snooze button on an alarm, either.
How many hours a day do dogs sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average dog sleeps between 12 and 14 hours per 24-hour cycle. Puppies, on the other hand, will sleep 18 to 20 hours.
That's a lot of shut-eye. So why do dogs sleep so much? Let's take a look at the canine sleep cycle, unlock the mysteries of dogs' sleeping habits, and understand how sleep fits into your dog's daily life.
How Age and Lifestyle Affect Dog Sleep
Sleep duration varies depending on your dog's age and lifestyle.
It is normal for puppies to sleep an average of 20 hours per day. Just like human babies, puppies exhaust their energy and tire out a lot easier at such a young age. Puppies go through spurts of acting like mini Tasmanian Devils during the initial stages of their life. They sleep so much in order to recharge.
Puppies are growing quickly and are stimulated by everything in this strange new world they have been brought into. Getting used to life is tiring, and they might even fall asleep mid-play. Naps are abundant at this age.
Older dogs who enter their senior years need more rest as well. As dogs age, activity becomes increasingly tiring for them. They need to conserve their energy by sleeping more often in order to function properly throughout the day. It is perfectly normal for senior dogs to doze more than they did when they were younger.
It is normal for working dogs, like service dogs or herding animals, to stay awake more than dogs that are largely sedentary throughout the day. Working dogs have a lot of responsibilities each day that they need to be in top physical and mental shape for. These dogs will catch up on their sleep eventually so they can start the next day fresh, alert, and ready to do their jobs.
REM and Dog Sleeping Patterns
The average dog spends 50% of their day sleeping, 30% lounging but awake, and 20% being active. A sleeping pupper just plain adorable, but they are actually working their brains while they snooze. Brain scans performed by researchers in Hungary show that they can even be learning in their sleep.
According to the American Kennel Club, adult dogs have very similar sleeping habits to humans and other mammals. The amount of time they sleep compared to humans varies, but they go through the same kind of stages of sleep.
Dog Sleep Stages
When a dog first settles down to go to sleep, their breathing slows as their heart rate and blood pressure drop lower. As they breathe slowly and heavily, they are entering short-wave sleep, or SWS.
Within about 10 minutes, they enter the rapid eye movement stage of sleep, or REM sleep. When your dog goes into REM sleep, you might notice them start to twitch their paws or see their eyes roll back under their eyelids. They might even let out a little yip or whimper. The REM stage is a state of deep sleep where dogs will often dream.
Have you ever heard of the phrase "let sleeping dogs lie?" This is a good rule of thumb when it comes to a dreaming dog in the REM stage of sleep. Though the twitching and yipping in their sleep might seem alarming at first, it is perfectly normal. Let the dream play out.
If you need to wake your dog, do so gently using your voice. Do not touch your dog when they are napping to wake them as they might react defensively.
How Sleep Impacts Your Dog’s Health
Sleep disorders in dogs are not unheard of. In some cases, due to health problems, excessive sleeping or irregular sleep patterns might be cause for concern.
If it seems like your dog is snoozing a lot more than they normally do and their energy levels are significantly low throughout the day, they are displaying lethargy, a common symptom of a variety of medical conditions. Dogs who are significantly lethargic could be showing signs of a larger issue like diabetes, Lyme disease, hyperthyroidism, or depression.
Some dogs have been diagnosed with sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. Dogs with insomnia usually have it because of a separate medical reason like a painful injury, arthritis, or urinary disorder from kidney disease. Check with your veterinarian if your dog has consistent insomnia. Dogs can also have narcolepsy. This genetic disorder causes abnormally low levels of hypocretin, a chemical that helps maintain alertness and normal sleep patterns. Dog breeds reported to have narcolepsy include doberman pinschers, poodles, and labrador retrievers. Dogs with low levels of hypocretin will suddenly go down on their sides and fall asleep in the middle of a period of excitement or activity. Narcolepsy is not life-threatening and can be managed by identifying the events that trigger it in your dog.
Sleep apnea is generally rare in dogs, but it helps to know the signs. Sleep apnea is not uncommon in flat-faced, loud snorer dog breeds like English bulldogs and pugs. PetMD says this about sleep apnea in dogs: "... excessive internal fat or abnormal respiratory anatomy can temporarily collapse or narrow the airway, jolting a dog awake for 10 to 20 seconds at a time ... Treatment options include weight loss for obese dogs, surgery and steam humidifiers."
If you suspect your dog has a sleeping disorder, contact your veterinarian. Remember to take them to the vet for regular check-ups and monitor their sleeping habits over time as they age and go through life changes.
How long do dogs sleep every day? Why do dogs sleep so much? It’s perfectly normal for a dog to spend the majority of their day sleeping — between 12 and 14 hours. It is normal for rambunctious, excitable puppies to sleep even longer, up to 20 hours per day.
If you are concerned your dog is sleeping too much, go to your vet for a check-up. Otherwise, turn off the lights, kiss them goodnight, and "let sleeping dogs lie" as they doze off.
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