How to Help Your Senior Dog Sleep At Night
If you want to know how to help your senior dog sleep at night. Keep reading. In fact, It is a common problem with some older dogs. But, there are things that you can do to help. Dogs are not strictly diurnal or nocturnal like humans are. We tend to be awake during the day and sleep at night. Where dogs naturally tend to sleep throughout the day and night with brief bursts of energy. Dogs sleep more than humans because their REM cycles are not as long nor as deep as humans. So, they need more sleep to be restored. They also have a much better sense of hearing and sleep much more lightly than humans. As a result, the nighttime noises outside and critters roaming around will wake them up more easily than those same noises would affect us humans. . Being awake for a portion of the night is normal. But if your dog is awake more than not during the night, here are some things that can help.
- First and foremost, schedule a visit with your veterinarian to rule out any major neurological or other health issues. The most common issue that I have personally encountered with my customers’ dogs that affects sleep is canine cognitive degenerative diseases — like dementia and dogs. This disease throws off their sleep schedule, and they end up with something very similar to sundowners syndrome, where they sleep most of the day and pace anxiously at night. Your vet can prescribe medication to help with many of the disorders that cause insomnia with dogs.
- Walking schedule — Walks provide a much-needed physical and mental release for dogs. All that sniffing that they do helps to relax them by providing mental stimulation. Some dogs can get by with as few as two walks per day. Most dogs do better with 3–4 walks per day. As your dog gets older, they won’t need long, tiring walks as they did when they were young and had a lot of energy to burn off. But even a 10–15 minute walk can be very satisfying for your aging dog. Try to avoid the hottest or coldest times of the day as your dog will not tolerate extreme temperatures as well as younger dogs can.
- Don’t play right before bed. Playtime gets them excited and wakes them up more. Rubbing their backs gently is more calming and more conducive to sleep.
- Don’t feed dinner late. Digesting their food can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Take them to go potty right before bed. Seniors often need more potty breaks as they age — just like humans. I take mine to go potty one last time right before I crawl into bed.
- Have a bedtime routine — Dogs thrive with routines. If you go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time each day, your dog’s body will adjust and naturally prepare for sleep at night. It’s good for your body too.
- Crates -Have a place for them to sleep quietly without being disturbed. My border collie gets anxious from loud noises outside. But, she is crate trained and finds her crate very calming. If she is pacing or acting nervous, she will often go into her crate to calm herself down. As soon as she enters her snuggly crate, she relaxes. This won’t help a dog that hates its crate. But if your dog has been crated trained and enjoys their cozy space, crating them at night can help.
- Supportive dog beds — If your dog doesn’t like a crate, a warm fuzzy bed with plenty of cushion like a memory foam bed can be more comfortable for a dog with stiff joints. My little dog has one of those fluffy donut beds he enjoys- on the rare occasion that he doesn’t want to sleep in bed with me (usually spooning my head).
- Get the temperature right — My little dog loves blankets to sleep. He is always cold and will bundle himself up. My border collie is always hot, and she prefers to sleep on the wood or tile flooring.
- Diffuse lavender — Use a light hand when diffusing essential oils as dogs have a much more keen sense of smell. A little goes a long way. But, lavender is naturally calming.
- Medication — If your dog is up all night and you have tried everything listed above, it is time to go back to the veterinarian. Dogs need their sleep to repair their bodies and fight off illness and disease. Ask your vet to advise the next steps, which can include medication to help them sleep.
This post is an excerpt from my second book that I am writing about caring for Senior Dogs