Do you ever worry about why your dog sleeps so much? Dogs do not sleep as deeply as we do. Typically, a healthy dog needs 12–14 hours of sleep per day. Puppies need more at up to 20 hours per day. Older dogs need more as well, as they tire more quickly. Larger breeds are known to be longer sleepers as well. Every dog is unique and will need and want a varying amount of sleep. Much depends on the health and age of the pet. Breeding also plays a factor. Working breeds are bred to be awake more to protect flocks and people. Conversely, retired working dogs will often catch up on napping and spend more time snoozing. It is very normal and even healthy if your dog sleeps a lot.
Dogs do not reach the REM sleep cycle as quickly or as often when they sleep as humans do. REM stands for rapid eye movement. It is named this because If you watch someone sleeping during this sleep phase, you can see their eyes moving quickly under their closed lids. Humans and other mammals share the need for the REM cycle of sleep. Dogs only spend about 10% of their sleep in the REM cycle. The REM cycle of sleep is the portion of sleep where rejuvenation, healing, and repair occur. Because of this lack of time spent in the REM cycle, they need more time sleeping to maintain their bodies’ health. In contrast, we humans spend, on average, up to 25% of our sleep in the REM cycle. This is also why you feel so tired if your sleep has been interrupted or you don’t get a full night of sleep. Without proper rest, you and your dogs are more likely to fall ill or heal more slowly from injury or illness. The immune system is maintained by proper sleep.
Survival in Nature
So, why do dogs sleep so lightly? Partly, it is believed that this is a genetic survival response. Sleeping outside among predators and other dangers is much safer if you can wake quickly and respond instantly. Survival depends on it. The threat of predators is more imminent than the threats of illness, disease, and deterioration that sleep counteracts. Another factor is that dogs are not strictly nocturnal or diurnal. They are social sleepers. The majority of their sleep occurs while we sleep. Another factor that comes into the equation is that because they are naturally light sleepers when they sleep with their humans, we will wake them from their sleep every time we move or shift in our sleep.
Changes in Sleep and Overnight Accidents Should Be Checked
As long as your dog isn’t having accidents overnight, it is healthy to allow your dogs to sleep in. Your dog’s health depends on adequate sleep. However, If your dog’s sleep patterns change or they start to have bladder or bowel accidents, check with your veterinarian as changes could be a sign of health issues.
Dogs get many of the same conditions that humans get. Dogs can get sleep disorders similar to narcolepsy and sleep apnea as humans do. How can you tell if your dog may have a sleeping disorder? Dogs with sleeping disorders may become aggressive; they may cry or whine. Of course, if you suspect that something may be wrong, again, it is time to go to visit your veterinarian to confirm if there is, in fact, a medical issue. Treatments are available for these sleep disorders, and your dog does not need to suffer — canine sleep apnea results in fragmented sleep, which raises blood pressure. Dementia is not limited to elderly humans. Senior dogs can get dementia too. I had a client dog with dementia, and the dog slept most of the day. This is common with advanced canine dementia and other cognitive disorders. Another symptom that I have seen in my client’s dog that had dementia was disoriented pacing. The dog would wake and pace the room. When I would call its name, it would appear confused, it didn’t recognize me. My grandmother had dementia, it was remarkable how many symptoms were the same for dogs with dementia. Changes in sleep or incontinence are a sign to get your dog checked out. I am not a veterinarian, so these are just a few of the conditions I have seen with my client’s dogs. Always consult your veterinarian with concerns about your pet’s health.
Puppies will benefit from a sleep schedule because they need time and maturity to wait long stretches for potty breaks. But, even older, more mature dogs enjoy a schedule. Dogs like to eat, sleep, and go potty at regular intervals. If I get distracted and lose track of time, my dogs will always remind me when to eat or go potty. I also never need an alarm to wake because my border collie, Betty, knows when I should get up in the morning. Some weekends I would like to find her snooze button — but sadly, none exists. With her, when it is time to wake up and take her to go potty, she is relentless in rousing me. It always makes me laugh when it is bedtime for me, and my dogs are missing because they have already gone to their sleeping spots in the bedroom. Dogs naturally enjoy schedules.
Mental Health and Mood
I know that, as a child, I remember my parents saying, “let sleeping dogs lie.” I always thought that was because dogs could be grumpy if you bug them while they are sleeping. But the more I know about the physical and mental benefits of good solid sleep, I now believe it is much more. Because we share so many of the same health requirements with dogs, it stands to reason that proper sleep will also improve a dog’s mood and mental health. Dogs that are healthy and get adequate sleep will be more mentally resilient. Anyone with a dog can see that dogs have emotions and can become frustrated when they are not allowed to rest when they need to rest. Parents have been smart in telling children to leave the family dog alone while the dog is sleeping for generations.
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