Written By: Lana Adler
Updated March 12, 2021
As any dog owner knows, dogs can snooze at a moment’s notice, whether they’re on the couch or sunbathing in the grass. Dogs love a good nap (or several) during the day, but they’re just as happy to sleep all night long. Their sleep looks different than our own, although we do share some similarities.
How Many Hours Do Dogs Sleep?
Most adult dogs sleep from about 8 to 13.5 hours per day (1), with 10.8 hours per day being average. Compare that to humans, who only need 7 to 9 hours per day. Dogs certainly sleep more than we do, although there are animals who sleep even longer, such as armadillos and koalas.
Over the course of a 24-hour day, dogs spend most of their time sleeping at night, and about 3 hours napping during the day. A dog's sleep needs change as they age, just like a human's sleep needs evolve over the course of a lifetime.
How Much Do Puppies Sleep?
Puppies need the most sleep of all, just like human infants. A 16-week old puppy sleeps an average of 11.2 hours per day, and up to 14 hours or more. Younger puppies may need 18 to 20 hours of sleep (2) per day to support their developing bodies and brains. By the time they reach about 1 year old, puppies settle into the sleep routine of a typical dog. They need less sleep overall and start to spend more of their time asleep during the night.
How Do Dogs’ Sleep Routines Differ From Humans?
Despite all the sleep dogs get, canine sleep cycles are much shorter than human sleep cycles. The average dog sleeps for only 45 minutes (3) at a time, and experiences two sleep cycles during that time period.
Our human sleep cycles are much longer, lasting 70 to 120 minutes (4) each. The length of our sleep cycles increases as the night goes on, as does the time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Over a night’s sleep, we may spend up to 25% in REM sleep, the stage in which dreams occur, and we cycle from non-REM to REM several times. Dogs, on the other hand, only cycle through REM twice, and spend an average of 6 minutes in REM each time.
Dogs also differ from humans in that they are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep on and off throughout the day. Humans, on the other hand, are monophasic sleepers. Most humans receive their 7 to 9 hours of sleep all at once.
While humans spend most of their waking hours awake and alert, dogs dedicate a good 5 hours of their day to simply resting. In total, nearly 14 hours of a dog’s day is spent in some form of sleep or relaxed drowsiness, on average. This relaxed state is important to a dog’s overall health. Dogs who rest more during the day tend to seem happier and relaxed (5).
What’s Similar About Dog and Human Sleep?
Sleep is essential for dogs, just as it is for humans and other animals. Dogs who sleep well are better adjusted and more emotionally stable. On the flip side, dogs who suffer from inadequate or unrestful sleep tend to be more aggressive, anxious, and stressed (6).
Dogs also use sleep to learn, just like humans do. During REM, the human brain processes learnings from the day and commits them to memory. Canine brains function similarly (7). Studies show that after a day of learning commands, a dog’s sleep architecture changes the amount of time they spend in REM vs. non-REM sleep. They also perform new commands better after a good night’s sleep.
Regular exercise helps humans maintain healthy sleep. It appears to have the same effect for dogs. Dogs who regularly exercise sleep slightly longer than less active dogs, and they enjoy more restful sleep.
Finally, like humans, dogs follow a diurnal circadian rhythm, so they’re more active during the day and sleepier during the night.
Can Dogs Have Sleep Disorders?
Like humans, dogs can also experience sleep disorders. Dogs with narcolepsy may spontaneously fall asleep (8), even before finishing a meal, and may spend more of their day in a state of drowsiness. Doberman pinschers and Labrador retrievers are two breeds that may be more likely to have narcolepsy.
Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, can be prone to sleep apnea. Due to the shape of their skull, they have narrower upper airways and their breathing may be obstructed during sleep. Symptoms of sleep apnea in dogs can display as loud snores and irregular breathing that cause them to wake up.
What Else Does Your Dog’s Sleep Reveal About Them?
A dog’s sleep habits vary based on their personality, age, breed, diet, health, and activity level. Dogs sleep more after they’ve had an active day. After a day of exercise, they fall asleep faster and spend more time in non-REM sleep — the stages of sleep responsible for muscle and tissue repair. Active dogs also spend more time in actual non-REM and REM sleep, and less time simply being drowsy.
You know the saying there’s nothing like sleeping in your own home? Dogs agree. When they’re at home, dogs fall asleep faster, and spend more time asleep overall. They also spend more time in REM sleep, the dream stage of sleep when the muscles are paralyzed. They may feel more secure, so they feel safer entering a more vulnerable stage of sleep.
When they’re not at home, however, dogs are more likely to wake up after their first stage in NREM sleep, rather than entering REM. Their sleep is more easily interrupted, as they may want to be ready to wake at a moment’s notice.
Dogs’ sleep architecture can also change depending on their environment. For example, dogs who sleep indoors spend 80% of the night asleep, compared with only 60% to 70% for dogs sleeping outside.
Your dog’s sleep position may reveal something about their personality. Anxious dogs may sleep in places or positions that allow them to wake up and escape quickly if needed. Most dogs, however, choose to sleep stretched out on their side. Eighty-four percent of dogs prefer this sleep position. The three next popular sleep positions for dogs are curled up, on their back, or with their head propped up. Finally, an adorable 3.7% of dogs sleep with a toy in their mouth.
Should Dogs Have a Sleep Schedule?
Giving your dog a sleep schedule can make it easier for them to align their sleep schedules with yours. Sleep schedules are particularly important for puppies who are being house-trained. Kennels and crates can help puppies recognize when it’s time for sleep, while also reducing the chance they leave a mess during the night.
Crates are a popular sleep spot for puppies, with two-thirds of puppies sleeping in a crate. By the time they’re a year old, dogs may prefer having their own dog bed to sleep in. About half of adult dogs have their own bed to sleep in. Dogs are also happy to sleep on the floor, a piece of furniture, and of course, the bed of a human companion.
Should Your Dog Sleep in Bed With You?
Whether or not your dog sleeps in your bed is up to you. It certainly feels good to cuddle up next to a canine, but sleeping with your pet can disrupt your sleep. That may explain why over half of dog owners put their dog to bed in another room, especially during house-training. By the time dogs are a year old, however, only 37.5% of them sleep in the same bedroom as their humans.
There are pros and cons to letting your dog sleep with you. Some people experience sleep disruptions as a result of allowing pets in the bedroom overnight (9). However, sleeping with your dog offers benefits, such as comfort and security. A compromise may be to allow your dog to share your room, but not your bed. Owners who don’t let their dog into the bed enjoy more restful sleep, and are less likely to wake up (10) during the night, though the differences in sleep aren't as pronounced as previously believed.
If you do decide to let your dog into your bedroom, know that your dog will likely choose to sleep with you. Among dogs that have the ability to access their humans at night, 86% will sleep near them.
Is Your Dog Sleeping Too Much or Too Little?
If you’ve recently moved or changed your work schedule, your dog may take some time to settle into a new sleep routine. However, significant changes in your dog’s sleep routine — without any attributable cause — can be a symptom of something more serious. Oversleeping and lethargy can be signs of illness (11), particularly if accompanied by other symptoms like depression, diarrhea, abnormal breathing, or a runny nose or eyes.
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) (12) is a canine condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs with CDS may appear disoriented or anxious, and may forget their housetraining. Their sleep-wake cycles also change, and their sleep may become more fragmented.
If you notice any significant changes in your dog’s sleep that persist for more than a few days, talk to your veterinarian.
How Can You Help Your Dog Sleep Better?
Give your dog a sense of routine, so they know when they can expect to eat, sleep, play, and exercise. Regular exercise, which can come in the form of daily walks and playtime, helps dogs enjoy more restful sleep. A well-exercised dog is a tired dog.
Before going to bed, let your dog out to relieve themselves one more time, so they can sleep through the night without needing to use the restroom. Feed your dog their last meal earlier in the evening, as well, so they don’t run into any digestive issues after bedtime.
Many dogs enjoy the security and comfort of having their own bed (13), whether it’s a crate, kennel, or dog bed. It reminds them of having a “den” in the wild.
Take time to exercise with your dog every day, and give them a special spot to sleep. Their sleep, and yours, will be better for it.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32664232/ Accessed on March 2, 2021.
- https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-much-do-puppies-sleep/ Accessed on March 2, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/203958/ Accessed on March 2, 2021.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19956/ Accessed on March 2, 2021.
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- https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/dogs.html Accessed on March 2, 2021.
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