Written by: Nicole Likarish
Updated November 20, 2020
Like all of us, man’s best friend needs sleep to rest, recharge, and repair. Dogs usually sleep 9-14 hours a day. This is a combination of naps throughout the day in addition to sleeping at night. However, the amount of time spent sleeping varies among ages, breeds, activity levels, health, and even sleeping locations.
Puppies can sleep between 18 and 20 hours a day. Their brains are developing and their bodies are growing, just like human babies. Everything is new, so exploration can make puppies tire very easily, even in the middle of playing.
At first, young puppies might not sleep through the night as they adjust to their new environments. They also need to go to the bathroom more frequently than adult dogs. By the time puppies are 12 months old, they typically seem to sleep more through the night.
Senior dogs often require more sleep than adult dogs. Normal aging slows the body down and activities require more energy than they used to. Older dogs may have to go to the bathroom more frequently, which can disrupt sleep. Also, aging and neurodegeneration can affect their sleeping and waking habits, so they may spend more time sleeping to counter any new irregularities in their sleep.
Working dogs, such as guide dogs, police dogs, or farm dogs, will often sleep less because of their active lifestyles. They’ll likely sleep a lot more during their retirement years.
How Do Dogs’ Sleep Routines Differ from Humans?
Like humans, dogs have a circadian rhythm that regulates their sleep behavior, and they fall asleep and stay asleep easier at night. However, dogs have a polyphasic sleep pattern, meaning they sleep multiple times throughout a 24-hour period. While human sleep bouts are 6-8 hours long, dog sleep bouts are only around 45 minutes long.
These shorter periods of sleep are a possible explanation for why dogs sleep so much. It takes time for dogs to move from a state of drowsiness to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Dogs with more activity during the day transition more quickly from the drowsy state to REM.
During REM, there is a lot of brain activity. Dogs can twitch, breathe heavily, and possibly even dream. Because this is the likely time when their memories consolidate, dogs need REM sleep to help retain learned skills.
Dogs are quite flexible with their sleep behavior. During daytime sleep, they can awake quickly and become active, such as when the doorbell rings or their owner comes home. If they have an active day with fewer naps, they can sleep more the following day.
Should Dogs Have a Sleeping Schedule?
A routine for nighttime sleep is helpful both for dogs and for their owners who want a night of uninterrupted sleep. A consistent nighttime routine also helps dogs develop a clear daytime routine of when to eat, go to the bathroom, and exercise.
Each day, make sure your dog is exercising sufficiently. Walks, playtime, and activity with other dogs are good forms of exercise. This will prevent your dog from sleeping too much during the daytime and becoming restless at night.
Be sure to feed your dog early in the evening. Avoid eating right before bedtime. The final step before bedtime should be going to the bathroom so that your dog can sleep through the night without interruption.
Also, ensure your dog has a designated location for sleeping. Puppies and some adult dogs benefit from sleeping in a crate because it offers security and ownership of a space. Other dogs may like a dog bed, too.
Is My Dog Sleeping Too Much or Too Little?
There are many reasons for changes in a dog’s sleeping habits. Some changes might be temporary. If the daily routines or sleeping environments have been altered, your dog may need some time to settle into the new routine or space.
However, persistent, significant changes in sleep behavior—whether sleeping much more or much less—may be an indication of underlying health issues. Be sure to watch for other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, weight gain, and changes in eating habits. Consult your veterinarian if your dog experiences sudden, significant changes in sleep.
Excess sleep or lethargy may be linked to one of several conditions, such as:
- Depression. Dogs may suffer from depression similarly to how humans do, which can lead to changes in sleeping patterns. Other symptoms of depression can include a change in appetite, a lack of motivation, and anxiety.
- Hypothyroidism. Most common in mid-size or large-size dogs, the symptoms of hypothyroidism come from lower levels of thyroid hormones and slows down the metabolism.
- Deafness. If a dog does not wake up at the sound of noise or seek out the source of noise, it may be a sign of deafness. Acquired deafness is common in older dogs.
- Diabetes. Weakness, weight loss, and lethargy are among the symptoms of diabetes in dogs. Spontaneous cases of diabetes typically occur in middle-aged dogs.
Decreased sleep or restlessness can be a sign of:
- Lack of exercise. Be sure to have a regular exercise schedule that meets the needs of your dog, depending on their age and breed. If your dog has not exercised sufficiently during the day, they may have excess energy at night and difficulty settling down.
- Anxiety. Some forms of anxiety in dogs cause them to pace, bark, shake, or tremble, preventing them from getting the sleep they need. Anxiety can be treated in several ways, ranging from behavior modification therapy to medication.
- Senility or cognitive dysfunction. As dogs age, their behaviors change. Some may experience significant changes in their sleep/wake cycles, decreased activity and social interaction, and increased anxiety and disorientation.
You know your dog’s behaviors, attitude, and personality well. If you identify significant or prolonged changes in their sleep or other routines, it is best to consult your veterinarian and determine the cause of these changes. Experts can provide a clear diagnosis and treatment plan to help your dog feel their best.
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