Dogs have an enviable life. After sleeping all night, they spend their days napping in sunbeams and dozing on the couch. When they do wake up, they’re often energetic enough for an immediate game of fetch. Animals like dogs sleep differently than humans do, and these differences can cause many dog owners to wonder if their dog is sleeping too much or not enough.
There’s more than one answer to the question of how many hours of sleep a dog needs every day. Like us, dogs may need more or less sleep depending on their age, health, location, and lifestyle. By learning more about how dogs sleep, it’s easier to understand your own dog’s sleep patterns and notice any changes or causes for concern.
Dogs require a significant amount of sleep, even more than we do. Carnivores like dogs tend to sleep more than herbivores since sleep is more dangerous for prey animals. However, the total amount of sleep a dog needs can vary depending on a range of factors. Of these, age is the most important and has the greatest impact on a dog’s sleep schedule.
Dogs can adapt to most situations. A study of shelter dogs who slept less during the day due to the hustle and bustle of a shelter environment found that they slept more deeply at night and woke up less often. By sleeping for longer at night, these shelter dogs slept for an average of 11 hours per day — the same amount as most other adult dogs.
However, adapting to a busy environment may come with a cost. The same study found that dogs who sleep more during the day are more relaxed and appear happier, meaning that it is worth investigating if your dog does not sleep well.
There has been little research into the symptoms of sleep deprivation in dogs. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that they might mimic some of the symptoms of poor sleep in humans, which can include:
Sleep also appears to have a significant impact on a dog’s ability to learn. In one study, dogs who slept well after learning a new command performed better when tested a week later than dogs who did not.
Like humans, dogs can experience sleep disorders. The most common are narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, and REM sleep behavior disorder.
Canine narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that causes symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy. Often described as fainting, cataplexy involves sudden muscle weakness and loss of muscle control. Cataplexic episodes often occur when a dog is eating or playing.
Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, and some other breeds sometimes suffer from narcolepsy because of inherited genetics, but narcolepsy also occurs in dogs without a family history of the disorder. While there is no cure for canine narcolepsy, the condition is not life-threatening and does not worsen with age. Not all dogs require treatment for their narcolepsy, but those with severe symptoms may be treated with anti-cataplectic medication.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that occurs in many mammals, including humans and dogs. It occurs when relaxed tissue and muscles block the airway, causing short breathless periods called apneas. In both humans and dogs, some of the most common symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring or choking noises during sleep.
Dogs with extremely short muzzles, like bulldogs, are more prone to sleep apnea than other breeds. Treatment usually involves surgery or medication, although your veterinarian may also suggest lifestyle changes like weight loss.
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder is a condition that causes abnormal movements during the REM phase of sleep. Dogs with this disorder exhibit a range of behaviors while asleep, including howling or barking, violent limb movements, and biting or chewing. The majority of dogs first exhibit symptoms before they are 1 year old, and treatment with medication appears to be effective in over three-fourths of cases.
Most dogs are able to get the sleep they need to live relaxed and happy lives. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your dog’s routine and surroundings are set up to help them snooze.