You might think that walks in the park, playtime in the backyard, and meal times in-between fill up a dog’s schedule, right?
But they don’t.
Dogs, unlike humans, follow their body clock: they sleep when they feel tired, and especially after a strenuous activity of running and playing fetch.
And like most carnivores, dogs will sleep at least 12 hours every day.
The larger the dog, the longer they’ll sleep. But factors like age, stress levels, activities, and health also play a part. Dogs can sleep at a moment’s notice, night or day.
So, Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?
Sleep researchers and veterinarians explain that, aside from their carnivorous and predatory nature, several other factors contribute to how much a dog sleeps.
But why do dogs sleep so much more than humans?
Sleep is important in a dog’s brain development, memory, learning capacity, and immune system. Dr. Joan C. Hendricks explains that “sleep deprived-animals and people are more prone to infections.”
Let’s dive into the reasons why your dog snoozes a lot.
Life Stage and Age
You’ve probably seen your old pet catching quite a few forty winks through the day. But, why do dogs sleep so much when they get older?
It’s simply a function of aging.
As with any mammal, older dogs will slow down and often spend more of their time relaxing and sleeping.
Just like senior dog Jazzy here, who wakes up early for her morning exercise and then sleeps all day.
You might also notice them waking up earlier.
And even if they sleep throughout the day, they will rise more often to urinate.
What about the young’uns?
Like all babies, puppies need more sleep for their development. The longer they sleep, the better their health and brain growth. However, if a puppy is weaned too soon from its mother and littermates, it might sleep less due to separation anxiety.
Your dog’s surroundings and your household’s lifestyle can also impact your dog’s sleeping habits. So, if you’re wondering why do dogs sleep so much, they might just be bored because the activities aren’t interesting enough.
Dog mom Nicole Biretz, whose pets fall asleep “whenever they are not being actively engaged,” couldn’t agree more.
Spend more time playing or walking with your pet. Give it toys that would spark its interest. Puzzles and balls are known to keep dogs active and awake for hours.
Lack of Nutrition
Your pet needs to have a balanced diet. A diet low on nutrients will make them feel lazy, sluggish, and sleepy.
“It is entirely acceptable to feed your dog a pure kibble diet”, says Dr. Leigh Davidson, BVSc, BApplSc, founder of Your Vet Online.
Emphasizing on the importance of complete and balanced food for your dog’s particular stage of life, she adds, “you could even mix the diet up with fish, vegetables and rice, she adds.”
Ensure your pet is eating the right food for its age with this very helpful guide from Dr. Davidson.
A dog’s breed also determines how much it will sleep. Most large working breeds often need more sleep, since they expend a lot of energy.
Just like this Great Dane who also has its own bed!
In fact, the larger the breed, the more they sleep.
So, how do the smaller breeds compare?
Some smaller breeds like the shih tzu, the miniature pinscher, and the cavalier king charles spaniel spend a lot of their time sleeping.
It’s also natural for breeds like Newfoundlands with lower energy levels to spend a large part of their day snoozing.
If you’re asking is it normal for my dog to sleep all day, the truth is it’s not entirely a good thing.
And, especially when its sleep pattern has changed abruptly. One example is when your dog would rather hit the sack than go for a walk or play.
Consult the vet if a change in sleeping habits is accompanied by lack of interest in food and other activities.
Too much sleep could indicate a deeper health problem, such as diabetes, anemia, kidney disease, bacterial infection, viral infection or poisoning.
Hypothyroidism, arthritis, and heart disease could be factors that might affect the sleep cycle in older dogs.
Your pet may also be suffering from a sleep disorder.
How Long Do Dogs Sleep Each Day?
Most dogs spend 50% of their day sleeping, or about 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Puppies, large dog breeds, and older dogs might sleep more, while working dogs and smaller dogs might sleep less.
Puppies need more sleep for the development of their brains and immune system. While research indicates they need at least 11 hours of sleep a day, puppies in general require 18 to 20 hours per day to maintain their energy levels.
“Puppies are babies and babies get tired from play and they alternate sleep and play all day long,” agrees MJ Lejer, who is into education on medicine and animals.
Adult dogs spend 50% of their day sleeping (mostly at night), 30% in a drowsy, lounging state (one eye is always on you, right?), and 20% being active and playful.
Most adult dogs need 8 to 13.5 hours of sleep every day, with the highest percentage averaging 11 hours.
Older and senior dogs tend to sleep more at night when they are also inclined to wake up less often. Plus, they wake up later in the morning and often slumber during the day to restore their energy levels.
Like puppies, senior dogs also need 18 to 20 hours of sleep.
Reasons Why Your Dog Can’t Sleep
These are the most common reasons for sleep disruption in dogs:
- Pain, illness, or injury
- Lack of exercise
- Change in routine
- Change in household
Transition and stress are major causes for dogs to sleep less. This is evidenced in shelter dogs who often display behavior that affects their sleep. Unfamiliar surroundings, the presence of other dogs, and boredom could contribute, too.
Dogs, like humans, are diurnal animals. They are active for most of the day and rest at night. And like people, their sleep cycles can be disrupted by excessive nighttime activities or disturbances.
So, if you’re wondering why do dogs sleep so close to you, it could be because they’re bothered by one or more of the reasons mentioned above.
It would be wise to understand their normal shut-eye patterns for your peace of mind.
Understanding Your Dog’s Sleeping Behavior
A dog’s sleep-wake cycles average 20 to 23 minutes in an eight-hour period and typically consist of 16 minutes of sleep and five minutes of waking —meaning they sleep for shorter periods than humans.
This explains why dogs sleep so much more than humans.
Their sleep cycles could reach 45 minutes at a time, wherein they experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep twice. Dogs will spontaneously wake up after this period.
How long dogs sleep, and the quality of their sleep, also depends a lot on their comfort. Give your pet a quiet place with a soft bed, pillows, blankets, and plush toys to guarantee restful slumber.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?
Like humans, dogs need sleep to refuel and re-energize themselves. Sleeping about 12-14 hours a day is normal for a dog, and this will vary with age and activity levels.
Consult your vet if you notice prolonged erratic or abnormal sleeping patterns.
How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?
On average, dogs need to sleep 11 to 14 hours a day. But, older dogs and puppies require 18 to 20 hours of sleep a day.
For a working dog like Onyx, a day’s therapy work at a hospice is enough to make him sleepy. Miniature schnauzers are a smaller breed, so they will sleep at least 12 hours a day.
His owner, Missy, often lets him sleep to his content after a few hours of meeting his patients.
Should My Dog Sleep With Me?
Most people with stress and anxiety often find it comforting to have their dogs sleep beside them. However, dogs and humans have different sleep cycles, and letting your dog sleep with you might just affect the quality of your sleep.
Instead, consider having a separate dog bed in your room.
Give puppies warm blankets and a furry cloth to mimic the warmth of their mother. Surround them with soft toys to simulate the feeling of being part of a litter.
What If My Dog Is Restless at Night and Won’t Sleep?
Restless sleep is common in puppies and younger dogs, usually due to anxiety or a change of environment. In older dogs it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Some of the dogs I’ve had over the years chose to sleep in a warmer or cooler place than my bed. It could be a way for the dog to more efficiently protect its pack and den.
A rescue dog or one that’s newly adopted could just be finding its niche in the place or its place in the new home.
When Should I Get Help?
See a vet if your dog suddenly falls asleep in the middle of a run or play, as it could be a sign of narcolepsy. Too much excitement in narcoleptic dogs often induces sleep.
It’s also advisable to visit the vet if your dog wakes up suddenly in a state of fright or stress.
Are There Sleep Aids for Dogs?
A vet could prescribe sedatives for your dog to improve their sleep quality. These can be either over-the-counter supplements or prescription medications.
Vegetables or herbs such as passion flower also work as sleep aids.
Some dogs might just need more exercise, so give them a walk or a run an hour before going to bed.
Do Dogs Have Sleep Disorders?
Dogs do suffer from sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, cataplexy, sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, cognitive aging, and sleep deprivation.
Narcolepsy and cataplexy are particularly dangerous, according to Dr. M.A. Crist, a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine.
They can cause a dog to sleepwalk, increasing their risk of drowning, stumbling, or getting into accidents.
“These two sleep disorders are usually a congenital and inherited condition that can be brought on by excitement such as playing, eating, drinking, or greeting owners and can last seconds to minutes, many times a day, or infrequently”, says Crist.
If your dog is not getting quality sleep and starts showing symptoms of distress or anxiety, you should see your vet for a diagnosis.
Do Dogs Dream?
Yes! Dogs dream just like humans. Research reveals that dreaming is a part of the mammalian sleep cycle. Dogs also display the same kind of brain activity as humans do when dreaming.
Dogs are very similar to their hunting ancestors in their sleeping behavior. They use up a lot of energy even in a few hours of activity, followed by a sleep cycle that helps them stay alert even as they slumber.
When your dog does not get enough sleep, its behavior may change and could cause difficulties. Conversely, too much sleep, or going beyond 15 hours, could indicate an underlying health problem.
In such cases, William Moore, a graduate of Dog Behavior and Dog Psychology at JD Campus London, suggests contacting your vet.
If your dog is active, has a well-balanced diet, and follows a routine every day, it’s more likely that it’s just conserving energy and getting some well deserved rest.