Certified Sleep Coach
Last Updated: September 15, 2021
We want to give our dogs the world — and they deserve it. Still, we can give them all the treats, bones, and walks in the park and still not meet their needs. Of course, it’s not for lack of love.
Many people just don’t think about how their dog is sleeping. Understandably, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint, especially if they are up at night while you’re asleep. Sleep deprivation in dogs can have some severe implications for your dog’s life. Here’s everything you need to know about making sure your dog is getting enough sleep.
How Much Sleep Does a Dog Need?
Sleep is important for dogs to learn and retain information — just like us! Their memory consolidation is dependent on sleep, which is particularly important for dogs who are going through training. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks; they just need a good night’s sleep first.
The average dog needs around 8 to 13.5 hours of sleep each day, though that number will fluctuate with the dog’s age. “Young pups tend to sleep longer for about 18 to 20 hours a day since they take a few tiny naps during the day. Adult dogs, on the other hand, sleep for about 8 to 13.5 hours a day. However, as your dog gets older, they tend to start sleeping more since they can get tired easily,” says Mike Powell, owner and editor of Dog Embassy.
Is it possible that my dog has a sleep disorder?
Yes! As people, we don’t think much about sleep disorders, much less in our dogs. But as it turns out, dogs can suffer from many of the same sleep disorders people do.
Like in humans, narcolepsy is not common. According to Dr. Michelle Burch, DVM at Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, less than 0.2% of dogs are diagnosed with narcolepsy. “Narcolepsy in dogs is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day and spontaneous or emotion-triggered episodes of collapse called cataplexy.”
Listen up if you have a “snub-nosed” dog breed — Pugs, Frenchie's, English Bulldogs: Because of the shape of your dog’s airway, your dog may struggle to breathe, especially when they are lying down.
“Their increased incidence of narrowed airways and elongated soft palate can obstruct the opening of the trachea. Brachycephalic dogs who are overweight or obese are more prone to develop sleep apnea because excessive internal fat will cause more pressure on the respiratory structures,” Dr. Burch adds.
If you’re not sure if your dog has sleep apnea, try listening for signs of snoring or gaps in their breathing. Then consult a vet. Corrective surgery of the airways is sometimes necessary.
REM sleep disorder
REM sleep disorders are not commonly diagnosed in dogs, but it still happens. Dr. Burch says, “REM sleep disorder is a movement and behavioral disorder which occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Dogs with REM sleep disorder will have excessive and often violent movement of the limbs with abnormal vocalization and chewing or biting during sleep.”
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Also known as doggy dementia, canine cognitive dysfunction can cause sleep disturbances in older dogs. This one is harder to spot and can be confused with other diseases in older dogs, like arthritis.
“They may struggle to fall asleep, move about restlessly and wake up many times throughout the night. Other signs will include staring into space, confusion, and incessant barking. While there is no cure for this condition, dogs can usually be well managed with lifestyle changes and certain medicines and supplements,” says Dr. Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon and consultant for FiveBarks.
If you think your dog may be suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction, make sure you consult your vet on what to do next.
Here’s How to Tell if Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Sleep
Like humans, sleep is essential for your dog, and there are consequences if they don’t get enough. If dogs don’t get enough sleep, there’s an increased risk of obesity, weakened immunity, and illness. “Chronic sleep deprivation may alter a dog’s immune function and leave them more open to chronic infections. You may find your pooch picks up every cough going or has started to develop gunky eyes and chronic ear infections,” says Dr. Simon.
Admittedly, you might not be able to tell what’s going on in their bodies, but there are some outward signs of sleep deprivation. You might notice they are less interested in things going on around them, like games or food.
Signs your dog isn’t getting enough sleep:
Forgetfulness or inability to recall basic commands
Having a hard time performing basic tasks
Tips to Help Your Dog Sleep Better
Establish a routine
It’s funny. Much of the advice we’ll give in this story is the same for dogs and humans — specifically the need for a consistent routine. Like people, dogs should have established eating, sleeping, and exercise routine. This helps your dog know what’s coming next. Many dogs get anxious over the unknown; having a routine you stick to will help them relax enough to fall asleep.
Make sure they have a comfortable bed or sleeping area
Your dog needs at least one sleeping option that is away from foot traffic. Keep them away from anything that might wake them up — like doors, children, or a busy kitchen. You also want to make sure they are not sleeping somewhere that is too warm or too cold. Additionally, if you’re a household with many pets, they should have the option to sleep with other pets or by themselves.
This might take a little bit of trial and error to figure out your dog’s sleeping preferences. Some dogs like to sleep directly on our heads, while others prefer the safety of a crate. According to a recent Slumber Yard survey, 40% of dog owners report letting their dog sleep with them every night.
Exercise your dog
If you want your dog to get the best night’s sleep, make sure they get enough exercise during the day. You won’t want to ignore the cognitive side of things. Dr. Simon advises that you should engage their brain with training and puzzles in addition to physically exercising your dog. It’s not rocket science; you’re making your dog tired enough to want to go to sleep.
Let them sleep!
Okay, this one can be hard, especially when they’re extra cute with floppy ears or exposed bellies while they sleep. Our instincts are to run over and hug them. We get it. Sadly, you or your kids might be one of the reasons that your dog isn’t getting enough sleep. Even when they are at their most adorable, you have to let your sleeping dog lie. Just think, do you like being touched when you sleep? Probably not. The same goes for your dog.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
Sleep deprivation can have a big impact on your dog’s ability to perform tasks as well as their health. In instances like sleep apnea or REM sleep disorders, just because your dog is sleeping doesn’t mean they get the quality of sleep they need. If you notice changes in your dog’s behavior or eating habits, consult a vet.
In the meantime, use these tips and tricks to make sure your dog is getting the best sleep possible.