Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?
While dogs may not be quite at the same level as cats in terms of how much sleep they get, many pooches will spend the whole night asleep – plus a fair few daytime hours as well. The amount of sleep that your dog gets will largely be determined by their lifestyle, exercise habits, age, and breed. Human beings generally have such regular and fixed sleeping habits that it may be hard to understand why other creatures are so different. In this blog post, we hope to go some way towards answers the question: why do dogs sleep so much?
The National Sleep Foundation state that it is normal for dogs to spend half of their day asleep. On top of this, another 30% can be spent ‘resting’, leaving only 20% for your dog to be active – but for many owners, it will feel like a lot more! Carnivorous creatures tend to sleep more than their vegetarian counterparts. There are plenty of different reasons why dogs sleep so much, so we need to look at some the different possibilities in detail.
Reasons Dogs Sleep So Much
- Age and Size Variations
The age of your dog will have a big impact on how much they sleep. Puppies sleep the most. During their waking hours, they dash around expending huge amounts of energy, before suddenly crashing out. Their bodies and minds are developing, so they need plenty of sleep to aid in this process. Older dogs also spend more of their time asleep than younger ones. Just like humans, dogs will start to slow down as they get older and their energy levels will begin dropping. Size can also play a role here. Larger dogs generally sleep longer than smaller ones. And certain breeds and just predisposed towards sleeping more.
One of the most common reasons why dogs sleep a lot could be down to simple boredom. If you think back to a time in your life when you had fewer responsibilities, you probably enjoyed more time in bed! Working dogs have to be much more active and alert, giving them something to focus on and keeping them awake for longer during the day. But most domesticated dogs have a relatively mundane lifestyle – apart from the times that you take them out for a walk or during your playtime sessions.
If you are concerned about your dog’s boredom, you can stimulate them by taking them on new walking routes, a different dog park, or by buying a new toy or two. It is part of the responsibility of a dog owner to stimulate both their body and mind. If your dog is still sleeping despite all the extra stimulation that you are providing, it is time to take them into the vet to get a professional opinion on whether there is something more serious going on.
- A Change in Environment
Dogs also react to changes in the people and environment around them. They are creatures who thrive on routine and habits, so if something major alters, this can have an impact on their sleep. Moving to a new house is something that is going to take a while for them to get used to. If they have just moved into your household, or there is more stress around – maybe noise from building work – this can cause them to retreat into sleep as a way of coping. You need to be patient in helping them to adjust and settle back into a routine. Another change which can have a significant impact is losing a companion or loved one – whether human or another dog. This can cause them to fall into a state of depression, which is likely to result in more hours spend asleep.
- Medical Issues
While we have already established that dogs sleep a lot, if this has become excessive, it may be because there are some underlying medical conditions here. Ill dogs tend to sleep more than healthy hounds. Plenty of diseases and age-related issues are accompanied by a change in sleeping habits. Other issues which can also result in more shut-eye are stress and separation anxiety. If you fear that medical problems may be causing excessive sleep, it is important that you have your dog checked out as soon as you can.
Diabetes is a common concern which can result in too much sleep. Hyperthyroidism is another one. Alternatively, there are the infectious diseases such as parvo virus or Lyme disease. Ultimately, you aren’t going to know until you get a professional opinion. And the sooner you do this, the sooner any required treatment can commence. If you monitor your dog’s sleep habits closer, it will be easier to tell whether or not there have been any significant changes to it.
Types of Sleep
Now, you may be wondering more about how your dog sleeps. Unlike cats, dogs tend to have a similar sleep pattern to humans. But they do tend to sleep longer than us, and their sleep is also more interrupted. This means that they will wake up easier, which is a habit that originates from their wild ancestors who needed to be on alert for predators.
Try observing your dog while they are sleeping to see if you can identify some of their behaviors. When they are getting ready to sleep, you may notice some circling around the area or even some digging. This also comes from dogs’ ancestors who would want to make a comfortable sleeping environment by trampling the ground around.
Sometimes, dogs will just drift off for a little nap during the day – perhaps due to boredom. During this light sleep, it is likely that they will still be on alert and their ears will perk up if there is any noise in the area. If you notice your dog is in this drowsy state, they may appreciate a game to occupy and entertain them for a while. You can tell when your dog has entered REM sleep when you see their body starting to move or you hear them making sounds like whimpering. Movement is actually more common in puppies and older dogs. Just like human beings, this is the type of sleep which is the most restorative. If you are worried that your dog is not getting enough of this, you could try providing them a more comfortable sleeping environment. When your dog is fully rested, their body will release and relax – and you are likely to see some stretching too.
Dogs can also suffer from nightmares, so if you notice that they seem distressed, you can try calming them down by calling their name and stroking them gently. If the movement in your dog’s sleep becomes excessive, it may be that they are suffering from a seizure. Try calling their name to wake them up if you think that the movements are abnormal. If you can’t bring them out of the seizure, you are going to need to seek medical help at the earliest possible opportunity.
When to Seek Help
It can feel tough to know whether or not you should be worried about the amount of sleep that your dog is getting on a daily and nightly basis. After all, many dogs spend a lot of hours a day fast asleep and there is absolutely nothing wrong. But there are a few common signs that suggest you should be more concerned.
The first one is if there has been a significant difference to your dog’s regular sleep patterns in recent weeks. It may simply be that your dog is getting older, but this is something which is worth checking with your vet. Also, if you have trouble getting them up in the morning, this is cause for concern. If your dog is sleeping so much that it is interfering with their eating and drinking, this is a clear sign that something is not right. And as we mentioned earlier, if you have provided plenty of stimulation and activities for them and they still want to sleep, there may be a more serious issue going on.
Also, your dog could suffer from sleep-related conditions such as narcolepsy, which has symptoms like your dog suddenly falling asleep without explanation during a play session, for example. Alternatively, your pooch could be suffering from some kind of night terrors if they wake up in a state of fear or distress.
Be vigilant with your dog and watch for any other accompanying symptoms such as lameness, lethargy, an unwillingness to exercise, and a change in eating and bathroom habits. Alternatively, there could also be some behavioral problems such as an increase in anxiety, stress, or aggression. If you are unsure, it never hurts to go to your vet to get peace of mind. The closer you pay attention to your dog’s sleeping habits, the easier it is going to be to tell if there are any significant changes.