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Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Written By
6 min read

Updated - Feb 28th, 2022

Have you ever felt sleep deprived and watched your dog sleeping the day away while you toil on to complete your tasks? Have you wondered why your dog sleeps so much? Are you feeling jealous?

Dogs need more sleep than we do. We can get by with 6-8 hours of sleep per day, our dogs need twice as much. 

 Let’s look at the difference between our sleep habits and that of our dogs and see why dogs need so much sleep.

Sleep and Life Stages

A dog’s sleep needs change as they age. Puppies and senior or ailing dogs require the most amount of sleep. Large dog breeds like Newfoundlands and Mastiffs require more sleep than the average dog breed.

Puppies: They require the most sleep, and it’s understandable. Dogs learn while they sleep and puppies have tons to learn! Their growing bodies and brains require 18-20 hours of sleep per day. You may even notice your puppy flopping over to take a snooze in the middle of playing. However, as they reach around one year, their sleep habits will resemble an adult dog.

Adults: Adult dogs “appear” to sleep most of the day, but it breaks down to 50% sleep (done mostly at night), 30% in a drowsy, lounging state (one eye is always on you right?), and 20% of their day is spent being active. They will only spend about three hours sleeping during the day, the rest is that relaxed, lounging period.

Senior: Senior dogs will spend more time sleeping during the day to restore their energy levels and stay alert when their humans are around. Slowing down due to age means dogs need more amounts of time for sleep, even for us aging humans.

Sleep Cycles

We consider dogs polyphasic sleepers, meaning they sleep on and off during the day. They can sleep anywhere and anytime. Humans are monophasic sleepers because we sleep in one long 7-9 hour stretch at night. 

Both species enjoy REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep cycles, and non-REM sleep cycles (deep sleep). 

Dogs have short sleep cycles lasting only 45 minutes at a time. During that time, they will cycle through REM and non-REM sleep twice, spending about six minutes in the REM or dream stage.

Our sleep cycles last 70-120 minutes and we’ll cycle through REM and non-REM stages several times. As the night goes on, our REM cycles will get longer, unless that pesky alarm disturbs us.

As with puppies, all dogs sleep to learn. That new trick you taught Mr. Tappytoes? He’s going over it in his dreams and will have it perfected soon! This is also the time for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues. If your dog is active, or a working dog, sleep allows him to keep going day after day, waking up alert and ready.

What Can Affect Your Dog’s sleep?

Things like age, personality, breed, health and activity levels can cause your dog to either sleep deeper or be more restless. Let’s look at why.

Breed: Giant breeds require more sleep than smaller breeds. Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, Elkhounds, and St. Bernards are good examples.

Age: Puppies and senior or adult dogs with illnesses will sleep more with puppies sleeping the most, and in the silliest positions.

Exercise: Dogs who are active will sleep more deeply, with less relaxed or lounging periods. And, as an interesting fact about where dogs sleep: dogs who sleep indoors will spend 80% of the night sleeping, with outdoor dogs only sleeping 60-70% of the night.

Environment: Dogs also sleep better when they’re at home. I’m sure it’s because being away from home is just like it is for us, an unfamiliar place with lots of unfamiliar noises to protect you from.

Does Your Dog Need A Sleep Schedule?

We do better with sleep schedules, and our dogs do too. Puppies certainly benefit from a routine schedule, but as dogs age, it’s much easier if you and your dog share the same sleep schedule. 

Dogs are welcome in our bedrooms, and sometimes on our beds. There are sleep studies about how often this happens. 37.5% of our dogs sleep in the same bedroom with us. 86% of those dogs prefer to sleep next to us. That’s okay for most dogs, but a Newfie may make that bed seem mighty small!

If sleeping with you isn’t an option, a comfy dog bed would be a welcome resting place for your canine companion.

But what if your dog has trouble sleeping?

Do Dogs Have Sleep Disorders?

A dog’s sleeping habits can be horrible too. They can suffer from sleep disorders just like we do, and it can affect your dog’s health. Here are the most common:

Narcolepsy: If your dog falls asleep spontaneously at random times throughout the day, it may be narcolepsy. You should talk to your veterinarian during a checkup if you suspect this may be the problem. Dogs most likely to have this are Doberman Pinschers and Labrador Retrievers.

Sleep Apnea: Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pekinese are the most common dogs to have this. Their narrower upper airways obstruct breathing during sleep. If your dog is a loud snorer or has irregular breathing, talk to your vet to help improve your dog’s sleep.

Hypothyroidism: This happens when your dog’s thyroid gland underperforms, slowing down your dog’s metabolism. This makes your dog sleepy. This is definitely a reason to see your vet and have the thyroid checked.

Cognitive Aging: The mental decline of an older dog will interrupt the sleep cycles. Your dog may become disoriented, anxious, and forget the house-training once in a while. Your vet is an excellent resource to help with doggy dementia symptoms and improve sleep patterns.

Sleep Deprivation: Dogs who don’t get enough sleep can become aggressive, anxious, and stressed. Making sure your dog has plenty of downtimes will help keep that happy, boisterous personality intact.

How can I Help My Dog Sleep Better?

Dogs thrive on routines, and a regular schedule of sleeping, eating, exercising, and playing fetch with you will improve your dog’s sleep habits.

Letting them relieve themselves right before bed will ensure they sleep through the night, unless, of course, if you have a puppy or senior dog, who may need to go out more often.

Do you wonder what the most popular dog sleeping positions are? Here they are by order of popularity:

  1. Stretched out on their sides
  2. Curled up (likely in a bed too small for them)
  3. On their back
  4. With their head propped up (sharing your pillow?)
  5. 3.7% of dogs sleep with a toy in their mouths

That’s the skinny of sleeping dogs. They sleep more than we do, but a lot of that sleeping pattern is really napping. They spend much less time than we do dreaming, and make us all envious of their snoozing habits.

However, if you still think your dog is excessively sleeping or maybe not sleeping enough, talk to your vet. Dogs will hide illnesses, but sometimes a change in their sleep habits can be a good sign something is wrong.

Writer, Mom of a Fab Fur Fam of Five
Lynn is a writer and long-time Learning & Development Manager at a large PNW retailer. She's also mom to 3 dogs & 2 cats!

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