Who doesn’t love to sleep? Our dogs sure do. If you’ve ever lived with a dog, there’s no doubt you’ve noticed that they tend to sleep a lot — so much so that we sometimes worry if they are sleeping too much!
When humans sleep the amount of time as dogs do, it’s typically a sign that something is wrong. Whether it’s mental health issues or illness, we shouldn’t be in bed all day while healthy.
Dogs, on the other hand, have much higher norms in terms of time sleeping and relaxing each day. Part of our responsibility as pet parents is to understand our dog’s sleep needs and help them develop a healthy balance between resting and being active.
Today, Spot Pet Insurance is back to help you do just that! We’re going to outline all the most important information regarding dogs and their sleep patterns. You’re learning about the amount of sleep dogs need, how to set a proper sleep schedule for them, and whether certain habits might be problematic or not.
How much sleep should a dog normally get?
You probably aren’t counting every hour your dog sleeps, but it seems like they’re lying around almost all day, right?
If so, this is totally normal. Most dogs sleep for approximately 50% of the day and remain inactive for a total of 80% of the day, leaving only 20% of the day for waking activity.
However, numerous factors could change these numbers. Primarily, a dog’s age affects their sleeping needs and habits. As puppies, dogs are growing and need more sleep than at any other time of their life.
As adults, dogs settle into a normal sleeping routine, which increases gradually as they become older, unless certain health conditions (more common in senior dogs) interrupt things.
The breed can also play a role in sleep needs. Large dog breeds like Newfoundlands tend to need more sleep, likely to keep up with the increased energy demands of their big bodies. Working dogs tend to snooze less and have a higher activity level.
Your dog needs to get enough sleep to maintain a healthy immune system and maintain their energy levels. A lack of sleep could disrupt a dog’s health and happiness.
Since age is the most significant factor that can influence a dog’s sleep patterns, let’s break down the three main stages of a dog’s life and how those stages affect sleep.
Puppies require the most sleep compared to adults and seniors, and it’s no surprise why. Puppies grow rapidly from their tiny newborn selves to young adults in the short time of just one or two years for most breeds. This fast and furious growth doesn’t happen on its own!
This may seem like a lot to us, and we may even be a bit jealous. We must remember this amount of sleep is a biological necessity for our puppies, not a sign of laziness or boredom.
It’s important to allow your puppy to sleep when they want to. Don’t try and force your puppy to be awake for longer than they need to. Typically most puppies are very energetic during their active hours, so you’ll have plenty of puppy play time between the constant naps (which can number 20 or more throughout a day).
Adult dogs sleep for approximately 50% of their day (about 12 hours), typically at night or whenever you sleep.
They also relax for about a third of the day, which can measure around seven or eight hours. This relaxation time might look like sleep to us, but it’s really with “one eye open.”
In this stage, dogs are more or less lounging about, preserving energy and taking it easy. They aren’t actually going through sleep cycles, however, and they are ready to jump up and be active at a moment’s notice.
Since this schedule adds up to about 20 hours of little to no activity and a meager four or so hours of waking activity (only 20% of the day), you might worry your adult dog isn’t active enough.
However, this balance is normal for most dog breeds. Some breeds will prefer to be active longer, especially working breeds such as Australian shepherds, while larger breeds may need more sleep.
Older dogs sleep more than adults since they have less physical energy and need more time to recharge. Like humans, aging dogs tend to slow down, so increased sleep habits can be considered a normal part of the aging process.
What is the best sleep schedule for a dog?
Humans have certain sleep schedules that are best for our bodies, so how about dogs? You’ve probably noticed that your dog sleeps during the day a lot. You might be wondering if this is healthy for them.
Polyphasic vs. monophasic and biphasic sleep behavior
Dogs are polyphasic, which means they sleep throughout the day for varying periods of time.
In contrast, most humans are monophasic, meaning we sleep all at once for a long time. Biphasic sleep schedules are also common, involving two periods of sleep throughout the day. A biphasic schedule might look like a primary sleep period at night, and an extended nap during the day, for example.
With this in mind, you can expect your dog to have a fairly irregular sleep schedule. If they’re sleeping at seemingly random times of the day and napping on and off again, this isn’t a cause for concern.
Can dogs adapt to new sleep schedules?
At the same time, dogs do tend to adapt to our schedules to some degree. Your dog likely wants to be active during the times of day you are most likely to play and interact with them, so they may adjust their sleeping and waking schedule around you.
Many owners notice their dogs wake up in the morning right before they do, as though their sixth sense tells them it’s about to be breakfast time. This is not unusual at all for dogs!
Your dog may appreciate it if your schedule is consistent, but they can adapt to schedule changes when it comes to sleep since they are polyphasic creatures.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your doggy’s desire to play and go for walks at certain times of day, remember that you can have control over this aspect of their schedule. Simply ignore them when you are busy in order to teach them that it isn’t playtime yet. Your dog should quickly adapt and learn when play is appropriate.
Do dogs have sleep cycles?
Like humans, dogs sleep in different cycles. SWS (slow-wave sleep) is the earliest stage of sleep. During this time, slow and relaxed brain waves help the body set into sleep, but it’s still easy to be woken up. The muscles are ready to go if needed, although the brain is slowed down. We might call this light sleep.
Deep sleep starts in the REM stage, where rapid eye movements (REM) mark accelerated, irregular brain waves. While the muscles have now kicked back, the brain is heightened at this time.
These sleep cycles are shorter for dogs than for humans. While our sleep cycles typically last approximately 90 minutes, dogs shift between stages of sleep about every 45 minutes.
Do dogs dream?
Have you noticed your furry friend seems to whimper, bark, lick, or whine while dozing in their dog bed? Perhaps they kick their little legs, and their eyes move back and forth under their eyelids?
These are signs of REM sleep, not necessarily something to worry about. Scientific evidence suggests these signs occur while dogs dream since the electrical activity in the brain closely resembles what we humans sleepers display while we dream.
Unfortunately, we may never know exactly what our dogs are dreaming, but it’s safe to assume they do dream. Like humans, dog dreams most likely pertain to their experiences during the day — perhaps they chase squirrels in their dreams or practice the tricks they do for treats.
If you see your dog kicking and whining in their sleep, you shouldn’t worry. It’s extremely unlikely these are signs of seizure, so it’s best to let your dog enjoy their deep sleep and keep on dreaming.
Is too much sleep a sign of a problem?
In most cases, excessive sleep isn’t necessarily a problem. Rather, look at how your dog acts when they are awake. If they seem lethargic, weak, or intolerant of exercise, this could be a sign of a number of health conditions, especially if their inactivity is in contrast to their normal waking behavior.
If your dog normally jumps up to play with you after their nap but instead continues to lay around and seems unenthusiastic about play, this personality shift could be a sign of a health problem.
The same can be said if your dog is only active for a very short time between naps before returning to their bed to sleep again.
Keep an eye on their appetite, especially puppies, since they need to eat a lot to grow healthy. If your pup prefers to lay around, doesn’t show interest in their dog food, or stops eating early, this could definitely be cause for concern.
Dogs are creatures of habit, so an irregular behavior that deviates from your dog’s regular routine, especially if that irregularity repeats itself, should be looked into. In other words, you probably don’t need to worry about your dog’s sleeping habits unless those habits suddenly change.
Reasons for changes in sleep could vary. Serious conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, or hypothyroidism could all be at fault. Anytime you notice a significant or sudden change in your dog’s sleep schedule or other habits, consult a trusted veterinarian without delay.
We hope this guide has helped you understand your dog’s sleep habits so you can care for them in the best way possible. For more resources, check out our Blogbowl!