How much do dogs sleep?
Sleep plays a super important role in the health of your pooch. Dogs sleep an average of 12-14 hours a day: 16-18 hours per day for large dogs and seniors, and a whopping 18 to 20 hours per day for young puppies. So, why do dogs need so much sleep? And how can you ensure that your four-legged friend gets plenty of shut-eye?
Just like a person, a dog’s sleep cycle has two phases: light and deep sleep (also known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep). During REM sleep, dogs dream and process the events of their day. Their sleep cycle is shorter than ours and lasts approximately 20 minutes, which means it doesn't take long before they're well-rested. Even after a long, fun-filled walk, half an hour of sleep is all that your dog needs to wake up feeling fully refreshed. Dogs also spend less time in REM sleep than we do, and require more naps in order to reach the equivalent 'processing time' as a person.
Dogs do dream – most likely about the day’s events and emotional experiences: fighting, fleeing, hunting, defending, guarding etc. You can tell when your dog is dreaming: their eyes flicker under their eyelids, their paws twitch and they may even give a mini bark. Your dog is essentially reliving the day’s excitement – which is a super cute sight to see!
The importance of rest
Sleeping is extremely important for dogs. It maintains their concentration levels, boosts their capacity for learning and enables them to get the most out of their day. Dogs that don’t get enough sleep may become excitable, stressed, lethargic or even depressed. Sleep also has an impact on your dog’s physical health. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system, which can lead to all sorts of diseases. You must, therefore, ensure that your faithful friend enjoys plenty of rest between bouts of activity.
Quality of sleep
When it comes to sleep: it’s not just about the quantity; but also the quality. Dogs only enter a deep sleep if they’re completely relaxed. You can observe this from your dog’s sleeping position: if your dog sleeps on their side with outstretched legs, then you can be sure their whole body is fully relaxed and the sleep is top-notch. Your dog is even more calm and carefree if you catch them reclining on their back! On the other hand, a dog that sleeps on it's belly or curled up in a ball is adopting a more 'defensive' sleeping position that also maintains a warmer body temperature. In this case, your dog's muscles will be more tense, indicating a lighter snooze. That’s why dogs are more 'alert' during brief naps throughout the day. Read more about dog sleeping positions.
Dogs sleep the most soundly if they receive plenty of physical and mental stimulation: so schedule in daily long walks and indulge your pooch in mentally challenging play. Don’t have sufficient time to help your dog burn energy? Then book a dog sitter, who can provide walks, playtime and belly-rubs!
A well-earned nap after play time
Sleep deprivation can occur if your dog isn't able to enter a deep sleep, perhaps due to overstimulation, or excessive noise and distraction at home. Incorporate plenty of rest periods throughout your doggo's day, and ensure that there is a cosy sleeping spot ready to go. Poor sleep can also have a physical cause, such as sleep apnea. This typically occurs in dogs with shorter snouts, such as bulldogs and pugs. Have you noticed that your dog is sleeping less frequently and/or more restlessly than before? Then keep a close eye on their general health (daily activity, appetite, poop habits, coat health) and visit your vet if in any doubt at all.
Too much sleep?
As already mentioned, dogs sleep a lot. But can they ever have too much sleep? It’s certainly possible. If your dog is sleeping more than average, then it might indicate an emotional or physical problem. Dogs sometimes sleep out of boredom or depression. They simply don’t know what else to do! Excessive sleep can, therefore, be due to a lack of attention/activity, although you should never rule out underlying physical problems. Again, when in doubt, visit the veterinarian.
Where should your dog sleep?
This varies from dog to dog: some like to get their forty winks in a basket, others love plush cushions or an elevated bed. And most prefer a raised edge that they can snuggle up in like they're in a cosy nest. Left to their own devices, the majority of dogs will opt for your sofa or in your bed. Wherever your dog chooses to slumber, make sure their bed is positioned in a quiet, tucked-away spot that isn’t exposed to drafts or excessive light. Does your pampered pooch insist on joining you in bed? And are you happy to allow this? No problem! Dogs often sleep close to their 'pack members'. Do you spend a significant amount of time in one particular place, such as behind your computer? Then put your dog’s basket under your desk for guaranteed canine company throughout the day!
You’ve likely noticed your dog circling and pawing their bed before finally settling down to sleep. This is simply the equivalent of shaking the doona and fluffing up the cushions in preparation for the perfect slumber. So, let your dog get comfortable and cosy so they can catch those well-earned zzzzzzzs.