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If you’re a dog parent, you know they love to sleep. But why do they sleep so much, and are they really dreaming when you see their paws twitch in their sleep?
Keep reading to discover the answers to these questions and more.
On average, dogs spend 12 to 14 hours per day sleeping. Your dog’s particular sleep needs may vary around that range, depending on his age, size, breed, activity level, and overall health:
Wild dogs and wolves may sleep even more than domesticated dogs. They have to hunt for their food, which expends more energy. When food is scarce, they need to conserve their energy. An expedient way to do that is by sleeping.
The main difference between dog sleep and human sleep is how much time they spend in the different stages, as well as a dog’s tendency to sleep in bursts throughout the day. Dogs tend to experience sleep-wake cycles of 16 minutes asleep, 5 minutes awake – quite the contrast with our typical sleep-wake cycle of 7 to 9 hours asleep, 15 to 17 hours awake.
When dogs fall asleep, they enter deep sleep. Their breathing and heart rate slow while their blood pressure drops. About 10 minutes in, they enter REM sleep and dream like humans. You can often identify this stage because their eyes roll under their eyelids, and they may start twitching in their sleep as they dream of chasing after squirrels.
Since dogs are always on the alert to protect their pack from intruders, they’re able to wake more easily. It’s common for them to wake up before completing a full sleep-wake cycle, from deep to REM sleep. As a result, scientists estimate they need to sleep more often overall in order to get their sufficient amount of REM.
The typical dog spends half of his day asleep, and nearly a third of his day just lying around. The rest of his day is reserved for playing, using the restroom, and begging for treats.
Dogs are flexible sleepers. They have no problem adjusting their sleep schedule to their owner’s needs. If you work a 9 to 5 job, your dog may adapt to spend more of the daytime sleeping, so he can be awake and available to play with you when you get home at night. Working dogs like police or service dogs have more energy, and can stay awake for longer stretches of time performing their important duties.
Dogs don’t sleep as deeply as we do. That’s why they can wake up immediately if necessary and bound out of bed to raise the alarm for an intruder or gobble up the kibble as you pour it.
If you note drastic changes in the amount of time your dog spends sleeping, or he seems excessively lethargic, it could be indicative of a larger problem. Lethargy is a common symptom of diabetes, parvovirus, Lyme disease, depression, and hypothyroidism in dogs.
If a major upset occurs in the life of your dog, such as the death of a loved one or a big move, he may sleep more or less than usual. This is a normal reaction, as dogs find comfort in routine and a major change affects their emotional wellbeing, but keep an eye out if their sleep doesn’t return to normal within a reasonable amount of time.
Some dogs with shorter noses are also at risk for sleep apnea, which can make your dog more tired during the day due to experiencing less restful sleep.
Does your dog have a favorite sleeping position? Dogs tend to sleep in one of three positions, and they have a reason why for each.
Your dog may sleep in any of these positions with their back to you, or another human or animal member of the pack. In dog packs, dogs sleep to each other for comfort and safety, so consider this a high honor. Your dog views you as part of the pack!
Follow these tips to give your pup more restful shuteye.