A super common question, especially for owners of older dogs, is “how much should my dog be sleeping.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a robust amount of research around dog sleep.

Dog sleeping

As you likely known, sleep is important for overall health, immune function, mood and learning. If you are like me, you’ve thought “wow my dog sleeps a lot” but never given it much more thought than that until things start to change (either more sleep or less sleep).

What is a normal amount of dog sleep?

Dogs typically sleep 12-15 hours a day. They sleep about 60-80% of overnight hours (8pm to 8am) and 3-28% of daytime hours (8am-8pm). In addition to this, dogs spend much of the day time relaxing and observing the world.

Puppies tend to sleep more than adult dogs (play hard and sleep harder!). Large and giant breed dogs also tend to get more shuteye than smaller dogs.

As dog’s age you will likely notice that they start to sleep more. They may also start to sleep later in the morning. Senior dogs tend to take more frequent, but shorter naps.

What affects how much a dog sleeps?
  • If a dog is under stress it will affect their quality and ability to sleep (just like us!). Simply being in a new environment can reduce total sleep and quality.
  • Pain can both increase and decrease how much a dog sleeps. A dog that finds it too painful to get up and move around might rest more (but may not sleep). Or a dog that has difficulty getting comfortable may sleep less.
  • Sleeping with their owner has been shown to decrease sleep quality in dogs (this has been show to be true even if the owner believes that their dog sleeps better with them!)
  • How active a dog is greatly impacts how much a dog sleeps! Likely you’ve seen your dog have a marathon sleep after an extra long walk or a busy day!
  • Sleep disorders like narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea and REM disorder
  • Chronic health conditions such as kidney disease and Cushing’s
Sleeping puppy

When you should be worried about your dog’s sleep

As with most things, it’s ideal to know what the norm is for your dog in order for you to identify changes. If your dog was sleeping 2-3 hours in the morning and suddenly they are sleeping much more without an obvious reason (e.g. storm at night kept them up, activity that made them more tired) a check with the vet may be in order. Conditions like diabetes, Cushings and hypothyroidism can all affect your dog’s sleep and need to be treated by a veterinarian.

Ways to improve your dog’s sleep

Just like our own human sleep hygiene habits, our dog’s benefit from many of the same things. Dog’s are mammals and, like us, they have a circadian rhythm that helps to regulate sleep. Some ways to improve your dog’s sleep include:

  • Routine
  • Dark and quiet place to sleep
  • Sleep alone
  • Comfortable bed
  • Daytime exercise
  • Exposure to light during the day, especially in the morning

References:

1. Kinsman, Rachel et al. “Sleep Duration and Behaviours: A Descriptive Analysis of a Cohort of Dogs up to 12 Months of Age.” Animals : an open access journal from MDPI vol. 10,7 1172. 10 Jul. 2020, doi:10.3390/ani10071172

2. Zanghi, Brian et al. “Characterizing behavioral sleep using actigraphy in adult dogs of various ages fed once or twice daily.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Vol 8,4. 2013, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2012.10.007.

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