How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need? How to Know If Your Dog Sleeps Too Much

  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

As a new pet parent, you might wonder how much sleep your dog needs—and the answer can depend on a number of factors, including their age, breed, lifestyle and overall health, and more!

As a general rule, adults dogs will sleep for about 11-12 hours a day, according to Chyrle Bonk, DVM, veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers.

But unlike you, your dog won’t get all those ZZZs at once. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers, which means they doze off and on throughout the day. In short, don’t be surprised if your dog naps regularly. Every dog is different though, so some dogs will sleep for longer or shorter chunks of time during the day and night.

Your dog’s sleep patterns may take some getting used to, but understanding how dogs sleep can help recognize the early signs of health concerns, like narcolepsy.

Below, Dr. Bonk shares insight into dog sleep patterns, along with some irregularities you may want to discuss with your vet.

How Many Hours Of Sleep Should A Dog Get Every Day?

Age is the biggest deciding factor in a dog’s sleep schedule. In fact, Dr. Bonk says puppies may sleep up to 20 hours a day! Older dogs may also sleep most of the day away.

Dog Age Total Amount Of Sleep Ideal Sleep Location Percent of night spent sleeping Percent of day spent sleeping
Puppy 18-20 hours Crate or kennel 40% 60%
Adult 11-12 hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 70%-75% 25%-30%
Senior 20+ hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 60% 40%

Experts know less about sleeping differences between dog breeds, but Dr. Bonk outlines the following general timelines for teacup, small, medium and large dogs:

Breed Size Total Amount Of Sleep Ideal Sleep Location Percent of night spent sleeping Percent of day spent sleeping
Teacup 14-16 hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 70%-75% 25%-30%
Small 14-16 hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 70%-75% 25%-30%
Medium 10-14 hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 70%-75% 25%-30%
Large 18 hours Somewhere quiet, dark, and out of the way 65%-70% 30%-35%

Should you wake a sleeping dog?

“Let sleeping dogs lie” may be good advice: Dr. Bonk recommends not waking your sleeping dog, if you can help it.

Dogs and people go through similar sleep cycles, and dogs dream, like you do. If they happen to be dreaming when you wake them up, they may become disoriented, and they may lash out in confusion.

If you do need to wake your dog for some reason, it’s best to softly call their name to avoid startling them. You could also waft a tasty treat under their nose to make waking up a more positive experience!

Solovyova via iStock

Healthy Sleeping Patterns

Dr. Bonk says dogs, like people, go through rapid eye movement (REM) and slow wave sleep (SWS) cycles. Dogs, however, go through these cycles much more quickly, and they may go through 20 sleep cycles a night! People, on the other hand, usually have between four and six sleep cycles a night.

You may not always know just how much sleep your dog gets, especially if they tend to snooze most when you’re away from home during the day. What’s more, dogs are highly adaptable, so they might adjust their own cycles to better fit in with your day. In other words, they may bounce up, ready for some playtime, when you walk in the door.

According to research involving shelter dogs, dogs who sleep more during the day seemed more relaxed to shelter staff members.  So, if your dog doesn’t sleep much during the day, and they also seem agitated, unhappy, or resistant to training, it may be worth exploring ways to help them get more daytime sleep.

How to spot an unhealthy sleeping pattern

Like humans, dogs have a diurnal sleeping pattern: They’re more active during the day and sleep more at night.

According to Dr. Bonk, you’ll know they aren’t sleeping well if they wake up often or have difficulty falling asleep.

It may also help to pay attention to any twitching you notice. Dogs naturally twitch in their sleep while dreaming, but long-lasting or generalized twitching may point to a health concern.

Unfortunately, research on canine sleep issues remains limited, for the moment. But evidence does suggest an ongoing lack of sleep may affect your dog’s mood, energy, appetite, and overall well-being.

Whether your dog sleeps all day or not much at all, your vet can offer more guidance, along with possible solutions to improve their rest.

Why do some dogs have trouble sleeping?

The main reasons a dog will develop unhealthy sleeping patterns include stress and a bad sleep environment, explains Dr. Bonk. For instance, their sleeping space may be noisy or bright, or people and other animals may wake them up.

Your dog may also have trouble sleeping if they’re feeling nervous about a change in their schedule or living situation, or if they have separation anxiety when one or more of their parents is away. A stressed dog may wake up more often or have difficulty falling asleep.

Poor sleep can easily become a cycle, since sleep loss can add to your dog’s stress and make it even harder for them to get the rest they need. That’s what makes it so important to talk to your vet as soon as you notice your dog has trouble sleeping.

Sleep Disorders In Dogs

Sometimes, your dog may start sleeping more or less due to natural changes in their habits as they age.

But if your dog seems lethargic, unhappy, or agitated, or you notice other concerning signs along with changes in their sleep, it may be worth reaching out to your vet for more guidance.

Dogs can also develop sleep disorders, including narcolepsy, insomnia, and sleep apnea. Here are three important signs to pay attention to:

1. Your dog falls asleep suddenly

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that mainly affects younger dogs. If your dog is active one minute, abruptly falls asleep the next, and then wakes up again as if nothing’s happened, they may have narcolepsy.

This condition, which is usually genetically inherited, involves a defect in chemical neurotransmitters. Certain breeds are more likely to develop narcolepsy than others, including Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, and Doberman Pinschers.

A narcoleptic episode might seem alarming, but it usually isn’t serious and might not even need treatment. Of course, it’s always important to tell your vet if you notice signs of narcolepsy in your dog. If the episodes become serious, your vet may recommend medication to help reduce their frequency and duration.

2. Your dog sleeps very little at night

Plenty of dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. After all, who doesn’t love a good snooze in a comfy bed? It’s far less common for dogs to undersleep. So, if your dog regularly roams throughout the night, this behavior might point to an underlying health problem.

According to Dr. Bonk, a few reasons dogs might not sleep enough at night include:

  • Anxiety: Some dogs remain on high alert to protect their family as they sleep—especially in noisy cities or an area with lots of wildlife. Puppies, in particular, may feel anxious when they have to spend time away from you at night. If you don’t want them to sleep in bed with you, try putting them to sleep with a piece of your clothing to help them settle down for the night.
  • Physical health issues: If your dog has an injury, sore joints, or arthritis, they may find it painful to lie down for long periods of time. They may shift frequently as they reposition themselves to try and get comfortable. An orthopedic dog bed may go a long way toward helping improve their rest.
  • Environment: If you think household noises, other pets, or people may wake your dog up throughout the day and night, you can try moving their bed or crate to quiet, dark area. Keeping them away from potential disruptions could make all the difference.
  • Exercise: If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise during the day, they might not feel very tired at night. They might even have a case of the nighttime zoomies! To help them get ready for bedtime, you can try taking them out for an evening walk to tire them out.

If your dog’s sleep issues continue, a good next step involves making an appointment with your vet for a checkup.

3. Your dog makes strange noises or movements during sleep

Dogs that make loud snoring or choking sounds in their sleep may have sleep apnea. This condition is fairly rare in dogs, but it’s more common in brachycephalic dogs, who have shortened snouts.

These dogs have differently formed airways, which may cause difficulties with breathing during both night and day. They may also develop brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, which experts have linked to sleep apnea.

Your vet may recommend medication, oxygen therapy, weight loss, or surgery to improve airflow, depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s breathing issues.

On the other hand, if your dog barks, howls, chews, or violently jerks their limbs in their sleep, they might have rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. If your vet diagnoses this condition, they may prescribe medication to reduce movement during sleep and improve your dog’s sleep quality.

rfranca via iStock

How to Help Your Dog Sleep Better

Dr. Bonk offers a few tips to help your dog get the rest they need for optimal health:

  • Get the conditions just right: You probably like your bedroom quiet and comfortable, and your dog also needs the proper environment for sleep. Generally, that means a quiet, dark place where they won’t be disturbed, and don’t forget the comfy bed. Make sure the bed is the right size for your dog, but go up a size or two if you have multiple pets who like to snooze together.
  • Establish a sleep schedule: It can help to get your dog on a sleep schedule with regular times for napping and waking up. If you keep their mealtimes and exercise times around roughly the same time every day, your dog will always know what to expect—which can help ease anxiety.
  • Offer physical and mental stimulation: You may already know your dog needs daily exercise—but they also need mental stimulation to help ward off boredom. Puzzle toys and regular training sessions can help enrich your dog’s life and keep them entertained. Just take care not to pack your dog’s day with activities! Too much stimulation could leave them overtired.

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