When we see our pups lounging around, sleeping half the day away, it can be hard not to look at our packed schedules and 20 unread emails and feel envious. “Rough life, huh, bud?” But why do dogs need so much sleep, and humans comparatively little? Do dogs really need that much sleep, or do they have nothing else to do? Keep reading to find out all about the sleeping habits of dogs.
Why do animals sleep?
To understand why dogs sleep so much, we need to understand why we need sleep at all. What happens biologically that requires us to spend so much of our lives in a dream?
According to the Sleep Foundation, allows our body and mind to recharge. We each have an internal clock that keeps us on a 24-hour cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. This rhythm is what tells us when it’s time to start winding down in the night and time to wake in the morning. Sleep allows our brain to sort all our memories and
Each night, our body goes through a cycle of the four sleep stages. There are 3 non-rapid eye movements (NREM) stages and one rapid-eye movement (REM) stage. In NREM stages, our mind is settling into sleep as our heart rate and breathing slows down. REM sleep is when our eyes dart back and forth and we have most of our dreams. REM sleep is also when our brain converts our experiences into long-term memories.
On average, dogs get less REM sleep than humans. For humans, REM sleep accounts for about 25% of sleep. By contrasts, dogs are in REM sleep for about 10% of the time they’re asleep. This lack of REM is because dogs tend to drift in and out of sleep and therefore will need more rest to compensate.
How much sleep do dogs need?
How much your dog sleeps depends on factors like age and breed. Old dogs will tire more quickly, and so will bigger breeds, as a bigger body requires more energy to do anything. Most dogs will sleep half the day, or more. Puppies may need 18-20 hours of sleep each day to adequately recharge.
In addition to sleep, dogs spend a large part of their day lounging around and not doing much of anything. This is called “loafing.” On top of sleeping half the day, dogs may loaf for 30 percent of the day, meaning the vast majority of a dog’s day is spent doing… nothing?
Is there such a thing as too much sleep?
Your dog sets their own sleep schedule that’s right for them, but there is such a thing as too much. A sudden change in sleeping habits can point towards an underlying medical issue, such as depression, diabetes, or hypothyroidism. If your dog is sleeping the whole day and won’t respond to things that used to get them excited, like food or toys, then you should consult a veterinarian immediately.
But for the most part, your dog will sleep however much they need. As long as they’re getting exercise and plenty of playtime during the day, then they’re probably sleeping the amount that’s right for them.
What if my dog has trouble sleeping?
Of course, you might be having the opposite problem. Some dogs just don’t seem to get worn out like others do. If you cannot get your pet to settle down at night, you first should contact your veterinarian to rule out any medical explanations.
You should also make sure your pet is getting enough exercise. Your dog should go for daily walks and have playtime, too. Make sure your pet has toys that they can play with even when you aren’t with them. If you don’t have the time in your schedule, consider finding a dog walker or doggy daycare.
If everything else is normal, your vet might recommend to give your dog melatonin supplements. Melatonin is totally safe and naturally occurs in our bodies to lull us to sleep. Melatonin supplements help those who need just a little more of it. There are many dog-safe melatonin brands to choose from. Just make sure not to feed your pup any melatonin for people, as it might contain additives that are safe for humans but toxic to dogs. Consult your vet and the packing for dosage instructions.