Dog Sleeping Habits: How Much Do Dogs Sleep?
By Dr. Carly I. O'Malley January 02, 2020
Our pet dogs live pretty incredible lives. They have owners that feed them daily, bring them for nice walks, clean up after them, pet them, and provide them comfortable furniture to sleep on all day. Many of us look at our dogs and envy their lives, especially during our busy days when we would love to just be curled up at home taking a nice nap, like our dog. Have you ever wondered how much time your dog actually spends sleeping during a day? In this article, we will discuss dog sleeping habits and how their sleep needs might change throughout their life.
How Much Do Dogs Sleep?
Adult dogs between the ages of 1-7 years old sleep around 12-14 hours a day, roughly half of their day. Puppies between the ages of 0-1 years of age, and senior dogs over 7 years of age will sleep around 18-20 hours a day (NSF).
Dogs may spend a great deal of their day sleeping, but this is not because they are lazy. Dogs need to spend so much time sleeping in order to get the appropriate amount of restorative sleep (NSF). According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are four stages of sleep mammals go through. These stages of sleep include:
- Stage One
This is the first stage of sleep people experience when they go to bed or take a nap. This is considered a light sleep.
- Stage Two
This is the next stage of sleep and is still considered light sleep.
- Stage Three and Four
These stages are considered deep and restorative sleep. These stages of sleep are responsible for muscle and tissue repair, growth and development, immune function, and energy building.
REM is also known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep stage is responsible for learning, memory, and dreaming. It is believed that REM sleep helps organize and store the information you learned during the day. Adult humans have 5-6 REM cycles a night, with each cycle lasting less than an hour. REM sleep occurs about 90 minutes into sleeping for humans and is usually the sleep stage you’re in when you wake up in the morning. This explains why people wake up remembering vivid dreams.
Dogs sleep in short bouts. This means they spend less of their sleep time in the deep, restorative sleep stages. They sleep throughout half of their day in order to obtain enough benefits from these short bouts of sleeping.
What Factors Affect A Dog’s Sleeping Habits?
Dogs spend about half of their day sleeping, but there are a number of factors that might influence how much time your dog spends sleeping in a day. Some of these factors include, age, time of day, time of year, preferred sleeping location, breed, activity level, and health status.
Senior dogs tend to sleep more because their body is slowing down and they do not have as much energy. Senior dogs also may be sleepier due to age-related aches, pains, and illnesses. Do not be alarmed if your senior dog begins to sleep more as this is part of the aging process. Be sure to provide them a supportive, padded bed to sleep on to help with their aches. Senior dogs who begin to have abnormal sleeping patterns or who become restless and unable to settle should be monitored by a veterinarian for pain and memory loss.
- Time of day
Dogs tend to take on the activity pattern of their owners. They are likely to nap throughout the day while you are at work and sleep throughout the night. They are also likely to nap after periods of activity, such as after a walk or a training class.
- Time of year
Dogs may change their sleeping habits based on the time of the year. This may be related to outdoor temperatures. When it is colder and darker during the winter, dogs are likely to sleep more. Moreover, dogs may also sleep more in the heat of the summer. Other factors related to the time of the year may affect their sleep as well. For example, if you have kids that are home during school breaks, then this may change your dog’s sleep schedule. When everyone is away at work and school during the day, dogs are likely to spend a lot of time napping. But during the summer break when everyone is home and active, dogs are going to want to join in on the fun!
- Preferred sleeping location
Dogs love to curl up somewhere comfortable and have their preferred sleeping locations throughout the house. If you have multiple dogs, they may compete over the best sleeping spots or take turns using them. If you have a bigger dog or elderly dog, they may prefer to sleep in the softest beds and be unable to rest properly without supportive bedding. Some dogs love sleeping in their crates and may want constant access to their favorite napping spot. Each dog is different, and it is important to learn your dog’s preferences and ensure each pet in your household has access to a preferred sleeping location that allows them to rest properly.
Dogs have been bred for thousands of years for various purposes and body types. This can affect the amount of time your dog sleeps during the day. Larger dogs tend to need more sleep than smaller dogs. Working dog breeds have been bred to have high energy levels and a strong work drive, so they may need less sleep than dogs bred to be lap dogs.
- Activity level
Every dog is different and the amount of time they spend sleeping every day may be related to their overall activity level. Some dogs are naturally more active than others, despite factors such as age and breed.
- Health status
Just like humans, dogs who are not feeling great may sleep more. It’s important to understand your individual dog’s activity pattern and monitor any changes that may indicate something is wrong. If you notice sudden changes in your dog’s sleeping pattern or if they are sleeping more than 20 hours a day, you may want to take a visit to the veterinarian.
What Is The Sleeping Pattern Of Wild Dogs?
The sleeping patterns of wild dogs, such as wolves or African painted dogs depend largely on weather and prey patterns. Wild dogs need to expend a large amount of energy to obtain prey to eat and to defend their territory. This means they need to spend plenty of time resting in between these bursts of activity. Extreme weather, such as cold, heat, or heavy precipitation may cause wild dogs to sleep more. However, in general, domestic dogs and wild dogs have similar sleeping habits.
What Are The Sleeping Positions Of Dogs?
If you have a dog in your house, you are probably aware of the many different sleeping positions dogs have, and some of them can be very silly. In general, there are four sleep positions dogs can assume while sleeping. These positions are on their side, on their stomach, on their back, or curled up.
- On their side
Dogs that sleep on their side are typically pretty relaxed in their environment and feel safe. This position may also be seen in dogs that are hot, either due to the temperature or because they just had some rigorous exercise.
- On their stomach
Dogs that sleep on their stomach may just be taking a quick break and are ready to spring back into action at any moment. This position gives dogs the opportunity to jump up quickly.
- On their back
Dogs in this position are typically very relaxed and may be warm due to hot weather. This is a very vulnerable position for dogs, so if you often see your dog sleeping this way, feel good that you are providing them a safe atmosphere.
- Curled up
This is a very common sleeping position for dogs. It can be especially common in colder weather as it helps keep warmth close to the body.
Do Dogs Dream?
Any dog owner who has seen their dog twitching, kicking, and yelping in their sleep would say, yes, of course dogs dream! Dreaming occurs during the REM stage of sleep and it is believed that dreaming is the brain’s way of organizing information. There have been few studies done on how and what dogs dream about. The closest study that has been done was on the sleep cycles of rats. This study was conducted at MIT and provided evidence that rats have similar stages of sleep as humans, including REM sleep. Based on this information and observations of animals as they sleep, it is generally assumed that animals dream like we do (MIT, 2001).
Dogs spend about half their day sleeping, if not more. Dogs need to sleep a lot in order to reach the restorative stages of sleep responsible for muscle and tissue repair, growth, development, learning, memory, and dreaming. A dog’s sleeping habits may change as they age or may vary based on factors like time of day, time of year, sleeping preferences, breed, and activity level. Any sudden changes in sleeping pattern may be a sign that your dog is not feeling great and may need a trip to the veterinarian. The good news is that dogs are always game to take a nice nap with us no matter what time of day it is, so take a page out of their book and curl up for a nice nap with your snuggle buddy!
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 2001. Animals have complex dreams, MIT researchers proves. Accessed on May 31, 2019.
National Sleep Foundation (NSF). How many hours do dogs sleep each day? Accessed on December 30, 2019.
National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Understanding sleep cycles: what happens while you sleep. Accessed on December 30, 2019.