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Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much: A Dog's Sleep Guide

It seems like most dogs are either at 0 or 100 - one minute, they're running after squirrels and jumping like maniacs; the next, they're snoring away beside you all afternoon. Dogs all tend to sleep a lot, but how much is too much sleep for dogs? Here's what's normal and what isn't when it comes to a dog's sleeping patterns. 

Have you ever been jealous of a dog's life? Zero responsibility and tons of fun broken up by plenty of naps!

Dogs waste a lot of energy during playtime, so it makes sense that they need a solid mid-afternoon nap. But how much sleep is best for a dog's health? 

If you're concerned about your dog's snoozing habits, read more to discover how much sleep is normal for dogs of all ages, and learn some steps you can take to get your pup's out-of-whack sleeping habits back on track.

How many hours should a dog sleep per day?

Dog sleeping habits change with a dog's age - you're more likely to see a puppy or old dog sleep all day than a young adult doggo.

Most adult dogs will spend roughly 50% of their day asleep, or 12 to 14 hours total.

  • Senior dogs need a little more, at 15 to 18 hours a day
  • Puppies need the most rest, as much of their energy helps them grow - a puppy can sleep for 18 to 20 hours daily.
  • Working dogs and small breeds need the least amount of sleep. 

Sleep holds many essential functions for pups and adult dogs:

  • A dog's brain processes and stores important memories while it sleeps;
  • Sleep also aids body repair.
  • It improves energy.
  • Strengthens the immunity.
Therefore, all of that shut-eye is important!

Why do dogs sleep all day?

There are plenty of potential factors contributing to your pup's sleeping habits. Some are normal, and some are signs of an underlying health issue. 

REM vs. light sleep

The main reason dogs need so much sleep is that they are very light sleepers.

REM is the restorative phase of deep sleep that helps the body recover and rest: if you've ever slept for a long time but felt completely unrested when you woke up, your body likely didn't get much time in the REM phase. 

While humans spend 25% of their night in the REM phase, dogs only reach REM about 10% of their total sleep time. 

At one time, this was a critical evolutionary feature - dogs sleep lightly, so they're ready to awaken and become alert at a moment's notice. This tactic kept their pack or their owner's cattle and home safe, but these days, they mostly use this skill to alert the family when the mailman arrives each day. (Thanks, pup!)

So although dogs sleep often, they can still feel physically tired and need more rest throughout the day. 

Size

A dog's body size seems to affect its need for sleep. Large breeds tire out a bit more quickly, while smaller ones need the least rest. 

We suspect that small dog bodies are possibly just built more efficiently relative to size, as little dogs also tend to have longer life expectancies than big doggos.

Health issues and injuries

Certain chronic health conditions can sap your pup's energy as their bodies aren't running efficiently. 

  • Depression, thyroid conditions, and diabetes are all conditions that can cause a dog to sleep more often.
  • Older pups with arthritis may struggle to sleep if they're in pain, which means even less time in REM, and likely a need to nap more through the day.
  • When a dog suffers from an acute injury, its body focuses as much power as it can on healing the affected area - a pup recovering from surgery, a broken bone, or muscle strain may sleep a little more than usual. 

Lack of exercise

Like people, dogs need ample exercise each day to stay happy and well-adjusted. 

If your dog is chronically under-exercised, the energy that doesn't get burned builds up and comes out in other forms, like anxiety, which keeps a dog from sleeping soundly. 

Different breed needs

While we already know that small dogs need the least amount of sleep and large dogs need more, the purpose of a dog's breed also dictates how much sleep it needs. 

Dogs bred for working tend to be more alert and require less sleep and more exercise each day, while dogs bred for looks, not utility, tend to have more sedentary lives.

How can I keep my dog sleeping well?

If your pup is prone to an irregular sleep schedule, there are specific ways to keep them on track a little better. 

Create a sleep schedule

  • If your pup tends to sleep in each morning, set the alarm and make them get up. Although they may be resistant at first, a dog's mind and body thrive with a regular schedule.
  • Laying down the sleep law helps your pup recognize the pattern to know when it's bedtime and when it's not.
  • Use the last hour before bed as a wind-down routine for both of you - avoid play and excessive activity, take them outside for a final pre-bed bathroom break, and try to keep your pup from eating or drinking during this window so they don't wake up when nature calls. 

Look for changes in health

Keep an eye on your pup's behavior to make sure there are no health issues that could have suddenly changed their sleep routine. 

Pay attention to what they're eating, activity levels, and their general temperament. If something seems off, take them to a vet for an assessment and the next care steps. 

Exercise them daily

Exercise is imperative to keeping a dog's sleep patterns in the normal range. General exercise needs vary depending on the breed, so research your dog's breed to determine their ideal exercise levels. 

The physical exercise needs for breeds range from 30 minutes to 2 hours each day. 

Let them sleep in your room

Contrary to some dog experts' opinion, there is growing evidence that it's safe and healthy to have your sweet dog sleeping in bed with you. Co-sleeping can improve sleep quality for both you and your pup.

Get a bed ramp so your pup can get on and off the bed themselves, or, if you prefer, you can bring their crate into your bedroom so they can sleep close to you without being in bed with you. 

Puppy sleeping positions 

It's very entertaining to walk into a room with a sleeping pup and see what strange position they've wiggled themselves into - here's what a dog's sleeping position typically means!

  • Curled up. Pups use this position to sleep because it protects vital organs, makes it easy to rise quickly, and keeps their nose and body warm.
  • On their side. This position of exposure means a pup feels comfortable in their environment, used by dogs that tend to be easy-going and relaxed. 
  • Tummy down. Dogs with FOMO ‘(fear of missing out) use this "Superman" position to hop up quickly and easily, as they don't want to miss one single second of play. 
  • Tummy up. Dogs use this position to cool their bodies down on hot days and show extreme comfort and security. 
  • Spooning or snuggling. Snuggly dogs want to bond while they sleep and feel enough trust to sleep beside the target of their snuggles. 

Final notes: Are sleepy dogs healthy dogs?

The amount and quality of your dog's sleep can mean many different things. If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, always consult your local vet to check for sicknesses. We all feel better after we sleep and dogs sleep a lot.

Use our tips to keep your puppy's sleep schedule on track, and if you get a chance, research your dog’s particular breed to get an idea of what a healthy sleep and play schedule looks like for your dog!

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