Why do dogs sleep so much?

A sleeping dog with their head resting on the bed

Eat, sleep, play…rinse and repeat. A dog’s life seems like an easy one, at least compared to ours! While we’re hitting snooze for the third time, it’s hard not to envy our four-legged companions who doze the day away. At a certain point though, you might find yourself asking…“is this normal?”

Because dogs spend less time in REM cycle compared to humans, they need 9 to 14 hours of sleep daily to be considered well-rested, in contrast to humans who only need 8 to 10. Canine sleep needs are influenced by age, activity, and health.

Differences Between Human and Canine Sleep Cycles

Your dog spends about 21 percent of their day drowsing. If that sounds like a lot–that’s because it is. You might get sleepy during the day, but the drowsiness exhibited by dogs may be considered a transitional or light phase of sleep.

One study followed dogs over 8 hours and observed that they averaged 23 sleep-wake episodes, consisting of approximately 16 minutes of sleep and 5 minutes awake. If this doesn’t sound restful to you, that’s because you’re not a dog!

Dogs in these sleep-wake cycles experienced both active and quiet sleep. REM sleep occurs in active sleep. While the function of REM sleep in land mammals has not been determined, it is known that long-term loss of REM sleep can result in physiological and psychological abnormalities. When dogs were moved to a new habitat, the study found that their REM sleep cycles were suppressed for a day or two before resuming normal activity, explaining why dogs need lots of sleep when adjusting to a new place.

It takes approximately 1 to 2 hours after falling asleep for us to enter the REM stage. We average 2.4 hours of REM sleep over the course of a night. In contrast, dogs take about 10 minutes to enter REM phase and average 2.9 hours of REM sleep over the day. What looks like a lot of sleep to us is only a little bit more rest than we get.

Puppies

It’s hard work being a puppy. A lot of learning and growing is done during this stage, which means lots of sleep. Up until about 5 months, your puppy may sleep between 18 to 22 hours per day–but not all at once, and not by themselves.

Your puppy may not automatically fall asleep when tired, which is why we recommend establishing a consistent sleep schedule early on. They are generally ready for a nap after activity such as playtime or a walk, and may need to nap as frequently as every hour. As a general rule of thumb, puppies can sleep at most the number of months plus 1, although some may start sleeping through the night early on.

Activity Levels

We exert enormous influence over our dogs’ sleep schedules, most obviously seen in homed companion dogs whose activities tend to fluctuate between weekdays and weekends. Laboratory- and shelter-housed dogs get less rest than companion dogs.

A canine sleep study observed that while our dogs sleep more than we do, 9 out of 14 of the dog owners participating unknowingly disturbed their dogs’ sleep, increasing their need for rest. Oops.

Age is the biggest factor in how much sleep our dogs need. A normal amount for a young puppy can be excessive in an adult. Mass–not necessarily weight–is the second most influential. Or, if it seems like big dogs need to sleep more, then you’re right. Environment is the third factor. All three of these determine your dog’s activity level, impacting how much sleep they need.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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