How Much Sleep Should Your Dog Get?

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

sleeping dog

Story at-a-glance -

  • Most dogs sleep for 12 to 14 hours out of a 24-hour day
  • The major difference between human and canine sleep has to do with the amount of time in REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep
  • Humans spend about 25 percent of their night in REM sleep, compared to about 10 percent for dogs
  • Generally speaking, your dog will listen to her body and sleep when she needs it, but don’t expect her to nod off for a solid eight-hour stretch
  • During an eight-hour nighttime period, dogs averaged 23 sleep-wake episodes, with the average sleep-wake cycle consisting of 16 minutes asleep followed by five minutes awake

Dogs’ sleeping patterns are remarkably similar to humans, but while you need about eight hours of sleep a night, your dog may sleep for 12 to 14 hours out of a 24-hour day. Some of this will be at night, which is why your dog probably curls up to slumber when you do, but your dog will also nod off during the day. How long she sleeps overall depends on a number of factors, including her age, breed and health status.

The major difference between human and canine sleep has to do with the amount of time in REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep. During REM sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep, your brain is active and you may dream. REM sleep also plays a role in learning and memory. Humans spend about 25 percent of their night in REM sleep, compared to about 10 percent for dogs.1

“The result is that they need more total sleep in order to log enough of the restorative kind that they need,” according to the National Sleep Foundation.2

Your Dog May Spend 50 Percent of the Day Asleep

It’s not unusual for dogs to spend half of a 24-hour period sound asleep. However, you needn’t worry about getting your dog to bed on time or up by a certain hour. While humans thrive by having a set sleep-wake schedule, dogs are much more flexible sleepers. Generally speaking, your dog will listen to her body and sleep when she needs it, but don’t expect her to nod off for a solid eight-hour stretch.

If it seems like your dog can go from deep sleep to alert in the blink of an eye, and in response to even the slightest noise or disruption, it’s not in your head. During an eight-hour nighttime period, one study found that dogs averaged 23 sleep-wake episodes, with the average sleep-wake cycle consisting of 16 minutes asleep followed by five minutes awake.3

As a result, the researchers pointed out that dogs’ frequent awakenings contributed both benefits and drawbacks for the humans sleeping alongside them:

“The pattern of sleeping and waking in dogs was quite different from that known to occur in humans. These different sleep patterns sometimes led to dogs being a nuisance to people in the neighborhood, but were welcomed by owners who kept their dog for protection as well as companionship.”

Age, Activity and Other Factors That Influence How Much Sleep Your Dog Needs

Like humans, each dog has sleep needs that are unique to her and influenced by a number of factors. Age is a big one, as both puppies and senior dogs tend to sleep more than other dogs. Senior dogs (11 to 14 years) were 17 percent less active during the daytime than late adult dogs (7 to 9 years) and 42 percent less active than early adults (1.5 to 4.5 years).4

Likewise, puppies also sleep more — up to 18 to 20 hours a day — because they spend so much time exploring and playing and need more energy for growing. Larger breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards and Great Pyrenees, also tend to sleep more than smaller breed dogs, perhaps because their larger muscles and organs have higher energy demands and therefore require more rest to function optimally.5 What else influences how much sleep your dog needs?

  • Activity levels — Working dogs, such as police dogs or service dogs, may sleep less during the day because they’re busy. Dogs bred for working, such as border collies, may also sleep less on average, simply because they’re wired to be more alert than dogs bred to be lap dogs.
  • Your schedule — Your dog will adapt to your schedule, such that she sleeps when you do. If you’re gone for a long period during the day, she’ll likely sleep more during that time than she would if you were home interacting with her. Likewise, boredom can also increase the time your dog spends asleep.

As Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Khan Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, put it, “They’re not strictly nocturnal or diurnal. They’re social sleepers.”6

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When Should You Worry About Your Dog’s Sleep?

If your dog’s sleeping habits change suddenly in either direction, you should see your veterinarian to rule out possible health problems. Diabetes, depression and hypothyroidism may contribute to excessive sleepiness, for instance, whereas cognitive dysfunction syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may make your dog restless.

Aside from obvious changes in the amount of time your dog is sleeping, it’s believed that dogs exhibit many of the same signs of sleep deprivation as humans (although there isn’t much research on this topic). This means your dog may become irritable, disoriented or unable to focus normally if she’s not getting enough sleep.

If you’ve ruled out health problems and your dog is still restless, be sure she’s getting plenty of vigorous exercise during the day, along with mental stimulation, such as taking an obedience class or engaging in nose work.

Food sensitivities can also contribute to restless behavior, so make sure your dog is eating a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. Your dog may also sleep better if she’s in your bedroom (be sure to provide a comfortable sleeping spot), and try using a grounding mat, which can help balance her circadian rhythm, and unplug wireless routers to give her a break from EMFs.

As long as your dog has periods of activity, inactivity (where she’s awake but not necessarily active) and sleep during the day, and sleeps mostly at night when you do, there’s no need to stress over how many hours of sleep your dog is logging each night. Most dogs will naturally sleep when they need to.