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Should dogs sleep in the dark?

Should dogs sleep in the dark?

We know that darkness is important for human sleep, but what about our dogs? Do they need to sleep in the dark? Is it ok to keep a light on for them? 

Should dogs sleep in the dark?

This question isn’t easy to answer. We can’t ask our dogs whether they want the light on or off, so it’s up to us to figure it out. 

Can Dogs Sleep With Light?

You have certainly seen your dog sleeping with lights on. In fact, you’ve probably seen them sleeping in bright light or even sunlight. Dogs do not sleep in a continuous manner like people do. Instead, they will sleep at intervals throughout the day and night. 

Most dogs will sleep for the longest period at night. However, they still require sleep during the day as well.

People can also sleep during the day or with the light on, but they sleep better in the dark. Do dogs sleep better in the dark, or can they sleep just as well with the lights on? 

The wolves that our dogs are descended from are nocturnal animals. This means they sleep during the day and hunt at night. However, since dogs have been domesticated, they have adopted our schedule to an extent. Now, they sleep most of the night. 

Do their nocturnal ancestors mean they sleep better during the day or in the light, or have they adapted to sleep better at night? 

It’s impossible to say for sure, but it’s believed that dogs will sleep better in the dark in most circumstances. 

Circadian Rhythms

One reason why dogs may sleep better in the dark is circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are present in most animals. This means that they are active or perform certain behaviors at certain times of day, and sleep during others. It’s a biological instinct that nature created to ensure each animal does what it should at the appropriate time. 

Dogs’ circadian rhythm is different from that of people. They are most active in mid-morning and early evening. They spend a significant portion of the day and night either sleeping or in a drowsy, relaxed state. 

Our circadian rhythm instructs us to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Dogs don’t rely on their circadian rhythm the same way we do. Instead, they are social sleepers. 

This means that they adopt the sleep schedule of those around them. For a pack, this means most animals will sleep around the same time, while one may stand guard. For domesticated dogs, this means they will naturally sleep when their owner sleeps. 

Dog Sleep Cycles

Humans are designed to sleep at night, and to sleep through the night. We spend 25% of our time in REM sleep, which is considered the most restful and important.

It takes us 90 minutes to transition to REM during a sleep cycle. We will go through the stages of sleep, from light sleep to deep REM sleep, several times each night. 

Dogs, on the other hand, sleep in shorter cycles. They can easily fall asleep and wake up. Humans sleep for 6-9 hours at a time, while dogs only sleep for 45 minutes. They experience two sleep cycles during this short time. They spend approximately 10% of their sleep time in REM sleep, which is much less than humans. 

This sleeping style allows them to stay alert in the wild. They can sleep for a short time, and then check for predators before returning to sleep. They often have periods of dozing when they are awake as well. 

Are dogs ok in the dark?

Most dogs are ok in the dark. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Dogs with a fear of the dark will have a tough time with the lights out. 

Nocturnal Eyesight

You probably know that cats see well in the dark. Dogs can also see well, or at least better than humans. Both human and dog eyes have cones and rods. Cones give us the ability to distinguish colors. Rods gather light to allow us to see in the dark. 

There are a higher number of cones in the human eye, which allows us to see in technicolor. Dog eyes have many more rods, which give them better night vision. 

Dogs’ eyes have a  reflective lining known as a tapetum. This is in the back of their eye, behind the retina. The tapetum picks up extra light in low light conditions, allowing them to see better.  It essentially acts as a mirror that reflects light back into the eye. 

While most dogs have a tapetum, dogs with blue eyes don’t. However, they still have the ability to see in the dark better than you do. 

Just like us, dogs can’t see in complete darkness. Our eyes require light to see. When we see in the dark, we are simply using the small amount of light available. However, complete darkness is pretty rare in today’s world. If you turn out all the lights in your home at night, it will seem to be completely dark at first. After your eyes adjust, you’ll notice light from other houses and street lights. If you are outside, the moon and stars will provide some illumination. 

Fear of the Dark

Many owners are surprised to learn that dogs can develop phobias, just like people do. The most common fears for dogs are loud noises, like thunder or fireworks. Separation anxiety is essentially the fear of being alone, which can also affect your pooch.

However, some dogs are afraid of the dark. If your dog whines, barks, or tucks it’s tail when the lights go off, there’s a good chance they are afraid of the dark. They may cower or shake. 

Other signs your dog is afraid of the dark include scratching, chewing, and destructive behavior. If your normally well behaved dog chewed your favorite slipper or a pillow, it’s quite possible the dark triggered the response. Peeing and pooping in the house, particularly if they are house trained, can also be a sign of fear of the dark. 

Poor Eyesight

Another unfortunate commonality between people and dogs is vision loss. The most common form occurs in older dogs as they age. Progressive retinal atrophy, known as PRA, is a condition that causes the rods in the eye to degenerate. This affects their night vision. Eventually, they can’t see in the dark. As the disease progresses, the cones will also be affected. This can lead to complete blindness. 

There are two forms of PRA. Early onset and inherited. Early onset PRA occurs when the retina cells don’t develop properly, which causes them to degerate. Inherited PRA affects older dogs. 

If you notice that your dog runs into things at night, or has difficulty navigating, poor night vision may be to blame. It can also cause them to be afraid of the dark. If you’ve ever been in area too dark to see, it probably gave you some anxiety. Vision isn’t a primary sense for dogs as it is for humans, but the loss of vision can still be scary.  

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can also cause your dog to seem to be afraid of the dark. If nighttime means they are alone, because you are sleeping in another room, it might be separation anxiety and not the dark itself. 

Signs of separation anxiety are similar to those of fear of the dark, because both involve anxiety and fear. Some dogs will experience separation anxiety at night or when the owner is in another room, while others will have separation anxiety when they are left home alone for a long period of time. 

Signs include barking, whining, pacing, and shaking when left alone. Peeing or pooping inside is a sign for house-trained dogs. Being destructive is another sign, and includes biting, chewing, or scratching items they shouldn’t.  

Determining the Problem

The symptoms of separation anxiety, loss of vision, and fear of the dark are similar. So you’ll need to do some work to determine which one is the problem. 

Start with a visit to the vet. The vet will check your dog’s eyesight for any vision problems. If your pooch has healthy eyes, you’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities. 

Leave your pet at home alone with the light on. The best option is to have a wi-fi cam to observe your dog. Alternatively, you can have a neighbor listen for your dog. If your dog displays signs of fear and anxiety with the light on, separation anxiety is the issue. If they only react when the light is turned off, they are afraid of the dark. 

Where should dogs sleep at nighttime?

There’s no set answer to where your dog should sleep. It really comes down to your preferences and your dog’s needs. 

Sleeping With Owner

Studies reveal that sleeping with your dog has many benefits. It reduces depression and increases your sense of security. It can reduce nightmares and anxiety. Surprisingly, 74% of owners who sleep with their dog report improvement in their mental health. 

Of course, if your dog disturbs your sleep because they get up, sleeping with your dog isn’t the best option. If you both sleep soundly through the night, it can be a great bonding experience. 

Sleeping in Crate

Crate training is popular among trainers and many owners. It’s particularly helpful for puppies. Dogs don’t want to relieve themselves where they sleep, so crate training makes house training easier. It also keeps them from getting into trouble while you are sleeping. 

Dog Bed

You can also let your dog sleep in their own bed. A dog bed gives your pooch a spot of their own to nap and sleep. Giving them access to a dog bed allows them to rest comfortably when they choose. 

In Or Out of Your Room

Dogs are social creatures, and some need more companionship than others. If your dog needs lots of love and attention, allowing them to sleep in your room can help meet their needs. 

If you choose not to let them sleep in your bed, you can place their crate or bed in your room. 

It’s also OK for your dog to sleep outside your room. If your dog needs space or prefers to get up a few times each night, sleeping in another room may be your best bet. 

Do dogs sleep with lights on?

Yes, dogs can sleep with the lights on. It really depends on your and your dog’s preferences. 

If you don’t mind the light being on or off, you can simply let your dog sleep with a light one night. The next night, turn the light off. If your dog clearly sleeps better with the light on or off, that’s what you should do. If you notice no difference, it comes down to your preference.