Chances are that your dog is a champion snoozer. This post will show you why that is the case and how you can help your dog get even better sleep.
Why Do Dogs Fall Asleep So Fast?
Most dogs can fall asleep in 10 minutes or less, but they can also spring into action whenever something demands their attention.
Canine sleep patterns are similar to those of humans, with an important difference. We humans spend about 25 percent of our sleep time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when our eyes roll up under our eyelids and our bodies might respond to dreams. Dogs spend only about 10 percent of their sleep time in a REM state, because of their irregular sleep patterns.
Dogs can easily pass through the stage of slow-wave sleep, when their heart rate slows down, their blood pressure lowers, and they become less responsive to the outside world. But they can wake from any sleep state much more easily than we can. They make up for the decreased time they spend in REM sleep by napping as much as half of the day.
Do dogs normally fall asleep easily?
How much sleep a dog needs depends on breed.
Some dogs, like Doberman Pinschers, Siberian Huskies and Great Danes, have jobs to do. They may pull guard property, pull sleds, or stand ready to do water rescues. These dogs are bred to stay alert, and awake, long enough to do the tasks assigned to them.
Once these dogs have “retired” from their jobs, they fall asleep much more easily. They take more naps. Snoozing will be at the top of their to-do list every day.
Dogs tend to sleep best on a schedule. If a dog’s normal sleeping schedule is interrupted, for example, when you have to leave your pooch in a kennel to go out of tow for a few days, they have trouble falling asleep. Once dogs are returned home, however, they bounce back into their normal sleep schedule very easily. They generally don’t suffer insomnia.
Do some dogs suffer from insomnia?
Canine insomnia isn’t a common condition. However, some older dogs have trouble falling and staying asleep.
With older animals it isn’t unusual for owners to take the dog to the vet with one of the following complaints:
The dog may pace around a bedroom or even the entire house at hight. They may go through periods panting as if they were hot or anxious, even if the AC is on and there is nothing obvious to stress about. They may awaken their owners to take them outside for no clear reason, or, most annoyingly to the 60 percent of Americans who sleep with their dog, constantly need to “fluff up” their bed or reposition themselves in it.
Often the underlying cause of canine sleep problems is physical. The majority of dogs have dental problems by the time they are seven years old. Unless their owners have regularly brushed their teeth, dogs develop painful gum disease and tooth decay.
Many older dogs have arthritis, problems controlling bladder and bowels, and/or their metabolisms have slowed down enough they are cold at night. Poor night vision and decreased sense of smell can cause anxiety. And some older dogs develop the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease, canine cognitive dysfunction, which causes sleep disturbances among other behavioral problems.
A soft warm bed and an encouraging visit with the human family before bedtime helps most dogs deal with insomnia. The veterinarian may prescribe medications for pain and treatments for canine cognitive disorder.
Why do dogs wake up so easily?
The truth about canine sleep cycles is that they usually wake up very easily. About 10 percent of the time that dogs are sleeping they can be very hard to wake up.
In Stage One of the canine sleep cycle, the dog begins to lose consciousness. It’s not hard to tell when your dog is in this stage of sleep. Your dog will be lying on his belly with legs stretched out, ready to pounce into action at a moment’s notice.
Stage Two of the canine sleep cycle is a deeper state of slumber. The pulse slows down. If a veterinarian were to fit your dog with an EEG, it would detect decreased brain wave activity. Dogs spend a little less than half of their sleep cycle in this state. They are really “cat napping.” They aren’t fully asleep.
Your dog will signal how they feel about their environment during this stage of sleep.
Dogs in Stage Two Sleep may curl up into a ball because they are cold or because they feel a need to protect themselves. Or, if a dog feels secure in her surroundings, she may sleep on her side with her belly exposed. A very relaxed dog may sleep on his back with all four paws up in the air.
“Slow-wave” sleep (referring to brain activity) occurs in Stage Three. In this state, dogs don’t wake up easily. They will no longer respond to most noises.
In Stage Four, dogs go into REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep. This is the time their brains process their experiences of the day. It’s the time they form memories of the events of the day, and they form their attitudes about their humans. Even though this is the deepest and most restorative stage of sleep, a dog may move its legs and make shuffled barking sounds.
If you see your dog in Stage Four Sleep, try not to wake her up. This is when her brain is getting ready for another day. But if you see your dogs stretched out and ready to pounce into action, waking them up is OK.
What environment do dogs like to sleep in?
One aspect of healthy sleep for dogs is environment. Dogs prefer safe, quiet, conflict-free, temperature-controlled sleeping areas lined with a soft blanket or bed.
Part of what makes a location conducive to sleep for dogs is scent. A dog you have recently brought into your home will sleep more easily if bedding and blanket carry scents of the previous home. Dogs also seep better when they have toys in their bed that carry your scent or the scent of dogs they play with.
And because what goes in must come out, dogs are more likely to sleep through the night if they are given food and water earlier in the evening and have a chance to do their business before bedtime.
Puppies may need to recharge their batteries for 18 to 20 hours a day, longer than they can go without relieving themselves. Most puppies under the age of six months need to “go” at least every five hours. Establishing a sleep schedule, in an environment where bathroom functions can be performed without “accidents” makes life easier for everyone.
A rescue dog also needs to be put on a bathroom schedule that allows everyone to get enough sleep as soon as possible. Regular sleeping times are as important as comfortable sleeping places for dogs.