Sleep is important for all animals, including your dog. You may be worried about waking them up from a nap. They may keep you up by waking up during the night. You may be wondering why they wake up so easily, and what you can do about it.
Why do dogs wake up so easily?
Few things are cuter than a sleeping pooch. They love stretching out in a ray of sunshine or sharing the bed with their owner. Still, living with your dog can sometimes feel like raising a toddler. They wake up very easily, and even wake you up during the night.
Stages of Sleep
Both humans and dogs have four stages of sleep. Stage 1 is very light. You slip out of consciousness and your limbs become immobile. You may have some awareness of what is going on around you, but it’s just background noise.
In stage two, pulse rate and brain activity begin to slow. In this stage, you are completely asleep, but not in deep sleep.
Stage 3 is called slow wave sleep. The heart rate slows to it’s lowest level. Your temperature and blood pressure drop. Breathing slows, and you have no real awareness of what’s going on in the outside environment.
Most parents have watched for this stage of sleep when putting their child to bed. Once they hear the child’s breathing rate slow and steady, they know they are in deep sleep and less likely to wake up.
Stage 4 is REM, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the deepest stage of sleep. It’s also when the brain is most active. This is the dream stage, which allows us to process events from the day. The conscious mind is asleep, and the subconscious mind takes over.
Both humans and dogs go through the same four stages of sleep. However, the time spent in these stages is very different.
Dogs spend nearly half their sleep time in stage 2 sleep. This allows them to wake up easily. A significant amount of time is also spent in stage 1. In this stage, you may wonder if your dog is really asleep. They may make slight movements. They may hear something and look up at you. When they see there’s no danger, they settle in and go back to sleep.
Your dog isn’t likely to wake up in stage 3 or 4. However, dogs only spend 10% of their sleep time in REM sleep, compared to humans, who spend 25% of their time in REM sleep.
Dogs fall asleep, and move from one stage of sleep to the next much faster than humans. They need to be able to sleep when they can, so they can easily sleep nearly anywhere. Falling asleep so often also makes waking up easily important.
Dogs typically sleep for 45 minutes at a time, and have two full sleep cycles in this time period. This is much shorter than humans, who sleep for 70-120 minutes at a time.
Alertness in the Wild
It’s believed that dogs’ sleep patterns vary so much from humans because of their survival instincts. An animal is at its most vulnerable when it’s sleeping.
Wild dogs and wolves live in packs, and one dog will typically stand guard while the rest sleep. Waking up easily is essential for survival. If a predator wanders into the pack, dogs must be able to notice the changes in the environment and respond. If they don’t, they will be attacked, which can be fatal.
Dogs often sleep for a few minutes to a few hours at a time. Again, this is because it makes them less vulnerable to predators and other dangers.
Do dogs mind being woken up?
This varies from dog to dog, and the state of sleep they are in. Some dogs seem happy to be woken up at any time, while others can be grumpy if you wake them.
Evolution and Breeding
It’s theorized that most dogs don’t mind being woken up because it was bred into them to be tolerant of it. The dogs we know today are the result of at least 14,000 years of human dog interaction. This includes humans breeding certain dogs for desirable traits, including a peaceful, tolerant temperament.
Evolution may play a role as well. It’s in a dog’s best interest in terms of survival to be able to wake up easily. It’s better for them to wake up alert and calm than sleepy and grumpy.
It’s likely that both of these things factor into a dog’s ability to wake up easily without being in a bad mood.
Dog’s Sleep Needs
Dogs sleep twice as much as humans. They spend 12-14 hours sleeping every 24 hours, compared to humans who average about 7. This means dog’s spend half of each day sleeping.
Puppies and senior dogs have higher sleep needs than adult dogs. Young puppies may sleep as much as 20 hours a day.
Sleep is important for your dog, just as it is for you. Your pooch may not mind being woken, but it’s best to avoid it when possible.
Consider Sleep State
Sleep state plays an important role in how your dog reacts to being woken up. If they are in deep sleep, they are harder to wake up. If you’ve ever been woken up from a deep sleep, you were probably grumpy. Your dog may be the same way.
It’s tempting to wake your dog up if they seem to be having a nightmare. We know that dogs dream, and suspect that they dream about their daily activities. Just like humans, dogs can have nightmares.
If you notice your dog whining in its sleep, chances are it’s having a bad dream. However, it’s not advised to wake your dog in this state. They may not be fully aware and attack thinking they are still in the dream.
Know Your Dog’s Personality
Your dog’s personality also plays a role in determining how they react to being woken up. If your dog is easy going and tolerant, they are less likely to be upset if they are woken up. However, if your dog is agitated or moody, they may object to being woken.
Wake Them Up Gently
If you do wake your dog up, it’s best to do so gently. Use your voice, and avoid touching them until they wake. Touch is more likely to startle them.
It’s best to let your dog sleep in most cases. However, if you are trying to get them on a schedule, you may need to wake them up so they can sleep at the appropriate time.
Why does my dog regularly wake up during the night?
It’s been a long day and all you want is a good night’s sleep. To your dismay, your dog has other plans. They wake you up several times during the night, leaving you grumpy and tired the next day.
Night Waking and Sleep Cycles
Dogs and people wake up frequently during the night. Humans tend to wake 2 or 3 times a night. Dogs wake up many times during the night.
The reason why we wake up is our sleep cycles. When you exit stage 4 of sleep, you move back into stage 1. This light stage of sleep is close to consciousness, and it’s common to wake up for a few moments. This is true for humans as well as dogs.
If you have a senior dog, cognitive dysfunction may be causing them to wake up during the night. Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive condition that is similar to dementia in humans.
As your dog’s ability to think clearly declines, feelings like fear or anxiety may keep them up at night. They may also lose their sense of when to sleep. If their sleep pattern gets confused, they may sleep more during the day and not sleep enough at night.
Medical issues can also cause your dog to wake during the night. Painful conditions are often the culprit. Arthritis can cause pain, particularly if your dog lies in the same position for a long time.
Urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal issues can also cause your dog to wake, because they need to potty during the night.
Puppies naturally wake frequently during the night. Very young puppies must wake several times during the night to drink milk. As the puppy ages, they will sleep for longer periods.
What to do about my dog waking up so easily?
If your dog is waking up too easily, there are a few things you can do to help them get their rest.
A comfortable bed can help your dog sleep soundly, particularly if they are older. If your dog doesn’t sleep in your bed, get them their own plush doggie bed.
Rule Out Medical Causes
If your dog wakes frequently or struggles to get restful sleep, it’s a good idea to get them a checkup. Your vet can check for any medical issues that might interfere with their sleep.
How can I get my dog to sleep better during the night?
You and your pooch both need adequate sleep. Getting them to change their sleeping habits may take a little work, but it’s well worth it.
Tire Them Out
You’ve probably noticed you are more likely to sleep through the night when you’ve had physical activity during the day. Your dog is the same way. Letting them get plenty of exercise during the day can help them sleep better at night.
Dogs require mental and physical exercise, so don’t forget to challenge their brain as well as their body. You can do this by teaching them a new command, giving them a puzzle toy, or walking them in new areas.
Feed Them at the Right Times
Most owners feed their dog twice a day, ideally 8-12 hours apart. You’ll want to feed your dog about 30 minutes after you wake up in the morning. If they associate waking up too closely with breakfast, they may wake you up early so they can eat. Allowing 30 minutes between wake up and breakfast will solve this issue.
Feed them supper in the early evening, at least a few hours before bedtime. This gives them time to digest their food and potty before bed.
It’s also important to feed them at around the same time each day. Dogs thrive on routine. If you forget it’s feeding time, your dog may remind you by going to their bowl once they are accustomed to the routine.
Stand Your Ground
When your dog wakes during the night, you’ll need to be completely boring. Do not play with them. Give them a bathroom break if needed. Keep the house quiet and the lights low.
If your dog doesn’t need to use the bathroom, it’s best if you can remain in bed completely. Eventually, your dog will learn that there’s no fun to be had during the late night hours, and they will go back to sleep.