Why does my dog sleep so much (and is it healthy)?

Your dog loves sleep – and no wonder!

It’s normal for your dog to sleep between 10-14 hours per day. The typical outline of a dog’s day will be divided up like this: 50% is spent sleeping, 30% is spent in restful consciousness while 20% will be spent in activity. It’s completely normal for your dog to spend large parts of the day asleep, but if you have noticed your dog’s sleeping habits have changed recently, always consult a vet for expert advice. 

If you have an extremely active and excitable dog, you may be reading this and thinking, ‘that this doesn’t sound very accurate!’ That might be because dogs are very flexible when they need to get their resting hours in. They don’t need to have the same set schedule that humans do in order to enjoy the benefits of sleep. Let’s demystify the world of canine sleeping and find out why you really should let sleeping dogs lie!


Benefits of sleep for dogs

If you have a puppy, you’ll know that they do little else apart from sleep (and their obsession with sleep may even spill over to your bed and pillow too). This is to be expected because their little brains are a hive of activity, and they need to be in a state of unconsciousness to allow their minds and bodies to develop. 

Think of how much information they are absorbing every minute of every day – so many new smells, people and places. They’re growing all the time and making new neural connections. This takes a lot of energy, which comes from sleep. That’s why it’s normal for puppies to sleep between 16 – 20 hours every day. 

Sleeping habits can tell you a lot about the health of your puppy. If you feel that they aren’t alert during their waking hours, or they’re sleeping more than 20 hours per day, it could be a sign that something could be wrong, so consult your vet.

Have you ever wondered what your dog is dreaming about when their legs are twitching and they’re moving about unconsciously? You’re not alone! There is some evidence that shows dogs dream about humans in their sleep – how to please them and thinking about happy memories with them. As if we needed more evidence of the purity and wonderfulness of dogs! 

We all know that sleep is vital for multiple health reasons. When we sleep, our bodies have time to repair themselves, we have healthier immune systems and we will be better able to fight off sickness. 

It’s the same for your dog – so remember not to disrupt them, no matter how cute they are!


How your dog’s mind works when they’re sleeping

When your dog is asleep, you might be able to view the signs of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in their reactions. One sign is when they are ‘running’ while sleeping, twitching, making noises or breathing quicker than normal. This means that the brain is working similarly to when they are awake, but they are actually under a sleep paralysis that keeps them in place. 

The reason that we all have REM sleep is to give the neurons in our brains an opportunity to communicate with each other and maintain healthy connections. This is what contributes to us learning and creating memories. It’s the same with dogs – if you’ve just spent time teaching them how to sit – stay – rollover – beg – speak! Then you’ll need to give them time to sleep and create the connections in their brain that remind them how to do this again in the future. 

Another question that lots of people wonder is – why does my dog sleep in this position, and does it mean anything? Dog sleep experts give their insights on some of the most common poses. 

If your dog is prone to napping with his head resting on his paws (similar to a lion’s sleeping position), it’s likely that they are just dozing and not in a deep sleep.

Is your dog a side sleeper? This is the most common pose. Dogs sleep like this when they feel safe and secure in their environment, and it also enables them to relax their muscles for optimal comfort.

Does your dog like to curl up like a hedgehog into a little ball? Dogs can sleep like this to regulate their temperature or when they want to make themselves look as small as possible. This is also one of the most common sleeping positions of dogs in shelters. 

Another common position that you’ll notice (and often will laugh at!) is the ‘superman’ position, when the dog stretches out their front and back legs and lies with their stomach facing down. Scientists believe this option is influenced by temperature regulation needs.


Is it safe to sleep with your pet?

Now that we have established that the normal and healthy sleeping patterns of our wonderful canine companions, it’s time to look at another very common question that comes up for dog owners – should you allow your dog to sleep with you in your bed?

The short answer is yes, there are no reasons why you shouldn’t sleep with your pet. But of course, there are quite a few common misconceptions that we need to clear up.

The first is whether your dog should stay under the covers with you and the answer is a definitive no. Unless they are suffering from extreme coldness or other illness, your dog’s hair is perfectly capable of regulating their heat. They possibly see you as naked without any fur and they certainly won’t need to steal your blankets!

It’s a common myth that it’s dangerous to sleep with a dog, and certainly, this was the advice given in the pas by veterinary experts. However, times change and the more research that is completed on our lovely pets, the more we understand their inner lives.

Your dog sleeping on the same bed doesn’t promote poor behavior, in fact it actually allows your pet more time with the one person they love more than anyone on the planet. 

Of course, if your dog is a rescue dog or you’re working through some other behavioural issues with them, it might be more appropriate for them to have their own defined sleeping space. 

The most important points to remember are that your pet should be healthy enough to sleep with you (so that nothing will be transmitted to you while you’re asleep) and also considerations around pet hair and allergies. This also applies both ways. If you have any transmittable illnesses, experts state that you should take care not to sleep with your pet just to be on the safe side.

As a pet owner, you will be glad to know that recent research from the Centre for Disease Control states that there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in spreading the virus. 


Your dog loves sleep – that’s great!

To recap: think of your dog as a two-year old toddler. They need lots of mental stimulation, love and affection, and above all, lots and lots of sleep! The more that you invest in your dog to ensure they are happy and healthy, the more benefits you will see as a responsible pet owner.

There’s no need to feel guilty if you notice your dog traipsing off for a snooze – they’re not incredibly bored of you, they’re just responding to their natural instincts and getting some quiet time can only be good for you – until they wake up again!

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