Just how many hours dogs sleep for each day? And why do dogs sleep so much? In “how long do dogs sleep” we look at the curious sleeping habits of our dogs and puppies
We humans tend to sleep in long stretches, usually at night. This is known as monophasic sleep and it is a sleeping arrangement that we share in common with other apes and some monkeys.
Dogs follow a sleep pattern known as polyphasic. This means that they have multiple periods of sleep scattered throughout the day and night. A feature that they share in common with many other mammals.
The reasons for these differences may be partly due to our different lifestyles.
Our human ancestors were hunter gatherers and were heavily dependent on their excellent visual acuity. Therefore it made sense to hunt in daylight.
Your dog’s sleep patterns
Dogs on the other hand though less dependent on their eyes, have better night vision than we do. So their ancestors could hunt both by day and by night, if necessary.
It is easier to creep up on your victim under the cover of darkness.
Sleeping all night had no advantage to your dog, and dogs have not evolved a natural tendency to sleep for a single long stretch of time like we do.
Instead, they have acquired the useful ability to get as much sleep as possible.
Often in short stretches, whenever there is nothing much going on.
How dogs adapt to different patterns of sleep
Dogs are very adaptable creatures. Although your dog’s ancestors may have hunted at night, modern dogs have learned to live by our clocks.
And living with humans means that most dogs do learn to sleep the night away without disturbing their human family. Though they may wake and move around briefly during this period of time.
Dogs have still retained their ability to sleep whenever life gets dull. And studies of guard dogs have shown that dogs are not disadvantaged by being woken up frequently or working in changing shifts. They simply sleep when they get the chance.
How many hours a day do dogs sleep for?
Dogs naturally sleep for far longer periods of time each day, than people do.
Many adult Labradors will sleep for well over half of every 24 hours, and puppies under four months old may sleep as much as 20 hours a day.
Do dogs dream?
Dogs certainly appear to dream in the same way that we do. And their brains behave in a similar way to ours.
A study published in 2008 showed that REM or dreaming sleep decreases as dogs get older.
So it looks as though puppies dream more than adult dogs.
Sometimes when fast asleep, your dog will make twitching and running movements with his paws, and some dogs will give little yips and barks.
This is a normal part of deep REM or ‘dreaming’ sleep.
Studies have also shown that if the part of the brain that de-activates movement during sleep in humans, is removed from a dog, the sleeping dog will actually carry out the behaviors that he is dreaming about.
Let sleeping dogs lie!
We know that in humans, REM sleep is important.
Being deprived of REM sleep can cause unpleasant effects, and there is no reason to think that dogs are any different.
Should I worry about changes in sleeping?
Is he sleeping a lot more than he was last week? Or is has he always slept this much?
Is he bright and bouncy when he is awake? With a good appetite? Or does he seem lethargic?
Excessive sleeping in a dog that is eating well, and full of energy when he is awake, is unlikely to have any significance at all. It’s just what dogs do.
And some elderly dogs will tend to sleep more than they did when they were young.
Making a special sleeping space
Your Labrador, like all dogs, is able to awaken quickly from sleep and be ready for action, whenever an opportunity presents itself.
However, constantly interrupting his sleep is not a good idea.
Whilst many confident dogs will sleep pretty much anywhere, it is important that every dog has his own sleeping space. A place where he can go and relax when he wants to.
Even if your dog shares your bed at night, he should still have a bed somewhere in the house, that he can call his own.
It needs to be free of draughts and comfortable, and preferably lined with a cosy mat or blanket.
Elderly Labradors may need thicker padding to support their joints and you can buy orthopaedic beds for extra comfort.
How Long Do Dogs Sleep – A Summary
Dogs naturally sleep for long periods of time, and sleeping a lot is nothing to worry about in a dog that is active, enjoying his food and living life to the full.
So keep your dog’s sleeping space free from disturbance
Placing your dog’s bed inside a crate is good idea in families where there is a lot going on.
This helps to prevent toddlers climbing on the dog when he is trying to sleep, and makes sure older children don’t trip over him.
You can check out crate information here: The benefits of a dog crate
How about your Labrador?
How many hours a day do you think your dog sleeps? And where is his favourite sleeping spot!
Let us know in the comments box below
The Labrador Handbook is packed with facts and information about Labradors.
Pippa’s book will guide you on every aspect of Labrador health, care and training.
From puppy to old age.
Further reading and references
Y Takahashi et al. “A Model of Human Sleep-Related Growth Hormone Secretion in Dogs: Effects of 3, 6, and 12 Hours of Forced Wakefulness on Plasma Growth Hormone, Cortisol, and Sleep Stages” Journal of Endocrinology 1981
E.A.Lucas et al. “Sleep cycle organization in narcoleptic and normal dogs” Journal of Physiology and Behavior 1979. LINK
Scott S. Campbell, Irene Tobler “Animal sleep: A review of sleep duration across phylogeny”
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 1984
G.J.Adams, K.G.Johnson “Sleep, work, and the effects of shift work in drug detector dogs Canis familiaris” Applied Animal Behavior Science 1984
M. W. Fox,G. Stanton”A Developmental Study of Sleep and Wakefulness in the Dog”
Journal of Small Animal Practice 1967