Are you wondering if your pup is taking too many naps? Just how long do dogs sleep for? In this updated for 2019 version of “how long do dogs sleep” we take a look at what you can expect and why.
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 with apes and some monkeys. Dogs have 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 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. And of course, if you need to be awake during the day, sleeping at night is a pretty good plan.
Dog 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. In fact, hunting at night may have given them some advantages. It is easier to creep up on your victim under the cover of darkness.
Sleeping all night had no advantage for dogs, so dogs did not evolve a natural tendency to sleep for a single long stretch of time like we do. Instead, they acquired the useful ability to get as much sleep as possible, often in short stretches, whenever there is nothing much going on. You may have noticed that your dog wakes up instantly and is ready for action right away. This ability evolved so that they can defend the pack from a threat at a moment’s notice.
How Dogs Adapt to Different Patterns of Sleep
Dogs are 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. If your dog is not sleeping through the night and disturbing your sleep, consider whether he is getting enough daytime activity and stimulation.
Dogs have retained their ability to sleep whenever life gets dull. 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. But how many hours sleep does a dog need during each 24 hour period?
How Many Hours a Day do Dogs Sleep?
Dogs naturally sleep for longer periods of time each day than people do. But just like humans, sleep needs vary among individual dogs. Sleep needs also vary among different dog breeds. 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 during the sleep cycle. REM sleep is just one phase of the sleep cycle that both dogs and humans experience. 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 is removed from a dog, the sleeping dog will actually carry out the behaviors that he is dreaming about. So while we can’t say for certain that dogs dream just like we do, it seems quite likely that they do.
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. It is important to allow your dog to sleep deeply when he wants to and to not interrupt his sleep when he starts dreaming.
Some veterinary specialists speculate that dogs sleep more than humans because their REM sleep is often interrupted due to their ability to wake easily and quickly and be ready for action. Because of that wakefulness, dogs need more periods of sleep in which to get an adequate amount of REM sleep.
Should I Worry about Changes in Sleep Patterns?
If you are worried that your dog may be ill because he is sleeping so much, ask yourself what has changed. Is he sleeping a lot more than he was just last week? Or has he always slept this much? Is he bright and bouncy when he is awake? Does he have a good appetite? Or does he seem lethargic or uninterested in food?
Excessive sleeping in a dog that is eating well and full of energy when awake is unlikely to have any significance. It’s just what dogs do. And some elderly dogs tend to sleep more than they did when they were young. But if your dog’s sleeping patterns have changed recently, especially if he seems lacking in energy or his appetite is poor, have your vet check him over.
Make 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. While 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 somewhere free of drafts and comfortable, preferably lined with a cozy mat or blanket.
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 fullest. Just like people, dogs need deep REM sleep, and constantly interrupted sleep can be harmful. So keep your dog’s sleep space free from disturbances.
Placing your dog’s bed inside a crate is a good idea in families where there is a lot going on during the day. This helps prevent toddlers from 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? Where is his favorite sleeping spot? Let us know in the comments box below.
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Further Reading and References
Takahashi, Y. 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
Lucas E.A. et al. “Sleep cycle organization in narcoleptic and normal dogs” Journal of Physiology and Behavior 1979.
Campbell, S. & Tobler, I. “Animal sleep: A review of sleep duration across phylogeny”
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 1984
Adams, G.J. & Johnson, K.G. “Sleep, work, and the effects of shift work in drug detector dogs Canis familiaris” Applied Animal Behavior Science 1984
Fox, M. W. & Stanton, G. “A Developmental Study of Sleep and Wakefulness in the Dog”
Journal of Small Animal Practice 1967
“How Much do Dogs Sleep?” Tuck 2021
Coren, S. “Do Dogs Dream?” Psychology Today 2010
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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
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