Let sleeping dogs lie

Understanding dog sleep and dreams:

Carnivores sleep a lot more than herbivores, so dogs require a lot of sleep, even more than us hardworking (or hardly working) humans. Dogs are considered polyphasic sleepers — they sleep on and off during the day. As opposed to that, humans are monophasic sleepers (well, most of them) who get their required sleep in one long stretch of time.

A beige and white dog sleeps on a blue blanket, caressed by a hand
Do dogs dream? Yes, they dream like humans during the REM phase of their sleep cycle.

Quantity and quality of sleep:

So how much sleep does your dog need? There’s no straight answer to this, unfortunately. The amount of sleep your dog needs and gets depends upon various factors such as:

An indie dog appears to smile while asleep next to a person
Age, breed, exercise, environment, comfort, routine and health all determine how much sleep your dog needs and gets. Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash
An indie dog sleeps under a blanket on a dog bed, with her head on a pillow, cuddling a small white teddy bear.
The more comfortable your dog is, the better their quality of sleep will be. Some dogs use a pillow too, and that’s totally okay!

Causes for concern

Like humans, dogs are also susceptible to developing issues with sleeping. While most sleep issues can be resolved smoothly, some require extra care or may be signs of other, deeper problems with your dog. Dogs with disrupted sleep may be suffering from hypothyroidism, pain, endocrine issues or cognitive issues caused by ageing. Here’s when you need to get your dog looked at:

  • Erratic sleep patterns or sudden changes in sleep patterns. A little while into living with our dogs, we know when in the day they prefer to squeeze in a nap. Deviating a bit once in a while is okay, but if you see sudden changes often, it’s good to investigate why.
  • If you notice symptoms of sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Brachycephalic dogs (the ones with short snouts like Bulldogs and Pugs) can develop sleep apnea if their airway is blocked, and this can cause their sleep to be erratic. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where the dog falls asleep suddenly (for example, in the middle of play). Breeds like Doberman and Labrador Retrievers are more susceptible to developing it.
  • If you notice your dog waking up suddenly in a frightful or stressed out state. Something may have startled your dog, causing this reaction, but if this is frequent, you should talk to your vet.
A fluffy dog sleeps belly up on a wooden bed (for humans)
Too much or too little sleep, erratic sleep patterns, suddenly waking up and showing signs of sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy are all causes for concern and warrant a vet visit.

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