How to Help Your Dog Get a Good Night's Sleep
Should dogs sleep through the night and does it even matter if they're getting enough rest throughout the day?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to mental and physical well-being, optimal brain power, emotional regulation, and even your quality of life.
Sleep is just as important for dogs. When they sleep, their brains organize their memories, consolidate what they’ve learned, and maintain their immune system.
Not only is sleep important for both people and dogs, but we can also both benefit from a consistent sleep routine. Learning more about your dog’s sleep needs can help you figure out how you and your pup can get the best night’s sleep.
How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?
On average, a dog sleeps about 12-14 hours in a 24-hour period. Of course, this can vary depending on whether your dog is a puppy, senior, or adult. Puppies and older dogs tend to sleep even more than this. Large breed dogs also need a bit more sleep. Meanwhile, most adult humans need at least 8 hours a day to function their best.
And just like us, when dogs don’t get the sleep they need, their immunity is weakened, they can be “grumpy,” and it can affect their learning, memory, and brain development.
Can Dogs Sleep Through the Night?
So if dogs are sleeping way more hours than us, when are they doing it? How many hours are they sleeping at night vs. during the day? Our typical sleep pattern is to get our 8 hours all at once, usually at night, although some people may need to sleep during the day.
Dogs can be pretty adaptable to our schedule, sleeping as much as we do during the night and then catching up on the rest during the day. They are very good daytime nappers.
Do Dogs Dream?
Just like us, dreaming is an important part of a dog’s sleep cycle. Researchers have found that a dog’s brain wave patterns mimic a human’s to show two different stages of sleep. The first stage is a light, resting sleep, and the second is REM sleep.
We know that humans dream during REM sleep, and based on observations of sleeping dogs, we can conclude that dogs also have dreams. The dreaming stage of sleep can help the brain process events and organize information. Of course, we can’t say for sure what dogs are actually dreaming about!
Should Dogs Have a Bedtime Routine?
Dogs thrive when they have a set routine. If they know what to expect, and what’s expected of them, it can help reduce their anxiety.
Some of us are great at routines, and others, not so much. Whether you’re a night owl or an early-to-bed type, you should have a bedtime routine, and it should involve your pup.
Here’s an example of a bedtime routine that you can modify to fit you and your dog’s needs:
- 2 hours before bedtime: Exercise
Take your dog for a long walk or play a game of fetch. Make sure you match the length and level of physical activity to your dog’s age and abilities. A 2-year-old Border Collie is going to need a lot more exercise than a 10-year old Chihuahua who gets winded going around the block.
- 1 hour before bedtime: Final meal / snack
No one wants to go to bed on an empty stomach, but you also don’t want your dog to have to go potty in the middle of the night. Give your dog their final meal or a snack at least an hour before bedtime. Let them drink water also, but then make sure there is only a little water in the dish before bedtime.
- 20 minutes before bedtime: Potty time
Let your dog out to go potty one last time just before bedtime so they won’t be waking you up later. Of course, there might be times where your dog can’t help it if they have diarrhea or something is going on with their stomach. Also remember that young puppies won’t be able to hold it overnight and need to go out several times during the night.
- 10 minutes before bedtime: Dog Massage
Have you ever tried giving your dog a massage? It’s pretty simple; just make sure you are gentle and pay attention to your dog’s reactions to make sure they aren’t uncomfortable. Try massaging their back on either side of the spine. Some other areas to try are the forehead, hips, thighs, neck, shoulders, and ears.
Make sure your dog has a nice, comfy bed, whether it’s your bed or their own! Turn off the lights and say goodnight to your pup. Some dogs like nightlights, while others might prefer the darkness, so experiment to see which helps your dog sleep better. The same goes for white noise machines.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Getting a Good Night’s Sleep?
One of the biggest things to watch for is a change in your dog’s sleeping habits. If they usually sleep through the night, but they’re suddenly restless and pacing, or needing to go out during the night, take them to the vet first to see if there’s an underlying medical reason for it.
You can also use technology to measure your dog’s quality of sleep. Products like FitBark attach to your dog’s collar and send info about how well your dog slept to an app. FitBark gives dogs a sleep score based on several specific factors.
Something that’s really interesting to note is that your dog’s age, weight, and breed can affect their sleep quality, too. Puppies and smaller breeds tend to get worse sleep, according to FitBark’s live interactive Sleep Efficiency Map, which records data from dogs wearing the doggy version of a FitBit.