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The Normal Amount of Sleep for a Dog: Understanding Canine Sleep Patterns

The Normal Amount of Sleep for a Dog: Understanding Canine Sleep Patterns

All doggos need a good snooze but how much sleep should dogs be getting? Should they be sleeping the same amount as their human owners?

Dogs, like humans, rely on sleep for physical and mental well-being. Sleep is a vital process that enables their bodies to rest, recover, and rejuvenate. It plays a crucial role in maintaining their overall health and ensuring they have the energy needed for their daily activities.

Just as dog breeds vary in size, appearance, and temperament, they also exhibit different sleep patterns. Factors such as breed genetics, energy levels, and historical roles can influence the amount of sleep a particular breed requires. Understanding these variations is essential for providing optimal care.

Lovable, pretty puppy and sleep mask. Closeup Lovable, pretty puppy and sleep mask. Close-up, indoor, studio photo. Day light. Concept of care, education, obedience training and raising pets dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Importance of sleep for dogs

Just like the saying, it is important to let sleeping dogs lie. Sleep is a very important function for all animals. It helps them to recover from both the mental and physical exertion from the day. Sleep and health are highly intertwined. The UK Mental Health Foundation states, “poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep.” Sleep is ultimately needed for the body to relax and reset.

Canine Sleep Patterns

Dogs, our loyal and cherished companions, share with us not only our homes but also our daily rhythms, including the fascinating realm of sleep. While our four-legged friends might not tuck themselves in with a bedtime story, their sleep patterns are as intricate and intriguing as our own. 

Comparison to human sleep

Dogs' sleep patterns have similarities to human sleep but also distinctive characteristics. They experience two main sleep phases: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM sleep. The REM phase is when dreaming occurs, and dogs exhibit movements and behaviors associated with their dreams.

To fall asleep, dogs will find a place/position where they feel safe and comfortable. Then the dog will close its eyes and drift through the different stages of sleep. There are two basic types of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, which are each linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. There are 3 different stages of non-REM sleep and 1 stage of REM sleep (referenced by the The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke):

  • Stage 1 non-REM. This is the change over from wakefulness to sleep. The brain begins to relax from the day's activities and the dog’s heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and their muscles relax with occasional twitching. This stage is relatively short, only a few minutes, and is a period of light sleep.
  • Stage 2 non-REM. This is the period of sleep right before dogs enter a deep sleep. Both heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even further.  Body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity.
  • Stage 3 non-REM. This is a period of deep sleep. It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night. Your dog’s heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep. Brain waves become even slower. 
  • REM sleep. This stage first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. The eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Breathing becomes faster and irregular, and heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels.

Sleep-wake cycle in dogs

Dogs are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. Their sleep-wake cycle is more flexible than that of humans. They tend to take several short naps throughout the day and night rather than one long continuous sleep.

8 weeks old French Bulldog puppy sleeping on dog bed Puppy napping on dog bed dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Factors Influencing Dog's Sleep

Just as our own sleep patterns are influenced by a multitude of factors, our canine companions' sleep is subject to a complex interplay of elements that shape their restful moments. From age and breed characteristics to health conditions and daily activities, a variety of factors come together to define how much and how well dogs sleep. 

Age and life stage

Puppies and senior dogs tend to sleep more than adult dogs. Puppies require a lot of sleep for growth and development, while senior dogs' sleep may be affected by age-related factors.

Breed characteristics

Different breeds have different energy levels and activity requirements, which can affect their sleep needs. High-energy breeds might need more sleep to recover from active periods.

Health and medical conditions

Medical conditions, pain, and discomfort can disrupt a dog's sleep. Certain illnesses may cause excessive sleepiness, while others might lead to restlessness.

Environment and daily activities

A dog's environment and daily routine play a significant role in their sleep patterns. Dogs with more physical and mental stimulation during the day tend to sleep more soundly at night.

Cute puppy sleeping in funny position in sofa. Front view of very relaxed puppy dog sleeping stretched out with the behind higher up on a pillow.12 weeks old, female Boxer mix breed. Selective focus. dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Average Sleep Duration by Age

Just like humans, dogs' sleep patterns change as they go through different stages of life. From playful puppies to wise seniors, a dog's age has a significant impact on their sleep needs and habits.

Puppies (up to 6 months old)

During the puppy phase, sleep takes center stage as an essential component of growth and development. Puppies can sleep anywhere from 18 to 20 hours a day, as their bodies and brains are rapidly maturing. This extended sleep time helps them recharge after bouts of energetic play and exploration. Much like human infants, puppies may experience frequent awakenings during the night, necessitating potty breaks or comforting interactions.

Adult dogs (6 months to 7 years old)

As dogs transition into adulthood, their sleep patterns typically become more aligned with those of adult humans. Adult dogs tend to sleep around 12 to 14 hours a day, though this can vary based on breed, activity level, and individual differences. Their sleep is crucial for maintaining optimal physical health and mental well-being. Unlike puppies, adult dogs often consolidate their sleep into longer periods at night and shorter naps during the day.

Senior dogs (7 years and older)

With age, dogs enter their golden years and their sleep patterns may shift once again. Senior dogs may sleep even more, potentially reaching 16 to 18 hours a day. This increased sleep time is often due to the natural aging process, decreased activity levels, and the need for additional rest to recover from the strains of daily life. Older dogs might experience changes in their sleep quality, potentially leading to more frequent awakenings during the night.

Enjoying Christmas Morning With Her Beautiful Dachshund in Bed Woman Enjoying Christmas Morning With Her Beautiful Dachshund in Bed dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Recognizing Healthy Sleep in Dogs

As our loyal companions rest, they provide us with a glimpse into their dreams and well-being through their sleep positions, behaviors, and movements. Recognizing what constitutes normal sleep patterns in dogs allows us to ensure their comfort and address any potential sleep disturbances that might arise.

Normal sleep positions

Dogs have a remarkable knack for finding their own cozy sleeping postures. These can range from the classic curled-up ball to the sprawling-out starfish position. While individual preferences vary, it's essential to be aware of your dog's typical sleep positions. Changes in these positions might indicate discomfort or pain. We have consolidated some of the more common ones and what they mean:

Side sleeping

This position means that your dog feels safe and relaxed in their environment. They do not feel the need to protect any vital organs. It is also an indicator that they are at a comfortable temperature.

The sphinx or lion’s pose

This position means that your dog is at rest but is also ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. This is not typically a position dogs are in during a deep sleep.

The superman or "sploot"

This is a common sleep pose for high energy dogs. It usually means they are resting but also ready for play at any moment.


This position means that your dog is trying to protect itself by tucking away its vital organs. This position is more commonly seen in anxious or timid dogs. It could also be an indicator that your dog is cold. 

Belly to the sky

This position means that your dog completely trusts you and their environment. They are making no effort to protect their vital organs because they feel safe and comfortable. 

Sleep behavior and movements

During the various sleep stages, dogs may exhibit a range of behaviors and movements. Gentle twitches, leg paddling, and even soft vocalizations are common during REM sleep, suggesting they are immersed in vivid dream experiences. These behaviors are a normal part of their sleep cycle and shouldn't be a cause for concern.

Do dogs dream?

Yes, dogs do dream! Just like humans, dogs experience a state of sleep known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, during which dreaming occurs. Research and observations suggest that dogs exhibit similar brain patterns and behaviors during REM sleep as humans do. 

You may have noticed your dog twitching, paw paddling, or even making soft noises during sleep – these are signs that your furry friend is likely immersed in a dream world. It's believed that during these dreams, dogs might be reenacting their daily experiences, engaging in play, or even reliving interactions with other dogs or people. While we can't exactly know what they  dream about, it's heartwarming to consider that our canine companions have their own imaginative moments during sleep.

Signs of potential sleep disturbances

While most dogs enjoy peaceful slumber, there are instances when sleep disturbances might arise. Be vigilant for signs that your dog's sleep isn't as restful as it should be:

  • Excessive Snoring: While snoring can be normal for some dogs, loud and persistent snoring might indicate an obstructed airway or respiratory issues.
  • Restlessness: If your dog frequently changes positions, paces, or seems unable to settle, it could indicate discomfort or an underlying health issue.
  • Abrupt Awakening: If your dog suddenly wakes up with a start, displaying signs of confusion or disorientation, it's worth investigating what might have disrupted their sleep.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: If your dog seems excessively lethargic during waking hours, it might signal poor sleep quality or a medical concern.
  • Aggressive Behavior: If your dog displays aggression upon waking, they might be experiencing a sleep disorder that causes confusion during the transition from sleep to wakefulness.
Cute red and white corgi lays on the bed with eye maks from real cucumber chips. Head on the pillow, covered by blanket, paw up. Cute red and white corgi lays on the bed with eye maks from real cucumber chips. Head on the pillow, covered by blanket, paw up. dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs

While dogs are generally skilled sleepers, just like humans, they can also experience sleep disorders that disrupt their restful slumber. Understanding these disorders allows us to provide timely care and support to ensure our canine companions enjoy a good night's sleep.


Insomnia, characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, can affect dogs too. It might be caused by factors such as anxiety, pain, discomfort, or even changes in routine. Dogs with insomnia might exhibit increased restlessness, frequent waking, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is crucial in managing insomnia.

Sleep apnea

Similar to humans, dogs can suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing pauses or becomes shallow during sleep. This can result in fragmented sleep and increased daytime sleepiness. Overweight dogs, flat-faced breeds (brachycephalic), and those with respiratory issues are more susceptible to sleep apnea. Diagnosis and management usually involve veterinary consultation and potential lifestyle changes.

REM behavior disorder

REM Behavior Disorder (RBD) is a fascinating but potentially concerning disorder. Dogs with RBD act out their dreams physically, potentially leading to unintended movements and behaviors during sleep. While this can be harmless, it might sometimes lead to injury or disrupted sleep patterns. RBD can be linked to neurological conditions, and consultation with a veterinarian is recommended for accurate diagnosis and guidance.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

While not precisely the same as the human version, Restless Leg Syndrome-like symptoms can manifest in dogs. This disorder involves uncontrollable leg movements during sleep, causing discomfort and frequent awakenings. RLS might be a sign of pain, discomfort, or neurological issues, and consulting a veterinarian can help uncover the underlying cause.

Cute pug dog sleep on pillow in bed and wrap with the blanket feel happy in relax time Cute pug dog sleep on pillow in bed and wrap with blanket feel happy in relax time dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Just as we prioritize our sleep environment, providing our furry companions with a comfortable and conducive space for slumber is equally essential. Designing a peaceful sleep environment can greatly enhance their sleep quality and overall well-being.

Choosing an appropriate dog bed

Selecting the right bed for your dog is vital. Consider their size, age, and any specific needs they may have. Orthopedic beds are great for older dogs or those with joint issues, while a cozy, padded bed might suit a small breed or a young pup. The bed's material should be easy to clean and durable, ensuring it can withstand their scratching, nesting, and pawing.

Ambient lighting and noise levels

Creating a soothing atmosphere is key to helping your dog unwind. Dimming the lights in the evening can signal to them that it's time to wind down. Additionally, reducing noise levels during bedtime hours can minimize disturbances that might disrupt their sleep. A quiet and peaceful environment promotes a more restful slumber.

Temperature considerations

Dogs are sensitive to temperature, and an environment that is too hot or too cold can disrupt their sleep. Ensure their sleeping area is situated away from drafts and extreme temperatures. Providing a cozy blanket during colder nights and ensuring proper ventilation during warmer periods will help them feel comfortable throughout the night.

Basset Hound Basset Hound isolated on white background dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Promoting Healthy Sleep Habits

Ensuring that your canine companion enjoys restful sleep doesn't stop at creating a comfortable sleep environment. Building healthy sleep habits can have a significant positive impact on your dog's overall sleep quality and well-being. Here are some effective strategies to encourage healthy sleep patterns:

Regular exercise and mental stimulation

Engaging your dog in regular physical activity and mental stimulation during the day can tire them out, leading to more satisfying sleep. Playtime, walks, interactive toys, and training sessions not only help expend energy but also provide mental enrichment. A well-exercised dog is more likely to sleep soundly through the night.

Consistent sleep schedule

Similar to humans, dogs benefit from a consistent sleep routine. Establish set times for bedtime and wake-up, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate their internal clock, making it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times. This routine reinforces the association between specific cues and sleep, signaling to your dog that it's time to wind down or get up.

Bedtime routines for dogs

Just as humans benefit from winding down before bed, dogs also benefit from a calming bedtime routine. This can include activities like a short walk, gentle play, or a soothing grooming session. Avoid overly stimulating activities or exposure to bright screens close to bedtime. Creating a calming pre-sleep routine helps signal to your dog that it's time to relax and prepare for sleep.

Golden Hound and British short-haired cat Golden Hound and British short-haired cat dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

When to Consult a Veterinarian

While most dogs experience typical sleep patterns and disturbances, there are instances where sleep behavior might indicate an underlying issue. If you notice persistent changes in your dog's sleep patterns or behaviors, it's essential to consult a veterinarian to ensure their well-being.

If your dog's sleep habits change suddenly and persistently, it could indicate an underlying medical condition. Excessive sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep, or staying awake during the day might signal an issue that requires professional attention.

Additionally, if your dog is unusually lethargic during waking hours despite seemingly getting enough sleep, it's worth investigating potential causes. Conditions like sleep apnea or medical issues could be contributing factors.

Abrupt changes in behavior during sleep, such as intense restlessness, excessive barking or growling, or aggressive reactions upon waking, should also not be ignored. These could point to sleep disorders or medical concerns.

A veterinarian can conduct a thorough examination, assess your dog's overall health, and recommend appropriate tests or interventions. Early detection and intervention are crucial in maintaining your dog's health and ensuring they enjoy restful sleep. Don't hesitate to reach out to a veterinary professional if you have concerns about your dog's sleep behavior.

Beautiful purebred jack russell terrier. Cute sleepy Jack Russel terrier puppy with big ears resting on a dog bed with yellow blanket. Small adorable doggy with funny fur stains lying in lounger. Close up, copy space, background, top view. dog sleep stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Take home message

In the world of our four-legged companions, the realm of sleep holds a profound significance. Just as we seek the benefits of a restful night's slumber, our dogs too require their fair share of sleep for optimal health and well-being. From the playful days of puppyhood to the serene moments of seniority, understanding their evolving sleep needs is a testament to our commitment as responsible caretakers.

As we navigate the complexities of their sleep patterns, remember that while there are general guidelines for how much sleep dogs need based on their age and life stage, each furry friend is an individual with their own unique requirements. By creating a nurturing sleep environment, fostering healthy sleep habits, and being attuned to potential sleep disturbances, we can ensure that our canine companions enjoy the benefits of restorative sleep.

Ultimately, by respecting and tending to their sleep needs, we reinforce the strong bonds of love and companionship that exist between us and our faithful dogs. Their dreams and moments of repose enrich our lives, reminding us of the invaluable role they play in our hearts and households. As we strive to provide them with the best possible sleep experience, we reciprocate the devotion and joy they bring to our lives day after day.

Whippet sleeping upside down on their dog bed
Whippet sleeping upside down on their dog bed

View Sources

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Bunford, Nóra, Vivien Reicher, Anna Kis, Ákos Pogány, Ferenc Gombos, Róbert Bódizs, and Márta Gácsi. "Differences in pre-sleep activity and sleep location are associated with variability in daytime/nighttime sleep electrophysiology in the domestic dog." Scientific reports 8, no. 1 (2018): 7109.

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Reicher, Vivien, Anna Kis, Péter Simor, Róbert Bódizs, and Márta Gácsi. "Interhemispheric asymmetry during NREM sleep in the dog." Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (2021): 18817.

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