I'm sure you'll agree that watching your dog roll on his back with his paws twitching in the air is beyond cute. But I'm sure you're wondering "How much do dogs really need to sleep"?
Maybe you are worried that, when it comes to sleeping, your furry friend is indulging in too much of a good thing?
I had the same questions before I dove into the science behind my dog’s sleeping habits. I wrote this article to answer these questions and more!
By the end of this article, you will know why your dog sleeps so much, what his body is doing while he sleeps, and what warning signs you should look out for while he is snoozing by your side.
Ready? Let’s start learning.
How much do dogs sleep on average?
If you’ve ever spent a lazy weekend at home with your dog, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that most dogs sleep 12-14 hours per day.
Dogs are classified as diurnal sleepers, meaning that they are awake during the day and asleep at night, but that doesn’t stop them from cramming naps in the day time!
It’s not unusual for a dog to spend 8 hours, or 50% of his day, dozing away! At night, dogs tend to sync their sleeping patterns up with their human cuddle-buddies. The average dog sleeps 8-10 hours per night. It’s also normal for dogs to wake up a few times during the night for a quick trip to the water bowl or to peek outside the window and make sure all is right with the world. 
How much sleep do dogs actually need?
As a go-getting human with things to do and places to be, you might worry that your dog’s napping habits could lead to bad health.
Relax. Fido’s got this.
A dog’s sleep cycle has two stages:
- SWS, or slow wave sleep, is a light sleep that does little more than power-down the body to conserve energy.
- REM, or rapid eye movement sleep, is a deep sleep that is essential for healing and learning.
Dogs spend about 8-12% of their sleeping hours (or 1-2.2 hours) in REM sleep. In contrast, humans spend 25% of their sleeping hours (or 2-2.5 hours) in REM Sleep. 
Dogs need those extra hours of sleep to equal the amount of time your body gets for healing and learning!
You can thank wolves, the ancestors of most dog breeds, for your dog’s inefficient sleep cycle. In the wild, wolves spend most of their time in SWS sleep because it allows them to leap into action if they are threatened. No dangerous groggy spell! The trade-off is that wolves, just like dogs, have to spend more time overall sleeping, so that they can rack up the REM. 
Do some dogs sleep more than others?
If you’ve loved more than one dog in your life, you already know that no two dogs are alike. This holds true for their sleeping habits as well.
In general, the amount of time a dog spends sleeping depends on:
- Dog Age
- Dog Breed
- How much activity (exercise)
Puppies spend more of their daylight hours napping, but they are also more likely to interrupt your sleep at night for a potty break.
Young adult dogs spend the least time sleeping. They take fewer naps during the day, and they wake up earlier in the morning.
When your dog begins to get a little grey around the muzzle, he has entered his golden age of sleeping, with more naps throughout the day and more hours sleeping at night.
Generally, large dog breeds are heavier sleepers than small breeds, and dogs who are highly active during the day, like working dogs, crash harder at night.
How can I help my dog get a better night’s sleep?
What if your dog slips into a sleep routine that disrupts your own beauty rest?
You might be able to solve the problem by adjusting your dog’s:
- Sleeping environment
- Bathroom schedule
- Feeding schedule
- Daytime activity
Start by making sure your dog has a comfortable environment to bed down for the night.
Remember that dogs are light sleepers, so unless you want to be woken up by barking in the middle of the night, you need to insulate them from outside noises and lights. Dogs also have a natural denning instinct, especially when they are puppies, so they might appreciate a crate or a bed with a blanket to hide under .
Full bladders are another major culprit behind doggy restlessness. If you’re dealing with a puppy or an older dog, potty breaks might be unavoidable, but midnight trips to the yard for a middle-aged dog can be avoided by a proper routine.
Make sure you take your dog outside right before you go to bed and right after you get up in the morning. In a few days, his body will adjust to this schedule like clockwork!
Feeding your dog twice a day is another way to encourage sleeping through the night.  Just make sure you don’t feed your dog too close to bedtime, or you’ll be asking for a midnight potty break.
Finally, plenty of exercise and mental stimulation during the day will help your furry friend sleep peacefully through the night.
Why does my dog sleep in a weird position?
Luckily, dogs have found a way to put all that nap-time to good use; they strike the most adorable poses! But what do these hilarious sleeping positions mean (besides that your dog wants to become an Instagram star)?
Dogs have four main sleeping positions:
- Side sleeping
- Back sleeping
- Curled in a ball
Side sleeping is a dog’s go-to position, especially for naps. It’s a middle ground between relaxed and alert.
Back sleeping, with all four paws up in the air, is not only the cutest pose in your dog’s repertoire, it is also the most blissed out. When a dog lies on his back, he can relax all his muscles, right down to his floppy cheeks. Plus, your dog is giving you a sign of good faith by exposing his vulnerable tummy to the world!
When a dog is curled up in a ball, all his muscles are tense and all his vital organs are protected. He is guarding himself, ready to spring into action if threatened.
And then there’s cuddling. Surely, you don’t need me to tell you that cuddling is a sign of true love, but did you know that cuddling your dog also has health benefits?
Studies have shown that cuddling releases a hormone called oxytocin in both humans and dogs. Not only does oxytocin help form bonds, it also reduces stress and promotes restful sleep!
Why does my dog twitch in his sleep?
You’ve probably seen your dog twitching, whimpering, growling, wagging his tail, or even paddling his paws, all while sound asleep.
It's often thought that dogs move in their sleep because they’re dreaming, and for once, science has backed this up!
Dogs dream during REM sleep, just like humans do, and they probably dream about everyday events, again, just like us!
Your furry friend might be wagging his tail because he’s dreaming of you getting home from work or paddling his paws because he thinks he’s chasing one of those elusive antelopes he saw on the TV!
Nightmares are also a possibility for dogs, as you may have concluded when you saw your dog whining and growling in his sleep. Even if your dog is having a nightmare, it’s best to let him sleep through it. Remember, that REM sleep is difficult to come by for dogs!
In an extreme episode of dreaming, you might begin to worry that your dog is having a seizure in his sleep. These key differences can help you tell the difference between a dog having a dream and a dog having a seizure :
- During a dream, most dogs keep their eyes closed, although their eyes might move under the lids. During a seizure, a dog’s eyes are often open or rolled back in their heads.
- During a dream, dogs twitch and kick their legs in a fluid motion. During a seizure, dogs may have shaking spasms, but their limbs are more rigid.
- During a dream, dogs breathe normally. During a seizure, they have labored breathing.• After a dream, dogs wake easily and seem alert. After a seizure, dogs have difficulty waking and may stumble or seem disoriented.
- Only during seizures do dogs bite their tongues or foam at the mouth.
Can dogs have sleeping disorders?
Sleep disorders are uncommon, but not unheard of, in dogs. Any of these afflictions might disrupt your best friend’s sleeping habits:
- Sleep apnea
Narcolepsy can cause your dog to drop into a sudden sleep at moments when he gets overexcited. Seeing your dog drop to the ground, unconscious, can be scary, but the disorder is actually relatively harmless. Your friend will wake up in his own time and resume normal activity.
On the surface, dog sleep apnea may seem like a laughable disorder because its main symptom is tremendous snoring, but it poses a real threat to your dog’s health. Sleep apnea can cause labored breathing, and even dangerous breaks in breathing, while your dog is sleeping.
Insomnia can rob your dog of his precious napping hours and even keep him awake through the night. In most cases, insomnia should be read as a symptom of an underlying problem.
Anxiety might render your dog unable to quiet his mind enough to sleep, or pain from arthritis, ulcers, or a tumor might make it impossible for him to find a comfortable position to sleep.
Medical and herbal remedies are available for all three of these disorders, so if you suspect that your dog is having trouble sleeping, a trip to the vet is in order!
Should I be alarmed if my dog starts sleeping more?
Gradual changes in your dog’s sleeping pattern are normal, but abrupt changes are not. If you notice that your dog can’t seem to keep his head up during the day, even when you tempt him with his favorite food or toy, you should schedule a vet appointment immediately.
So what have we learned about Your Dog's Sleeping Behavior?
The way dogs sleep is fundamentally different from the way humans sleep.
It’s natural to be curious about the hours they spend dozing in funny poses, but for the most part, all of this canine quirkiness is natural.
As long as your dog is:
- Sleeping through the night
- Not showing any symptoms of sleep seizures
- Not snoring excessively
- Following a consistent sleep routine
You can rest easy about your best friend’s sleep!
Do you have questions about your dog’s sleeping habits that weren’t answered by this article?
Leave them in a comment below, and we’ll do some more digging for you!