Are dogs nocturnal? How much sleep do they need?

Every animal has evolved to follow a particular sleep pattern.

For example, humans evolved to be diurnal (active during the day and sleep at night) because our brains signal the release of hormones (that reduce our blood pressure, stress levels, and body temperatures) when the amount of light entering our eyes diminish. So, we feel sleepy when it’s dark.

On the other hand, bats evolved to be nocturnal (active at night and sleeping during the day) so that they could avoid competition from other insectivorous birds as well as protect themselves from predatory birds.

Similarly, prey animals like hamsters evolved to be crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk and sleep at night- and daytime) because that is when most of the predators either wake up or go to sleep after hunting.

So, evolution gave every animal its sleeping pattern for a reason.

Are dogs diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular?

If you ask a dog owner if their pet is a nocturnal or diurnal creature, most of them would tell you that their dog is a diurnal creature. However, in contradiction, the gray wolf, from which dogs evolved, is nocturnal by nature. So how can dogs be diurnal when their distant forefathers are nocturnal?

The answer, simply, is that dogs aren’t diurnal. But they are social sleepers. So, whenever their owner goes to sleep, they go to sleep as well. And since most of us sleep at night, we assume that our pets are the same too.

How much sleep does your dog need?

Just like humans, sleep is essential for all animals. And that is true for your dog as well. During the day, your dog learns a lot of things. Everything he learned during the day is properly stored in his brain only when he sleeps. So, sufficient sleep is paramount to improving his memory, learning, and brain development. 

Sleep plays an important role in developing his immune system as well. Dogs that are deprived of sleep are often prone to illness. 

So, as a dog owner, you have to ensure that your dog gets enough hours of sleep every day. Now that you know how important sleep is for your dog, let’s find out how many hours of sleep he needs every day.

Dogs generally need ten to fourteen hours of sleep every day. But the amount of time a dog sleeps depends mostly on his age.

  • Puppies sleep for 11 hours at the least. In general, they sleep more than adult dogs. But their sleeping hours are spread throughout the day, whereas adult dogs sleep mostly at night. 
  • Adult dogs sleep for almost 11 hours. While they sleep mostly at night, daytime naps are also crucial for their health. 
  • Old dogs need more sleep than adult dogs. They sleep throughout the night and also take more naps during the day.

How do you know that your dog isn’t sleeping enough?

As mentioned above, sleep is crucial for dogs. Lack of sufficient sleep can cause the following problems for dogs:

  1. In dogs, joint disorders like arthritis can cause inflammation. But sufficient sleep reduces inflammation by lowering the amount of inflammatory proteins in your dog’s blood. But as the number of sleeping hours reduces below the required threshold, inflammation can increase, leading to more pain for your dog.
  2. Dogs are very active during the day. They run; jump; fall down; hurt themselves. So, their cells and tissues get damaged during the day. While they sleep, their bodies synthesize the proteins which heal the damage they suffered during the day. So, the lack of a good night’s sleep means that the natural healing ability of a dog’s body is not put to full use, increasing the chances of joint damage and pain. 
  3. When a dog doesn’t get enough sleep, the amount of a hormone, which drives his appetite, increases in his blood. Moreover, the amount of insulin in his body can also increase after his meals, which prompts his body to store more fat. As a result, your dog overeats and gains weight. And the more weight he gains, the more pressure his joints will be under when he runs or jumps. As a result, the chances of joint damage increase. 
  4. While a dog sleeps, his body produces the antibodies needed to fight infections. So, not sleeping enough means that your dog’s immune system is jeopardized and that he is prone to illnesses. 
  5. Chronic pain and joint damage can affect the mood of a dog negatively. Just like you will be pissed off if someone annoys you when you are sick, your dog will also be irritated easily and suffer from mood disturbances. They will also exhibit extreme reactions when subject to stressful situations. 

So, as a dog owner, ensure that your dog gets enough sleep. It is important for the health and happiness of your dog.

How to help your dog sleep better?

You can help your dog sleep better by making sure that he gets enough exercise during the day. Take him for walks and play games with him. This way, your dog will get tired during the day and sleep more at night.

However, it’s not just his body you should focus on, but also his mind. Stimulate his mind with puzzles and fun games during the day.

Make sure that you don’t get him excited just before he goes to sleep at night by starting a game.

Don’t change your dog’s routine every day. Keep it constant so that his body gets used to the daily schedule and knows when it is time for bed.

Try changing your dog’s bed. Don’t let your dog sleep on your bed, either.

If you tried all the steps mentioned above, and your dog still doesn’t sleep better, take him to a vet and get him tested for possible medical conditions.

Did your dog not get enough hours of sleep every day? Could you find out the problem behind your dog’s lack of sleep? What steps did you take to eliminate the problem? Did they help? Let us know in the comments below. It could help someone in need.