Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

By: Yvonne VillasenorPublished:

Photo of a dog sleeping on a couch

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Belly up. Tongue out. Snores aplenty. Is there a more adorable sight? Surely, dogs sleep as much as we pet parents wish we could. But if you’ve ever wondered why they sleep so much—and if your dog’s sleeping habits are normal—you’re not alone.

We spoke with veterinary experts to learn more about typical sleep in dogs; potential causes for oversleeping; and how to help them get a good night’s rest.

How Much Should Dogs Sleep?

Average adult dogs typically sleep 12-14 hours a day, while puppies and senior dogs slumber for about 18-20 hours.

“[Dogs’] sleep cycles are definitely shorter than humans’, and they can go from fully asleep to fully alert very quickly,” says Dr. Patrik Holmboe, DVM, and head veterinarian for Cooper Pet Care in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “They’re also generally lighter sleepers than humans.”

Dogs are considered to be diurnal when it comes to their sleep schedules: Much like us, they’re often active during the day—but also open to a nice siesta—and sleep through the night. And again, like us, they can enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

While dogs do love snoozing, the amount of time they spend counting sheep depends on factors, such as their age, overall health, breed, diet and activity level. For example, a puppy will require more sleep for growth and development compared to an adult dog. Additionally, smaller-breed dogs need less sleep compared to large breeds.

Photo of a dog sleeping on a rug

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

It can be a mystery at times as to why our dogs catch z’s as much as they do. Fortunately, there are a few common reasons that can explain this behavior. Some of these are normal, while others deserve a check-in with a veterinarian.

1 They’re conserving their energy.

Though our dogs are pampered beyond belief with treats, toys and playtime now, there’s a good reason they seem to sleep for an unnecessarily long time.

“In the wild, conserving energy was crucial for survival, and this instinctual behavior has carried over to our domesticated pals,” says Dr. Sabrina Kong, DVM, a dog trainer based in California.

Holmboe says this is absolutely a big reason some dogs sleep so much. “Hunting prey consumes a massive amount of energy—both mental and caloric—so there’s no question that a lot of sleep helps keep them in tip-top shape should a hunt occur,” he says.

2 They’re stressed.

No one—person or pup—is a stranger to stress. Acute or chronic stress in dogs can affect sleeping patterns, causing a lack of sleep in some and more frequent, lengthier periods of sleep in others.

“Just like us, when dogs are stressed or anxious, they might retreat and sleep more as a coping mechanism,” Kong says.

Watch for other signs of stress in dogs, such as:

  • Dilated pupils or showing “whale eyes,” aka the whites of their eyes
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Yawning
  • Licking
  • Destructive behavior
  • Hiding or showing clinginess

If your canine companion shows signs of stress, consult your vet to determine the cause and find the best solution.

3They’re bored.

Physical and mental stimulation is essential for our canine companions’ overall health and well-being—even for the ones who’d rather lounge on the couch than play a game of fetch. This is the case even more so for working dogs, as it’s in their nature to have a job to do.

“Without enough physical or mental stimulation,” Kong says, “dogs might decide to nap the day away.”

Dogs can thrive with enrichment in the form of exercise, playtime, socialization and training. Try a variety of activities to see which your best pal might love most, whether it’s going for a walk; sniffing a snuffle mat; playing with a ball toy; or having a doggie playdate.

4They’re sick or injured.

“If a dog feels under the weather or is recovering from an injury, they'll naturally want to rest more,” Kong says.

Holmboe echoes this sentiment, adding that a dog who’s unwell will sleep more in an effort to heal faster.

If you notice signs of illness or injury, contact your vet right away. Because underlying health issues can affect a dog’s sleep, routine checkups can also ensure that they’re healthy and getting adequate rest.

Photo of a dog sleeping on a couch
iStock.com/Petra Richli

When to Worry About Your Dog’s Sleep

Because dog sleep disorders do exist, it’s always a good idea to address any concerns you have with your vet. When it comes to your dog’s sleep, Dr. Alex Crow, MRCVS (BVETMED), a veterinary surgeon in Nottingham, U.K. says there are a few signs and symptoms that warrant a call or visit to the vet.

Sleep-related signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Sudden changes in sleep patterns
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Nighttime restlessness
  • Changes in breathing or vocalization during sleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in behavior (e.g. more fearful, reactive or withdrawn)

Some common dog sleep disorders and other illnesses that may affect a dog’s sleep include:

  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a dog’s throat muscles collapsing, causing noisy breathing, loud snoring and frequent waking.
  • Hypothyroidism: More common in middle-age and senior dogs, hypothyroidism is an endocrine disease that causes lethargy, increased sleep and weight gain.
  • Separation anxiety: Dogs with anxiety, particularly separation anxiety, may be restless, pacing or whining during the night. They may also have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Pain: “Any type of pain can disrupt sleep, including pain from injuries, surgery or chronic conditions such as arthritis,” Crow says. “Dogs with pain may be restless and wake up frequently during the night.”
  • Arthritis: Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints, which can make it difficult for dogs to get enough sleep, since they may be in pain or unable to find a comfortable position.
  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS): CDS, aka dementia, is a condition that affects older dogs, causing symptoms including confusion, disorientation and sleep disturbances. Dogs with CDS may wake up often during the night or have trouble sleeping through the night.
  • Heart issues: Issues such as heart disease can make it difficult for dogs to breathe, and may cause them to snore loudly or gasp for air while asleep, resulting in frequent waking .

How to Help Your Dog Get the Best Sleep

Regardless of whether your dog shares the bed with you or has countless beds set up around your home, there are ways you can help them get proper shut-eye.

Crow shares the following tips on how to help your canine companion sleep well:

  • Create a bedtime routine, and stick to it as much as possible. This will help your dog wind down and prepare for sleep. The routine could include brushing their teeth and taking them for a short walk.
  • Make sure your dog’s sleeping area is quiet, dark and comfortable. Your pet should have a safe and cozy place to sleep where they won't be disturbed. You may want to consider blackout curtains or a calming diffuser to create a relaxing environment.
  • Exercise your dog regularly. Exercise can help your pet sleep better at night. However, avoid exercising your pet too close to bedtime, as this can overstimulate them.

And what would a good night’s rest be without a plush, snuggly bed? When looking for dog beds, Kong says it’s all about comfort and support.

“Look for beds made with high-quality, durable materials that provide adequate cushioning, especially for older dogs or those with joint issues,” she says. “The bed should be large enough for your dog to stretch out comfortably.”

Frisco Rectangular Bolster Dog Bed

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Frisco Pillow Dog Bed w/ Removeable Cover

If your dog has a solid routine and quiet place to sleep, and still struggles to sleep well, supplements formulated with melatonin, L-theanine, chamomile or probiotics could help. However, it’s always a good idea to consult a veterinarian before adding them to your dog’s daily regimen.

“In general, an animal shouldn't need supplements to help them sleep,” Holmboe says. “If there’s an issue—whether medical, physical, or environmental—that is complicating their sleep, then by far, the better course of action is to address the underlying issue.”

It’s normal for dogs to sleep for what we might perceive as a long time, especially if they’re puppies or seniors. The total hours of sleep can vary depending on a dog’s age, health, breed, energy levels and diet. If you notice signs of excessive sleep, reach out to a vet to rule out any underlying illnesses.

Need more tips on finding the best dog bed for your pup? We’ve got you covered.


By: Yvonne VillasenorPublished: