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The impact of sleep on your dog's wellbeing

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Sleeping dog, by Johner

How long should a dog sleep each day?

The dog's age has the greatest influence on the sleep rhythm and how much sleep a dog needs.

Snoozing puppies

Puppies need more sleep than adults, and have a more irregular sleep rhythm. A puppy needs between 18-20 hours of sleep each day.

"Puppies often sleep less at night than adult dogs and wake up more often, but need to take more naps during the day," says Iida Niinikoski, veterinarian and PhD student at the University of Helsinki.

Adult and senior dogs

An adult dog sleeps between 8-16 hours per day, depending on age and activity level. While an older (or senior) dog often needs between 16-18 hours of sleep.

"An older dog's night-time sleep is often more fragmented and it sleeps more deeply during the day than younger dogs. Older dogs can develop dementia, a sign can be a changed circadian rhythm as the dog finds it more difficult to sleep at night and sleeps more during the day instead." - Iida Niinikoski, veterinarian and PhD student at the University of Helsinki.

The importance of dog-naps

The dog's normal circadian rhythm means they sleep at night and are awake for large parts of the day. Smaller naps are also very important. Sleeping dogs quickly fall into a deep sleep, which means that even short naps are beneficial. While we humans usually sleep for a longer period at night, a dog's sleep is divided into several shorter naps lasting an average of 20 minutes.

"This enables effective recovery during the day when a power nap of half an hour is often enough to get refreshed after a long and fast-paced walk," says Iida Niinikoski.

Sleep affects learning and the dog's emotions

Sleeping properly is important for a dog. Sleep affects, among other things, the body's defense system, hormone secretion, thermoregulation and metabolism. Lack of sleep can cause many problems.

"Signs that a dog is suffering from a lack of sleep can be stress and a more sensitive reaction to environmental stimuli than usual. Disturbances during sleep can also cause learning difficulties as well as physiological problems," says Iida Niinikoski.

In addition to learning difficulties, lack of sleep makes it difficult for a dog to regulate emotions. For example, a dog that suffers from constant separation anxiety and does not rest properly when alone at home due to a high state of stress, may suffer from behavioural changes.

A dog's sleeping habits can be a clue to its health and well-being. For example, if the dog sleeps very little, wakes up often at night and is restless, it may be due to stress or pain.

Excessive sleep can be cause by pain, illness, boredom or lack of stimulation. Contact a veterinarian to rule out physical problems if you're worried about your dogs sleeping patterns.

About the research sleep project

The research project "Inflammatory response and sleep-related breathing disorder in dogs" is run by Iida Niinikoski at the University of Helsinki. Almost 500 dogs have participated in the survey and around 100 dogs in the sleep measurements. 

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