Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

If it seems like your dog sleeps a lot, that's because he does. Norbert Beri/Shutterstock

What's your dog doing right now? Unless it's dinnertime, there's a good chance he's sleeping. As every dog owner knows, dogs sleep a lot.

In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, dogs spend 12 to 14 hours of every 24-hour cycle sleeping. To break it down even more, they spend 50 percent of their time dozing, 30 percent awake but just lying around, and the remaining 20 percent actually being active. And you thought you were a couch potato sometimes!

How much sleep your dog needs depends on several different factors:

Your dog's age. Puppies and older dogs need more sleep than healthy, adult dogs. Like babies and children, puppies spend a lot of their day growing, playing and exploring their new world. They might need as much as 18 to 20 hours of sleep per day. Older dogs also might need more rest because they get tired more easily and day-to-day living is just more difficult.

Your dog's breed. Large breeds — like Newfoundlands, mastiffs, St. Bernards and great Pyrenees — and bigger dogs in general often need more sleep than their smaller counterparts. How much sleep a dog needs often will depend on what the dog was bred to do, says the AKC. For example, working breeds often are more likely to stay awake because of the jobs that require their attention. Dogs that weren't bred for a specific purpose and lead less career-oriented lifestyles may end up having more sedentary, sleep-filled lives.

Your dog's health. Just like we tend to sleep more when we don't feel well, so do dogs.

Life changes. If you've just moved or your dog experiences a loss of a canine or human friend, your canine BFF will obviously be affected and react to the change. Dogs may need extra sleep, says the AKC, to get their mood and energy level back to normal.

Why dogs snooze so much

puppy sleeping under the couch
Dogs are flexible sleepers, able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere. James Kelley/Shutterstock

Dogs sleep more than we do, but they also wake up more than we do. While we tend to sleep in one big chunk at night, dogs typically sleep in lots and lots of small bursts throughout the day and night.

When we're sleeping at night in one long stretch, we typically spend about 25 percent of that time in rapid-eye movement or REM sleep. That's when we dream, but it's also the sleep that provides energy to our brains and bodies, according to the National Sleep Foundation. For dogs, only about 10 percent of their sleep is REM, so they need to get this restorative sleep throughout the day.

Dogs aren't usually deep sleepers. They are what the AKC calls "flexible sleepers," able to fall asleep wherever and whenever, but still wake up at a moment's notice (doorbell! can opener!) when necessary.

"Since they're flexible sleepers with the ability to fall asleep out of boredom and wake easily and become alert immediately, they end up needing more total sleep to make up for lost REM during their cycles."

When to worry

The main thing to look out for is a big change in your dog's sleeping habits. If your normally active dog starts dozing all the time, or your sleepyhead suddenly is wide awake 24/7, it's a good idea to talk to your vet. Excessive sleeping in dogs has been linked to a number of medical conditions including canine depression, diabetes and hypothyroidism, according to the AKC. So it's a good idea to see if there's an underlying cause for any unusual sleep changes.