Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Dogs spend more than half of their day (and night) sleeping. Here's why.

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% of their time dozing, 30% awake but just lying around, and the remaining 20% actually being active. And you thought you were a couch potato sometimes!

How much sleep your dog needs depends on several different factors, outlined below.

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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. Ensure that your dog has a quiet place to rest undisturbed, possibly a separate room. Unless you take such measures, your dog won't do it for themselves.

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 by grieving. Dogs may need extra sleep, says the AKC, to get their mood and energy level back to normal.

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

Dogs Sleep Differently From Humans

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% 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% 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 Is It Too Much?

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.

How to Make a Dog's Days More Exciting

If you're concerned that your dog might be snoozing out of excessive boredom, try to spice up the routine. A daily walk is, of course, a basic necessity for most breeds; you could practice some agility exercises while you're at it or play fetch. Offer your dog food puzzles; it provides mental stimulation as they try to get the treats out. Keep training your dog, as studies have shown learning tricks to improve cognitive functioning, even in old age. Incorporate hand signals into the voice commands. Introduce your dog to other canine playmates, as they're social creatures who enjoy interacting.