Are Dogs Nocturnal? A Guide To Canine Sleep

There’s an age-old question that all dog owners ask themselves at one point or another: are dogs nocturnal?

When your newly adopted puppy wakes you up at night for the fourth time, it’s hard not to wonder.

However, the answer to this question is not simple. Dogs are capable of both diurnal and nocturnal activity, but they tend to be more active during the day rather than at night.

This means that if you find your dog has a rather high level of nocturnal activity, there might be something wrong.

But when should you worry about your canine friend not sleeping at night? Is there a certain amount of hours for sleeping? Are there nocturnal dog breeds?

Read on to find out all you need to know about your dog and sleep!

Are dogs nocturnal - dog sleep guide

Animals sleeping behaviors: a quick overview

Before we get into the specific behaviors associated with dogs sleeping patterns, let’s start with a quick animals sleep glossary. There are 4 main types of sleep behaviors. Animals can be: diurnal, nocturnal, crepuscular, and cathemeral.

Diurnal animals tend to sleep during the night (like humans) and be active during the day. Nocturnal animals, on the other hand, stay up at night and sleep during the day, such as owls for example.

Crepuscular animals are those who sleep during twilight hours, at dusk or dawn, such as deers. Lastly, cathemeral animals have irregular sleeping schedules and will be active at any time of day or night.

You should note that some animals, such as dogs and cats, can adapt their sleeping behaviors to their owner’s; this means they can become diurnal, even though they are nocturnal animals –and vice versa!

Dog at night time

Dogs sleeping patterns: are dogs nocturnal or diurnal?

Now that you have a general idea about the different types of animal sleep behaviors, let’s focus on dogs.

Studies show that canines are primarily diurnal animals, meaning they are more active during the day than at night. Of course, there are certain breeds who are more nocturnal than others, but generally, they are most active during the day.

Remember that your pet will adapt its sleeping schedule to yours, so if you are a night owl, your dog will probably be more active at night too!

Which are the nocturnal dogs breeds?

If you are a night owl yourself, you might want a canine companion who will be active at night so as not to disturb their natural sleeping pattern. If that’s the case, you might want to consider adopting a nocturnal dog breed!

Nocturnal dog breeds include:

  • Belgian Malinois
  • Maremma
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Komondor
  • The Anatolian Shepherd
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Black and Tan Coonhound
  • Berger Picard
  • Border Collie

If you have a breed that tends to sleep more during the day, then it is important to understand your dog’s behavior.

Those dog breeds are also very intelligent and have a lot of energy, which is why they need lots of exercise to stay happy. If you own one (or more) of these breeds, make sure your dog gets plenty of physical activity!

Nocturnal dog breed example Tibetan Mastiff

How many hours a day do dogs sleep?

Now that we’ve answered the question “are dogs nocturnal?”, let’s talk about the number of hours dogs sleep per day.

Studies show that canines spend half their lives sleeping, which is quite a lot! On average, your dog will need around 12 to 14 hours of sleep every 24-hour cycle. As for puppies, they are the Sleeping Beauties of dogs: they need to sleep for about 18 to 20 hours a day!

Dogs tend to sleep in short periods of time, usually at night and a few naps during the day. Contrarily to humans, who tend to have long sleeping sessions at night, canines sleep in short sessions all day long.

Your dog’s breed will influence its sleep patterns too! For example, larger dogs usually sleep more than smaller ones since they need more exercise and are much more active throughout the day.

Dog sleeping on the floor

What happens when dogs don’t get enough sleep at night?

It’s important to make sure your pet gets a sufficient amount of hours when it comes to sleeping time or else you risk them getting sick in the long run.

Studies show that lack of sleep is as bad for dogs as it is for humans. When your dog doesn’t get enough shut-eye, it can become anxious and much more difficult to handle — you might have a lot of trouble training it.

Dogs might also be more aggressive when tired because the hormone cortisol rises in their bloodstream which increases stress levels. Sleep deprivation can provoke mood changes in dogs, making them act out of character. This can lead to depression and anxiety too!

Finally, lack of sleep has also been linked to a weaker immune system, which means your pet can get sick more easily. It can increase the risk of infection, allergies, and other medical conditions for your canine friend.

Tired dog in covers

How do I know my dog doesn’t get enough sleep?

In order to make sure your dog gets enough sleep, you need to pay attention to the signs it gives. A sleep-deprived dog should show some of the following symptoms:

  • Yawning all day long. Dogs usually yawn when they are tired, but if your pet is yawning a lot during the day it might be because it isn’t getting enough hours in its sleeping schedule.
  • Taking several naps a day. If your dog takes several naps during the day and seems tired all of a sudden, chances are it isn’t getting enough sleep at night.
  • Mood changes. If your dog is acting differently, it might be due to a lack of sleep. Check if its behavior has changed, whether it’s getting more aggressive or anxious, and find out what you can do about the situation!
  • Less interest in food. A sleep-deprived dog might not be as interested in eating and won’t eat much during the day.

Also remember to take note of any medical symptoms: if your pet starts coughing often, seems lethargic, or has trouble breathing, take it to the vet as soon as possible as there might be a health issue! Sleep deprivation might not be the only cause of your dog’s illness, but it can be a factor too.

Tired dog on sofa yawning

Why is my dog restless at night?

We’ve already established that dogs tend to sleep in short periods of time and usually rest at night. Even though this is the general pattern, every dog owner knows there are always exceptions!

There are different reasons that can explain why your dog is restless and wakes you up in the middle of the night:

  • Anxiety. If your dog is anxious, it might even be more restless than usual at night. You can help relieve its anxiety by making sure it has enough exercise during the day and that you spend time with them!
  • Pain. If your dog is in pain, it might not be able to sleep as much as usual. Medical conditions such as arthritis can also lead to restlessness and fewer hours of sleep for your pet.
  • Nature’s call. If your pet needs to pee or poop in the middle of the night, they will sometimes wake up just to do their business.
  • Boredom. If your dog is left alone during the day, even if it has toys to play with, it might get restless at night because of boredom! This can be prevented by training or playing with your pet more often throughout the day.

Note that for older dogs, another cause of restlessness could be canine cognitive disorder (CDD), or dementia. This can lead your furry friend to feel disoriented, become aggressive, and even anxious.

In any case, if your dog is panting, shaking or crying, be it at night or during the daytime, those are signs you should see your veterinarian ASAP.

Restless dog definitely not sleeping

How can I help my dog sleep better?

There are a few things you can do in order to make sure your pet is getting enough hours at night. Here are some helpful tips that will hopefully improve their sleeping habits:

Establish a routine. Dogs love routines, which means it will be easier to get them accustomed to a certain schedule. Try going for walks at the same time every day and always play with your dog around the same hour (not too late) in order to encourage good sleeping habits.

Limit stimulation before nighttime. Try to make sure your dog isn’t stimulated during the evening because it might prevent them from falling asleep properly.

Respect its sleep schedule. If you go out, leave the TV or radio off and don’t make a lot of noise around the house so that your pet can sleep undisturbed!

Make sure they get enough exercise. Dogs need their daily dose of exercise, and if they spend the day taking naps, chances are they won’t feel tired at night. Make sure their dog is active and if needed, schedule a long walk before bedtime to tire your pooch out.

It might take up to several weeks until they adjust their sleep patterns, but it will all be worth it! Remember that if those simple tips don’t do the trick, you can always call your vet.

Where should my dog sleep?

There’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question! Sleeping options for your canine bud will vary according to its size, its age, or even its personality. What’s most important is for you and your dog to find the most comfortable and reasonable option.

In any case, there are different possibilities for you to choose from. Your dog could sleep in a crate (which is a great training tool too!), on the floor, in a dog bed –or even in your own bed, if that’s comfortable for you!

Cute dog crate outdoors

Should I let my dog sleep with me?

This is a very common question among dog owners, and it’s completely understandable! Letting your furry friend sleep in bed with you can be tempting since they’re so cute and cuddly (and their snoring might even lull you to sleep!).

There are some pros and cons when it comes to letting them join you under the sheets. First of all, it’s important to remember that your dog needs its sleep too! If you’re letting them sneak in bed with you just so they can cuddle up next to you for the night, then chances are they won’t get enough rest.

If this has been a habit in your household for years though (and both parties are happy about it!), then there’s no reason why you should stop. Just make sure that your dog gets enough exercise during the day and that they won’t be disturbed by any loud noises or commotion.

Remember that dogs and humans don’t have the same sleeping cycles. What’s most important is to provide your pet with a safe, comfortable spot where they can rest their head after the day’s excitement –while making sure you still get a good night’s sleep as well.

Dog sleeping in bed with its human

Should my dog sleep inside or outside my room?

Another option you might want to consider is letting your dog sleep outside of the bedroom. This can be ideal if they tend to snore or make a lot of noise when they’re sleeping. Same goes with over-cuddly dogs that can’t help but jump on your mattress at night!

If this is the case, then you might feel better letting them sleep in another area of your home. As long as they have a good, comfortable place to sleep and you know they won’t disturb your sleep (or vice versa), then it’s all good.

Note that if you just brought a new puppy home, you might need to keep your fur baby in the same room as you, at least for the first few nights. Puppies need time to adapt to their new environment, and they will feel more secure if they can feel your presence nearby.

Can dogs see in the dark?

Yes! Dogs are much better at seeing in the dark than humans are. Their eyes have a special membrane called tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back to their retinas and helps them see twice as well in low-light conditions. This is why some breeds can be active during the evening or night without any problems.

However, dogs cannot see in total darkness, meaning in the complete absence of light. Their night vision is still not comparable to what cats are capable of, who can even see in pitch-black conditions.

Dog sight in the dark

Do dogs need lights at night?

Dogs don’t necessarily need light in order to see at night, but they do feel more comfortable when it’s present.

Even if your dog can still navigate through the darkness with ease (some breeds are better than others), no pet should be left without light at night for long periods of time. Remember to provide them with some form of illumination if you plan to leave them alone at night.

Do dogs dream?

Yes! Just like us, dogs have dreams while they sleep. Studies show that their sleeping patterns reflect a series of brain waves and body movements which are similar to what happens when we dream during REM (rapid eye movement) stage of our own slumbering cycle.

Their physical reactions will vary depending on the content of their dreams: some might be content with their “kibble,” while others might get into a fight or chase after something. Dogs can even get nightmares –and bark or howl in their sleep!

Dogs and sleep: the bottom line

Now that you know more about your furry friend’s sleeping habits, you can make sure they get the rest and relaxation they need to be their happy, healthy selves.

We all know how important sleep is for our own well-being: we treat our dogs like family (after all, that’s what they are!), so why not take care of them just as much?

Remember that dogs are not little humans though. They have different needs, so it’s important to know what is best for your dog when it comes to sleep time!

So in the end, the most important thing is to make sure you and your canine buddy feel comfortable, safe and loved.

Now go on and give some love to your pup before he or she gets to sleep tonight. You deserve a good night’s rest too!

Canine Buddy

As a dog lover—who loves sharing new experiences, I decided to create the canine buddy blog to share what I’ve learned throughout the years managing my dear fidos. Of course, I went through several trials and errors before finding the best way to make a perfect match. Here, we are committed to only giving proven dog and puppy hacks—making you the best dog owner ever.

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