The average dog sleeps anywhere from 12 to 14 hours a day, including daytime naps. Puppies and senior dogs can sleep as much as 20 plus hours total. Most dogs spend more time asleep than awake. So if you see that your dog is not sleeping at night, something is out of the ordinary and there is cause for concern.
If a dog is not sleeping at night, there could be health problems, anxiety, or environmental issues. Various medical issues may be causing pain, irritation, or discomfort, making it difficult for your dog to sleep. Your pup could also be experiencing mental issues such as depression, anxiety, or dementia. A change in their living situation or routine can also affect a dog’s ability to sleep.
Whether you’re a new dog owner or this is a new problem for you, you should know what to do when your dog isn’t sleeping at night. You can fix some issues at home, but others may require a visit to the vet.
While your dog may appear happy and friendly, they can still have anxiety. It can happen to any breed, and like with humans, individual dogs may deal with it in their own ways. In some cases, it could affect their ability to sleep at night.
Anxiety can be normal to an extent, but it becomes a problem when it affects your dog’s ability to sleep and function throughout the night and day. Separation, fear, and aging are three common causes of anxiety in dogs.
If your dog can’t sleep in a different room from you, they may be experiencing some separation anxiety. Consider letting them sleep in your room so that they know you’re nearby.
Environmental factors like new or loud noises can also cause a dog to feel anxious. Try to “put yourself in your dog’s paws” and access their situation from their perspective to discover if something has changed in their environment that is distressing to them.
Sometimes, existing noises or conditions that haven’t bothered them in the past will begin to stress them as they get older. Just like many aging people, senior dogs can become more worrisome. If this is the case, the challenge is figuring out how to ease that stress through environmental changes.
One overlooked cause of anxiety in dogs is grief. If a dog loses another dog in the household or a family member, the change can have significant impact on them. Be patient and comforting, and certainly do not scold or reprimand a dog for being anxious; it will only increase their anxiety. Hopefully, time and emotional support will help ease your dog’s symptoms.
If your dog can get to sleep but can’t stay asleep, it’s possible they’re experiencing nightmares. You may notice your dog growling, snarling or crying, and they may make small motions. Some dogs can even sleepwalk like some humans do.
Try not to wake your dog when they have a nightmare. Waking your dog in the middle of a nightmare can make your dog even more scared and even prompt an aggressive response. Let the nightmare play out, and comfort your dog as they fall back asleep.
Providing a stress-free environment for sleep can help reduce nightmares. A dark, quiet room and even soft music can reduce outside stimuli which may be triggering the nightmares.
If the nightmares happen often, you may want to talk to your vet. They can prescribe medication to calm them down before sleeping at night.
Another reason why your dog may not sleep at night is if they have fleas. Flea bite dermatitis is the condition that exists as a result of the skin’s reaction to flea bites. Your dog could likely have fleas if they are itching more often than normal. They may also bite at their skin and have some hair loss or irritated skin.
Check your dog for fleas to see if that’s the case. If so, you can use a flea shampoo to help ease the immediate discomfort. You should also provide an anti-flea medicine or other treatment to eliminate and control the problem. Fleas don’t just live on the dog, they live in the environment.
If fleas are the cause of your dog’s sleeplessness, eradicating the fleas should solve the problem.
Just like humans, dogs can have different types of allergies. Some allergies can be annoying enough to make it hard for your dog to sleep. Dogs can react to allergens in their skin, whether from parasites, food, or various environmental sources like mold and grasses. Even using a new laundry soap to wash their bedding can reveal an allergy.
If you have changed your dog’s food recently, they may be reacting adversely to a new ingredient. Food allergies can be difficult to identify and may need the help of a vet. If your dog was doing well on a certain food before, returning to that formula might be the best first step.
Pain, for obvious reasons, is common cause of a dog not sleeping at night. We have all experienced the difficulty of sleeping with pain or discomfort. Pain can be the result of illness or injury, and can be exacerbated by environmental issues.
If you suspect pain is the cause of your dogs sleeplessness, identifying the source its source should be your first step. Observe your dog carefully so that when you take your dog to the vet, you are able to provide details to help them with their diagnosis.
You can also ease symptoms by making changes in the dog’s environment specific to the cause of your dog’s pain. For instance, arthritis can make sleep uncomfortable for a dog. In addition to any medications prescribed by your vet, you can also provide a soft, supportive bed to help alleviate the discomfort.
Reducing the number of steps a dog has to climb or descend is another example of changes you can make in environment to ease symptoms of a specific problem and make sleep easier.
Sudden pain should be addressed immediately. A condition like bloat is painful and requires immediate veterinary attention. If your dog is suddenly restless, pacing, and drooling, they could be suffering from bloat.
Your dog may also have problems sleeping if they have sleep apnea. It’s very similar to the condition in humans, and it can cause more than just loud snoring. Other signs include irritability and gasping or choking during sleep.
Your dog can develop sleep apnea from being overweight or having allergies, but an obstruction in their airway or nasal passage can also cause the problem.
You should take your dog to the vet for a checkup, and if sleep apnea is the diagnosis, you can address the cause and, hopefully, alleviate it. Controlling your dog’s diet and encouraging exercise for a healthy weight can help avoid sleep apnea.
If your dog is sick, that can also make it hard for them to go to sleep at night. Consider how you feel when you get sick. Sometimes, you may be so tired that you can barely stay awake, but if your illness involves pain or requires frequent coughing, it can be hard to go to sleep.
The same thing can happen to your dog when they get sick. Make sure you give your dog enough water, and watch their demeanor during the day. If they aren’t as active as normal, they may be ill and need a vet’s examination. Unlike humans, dogs don’t generally exaggerate illness or respond to it more dramatically than necessary.
Lack of Exercise
You should also consider how much exercise your dog needs each day. Some dogs can get plenty of physical activity at home, but others require long walks or a bit of time in the yard or at a dog park.
If your dog doesn’t get enough activity, they could feel restless at night. That will make it harder to go to sleep. While exercise can give you or your dog some energy, it can also tire your dog out.
If you can’t take your dog on a walk, incorporate some playtime into your day. That way, your dog can get their energy out before they need to go to sleep.
New Living Situation
Your dog may also have a hard time sleeping if they have a new living situation. Moving can be just as stressful on your dog as it is on you. Your dog can also sense your stress as well, and they can have a hard time adjusting to their new home.
Even if you don’t move, a new situation can still affect your dog. Consider if someone new has recently moved in, such as a significant other or newborn, or if one of your kids has recently moved out and away to college.
Your dog can notice those changes, and they can get anxious from it, even if they don’t experience anxiety. As your dog is getting used to the new household, they may take longer to get to sleep at night.
How To Help Your Dog Get to Sleep
Different causes for sleeplessness require different solutions. Check out our comprehensive guide What Can I Give My Dog to Sleep at Night, which includes medications, home remedies, and strategies to get your sleepless dog some shuteye.
Many things can cause your dog not to sleep at night, but most of them are treatable if not curable. Once you determine the cause, you can take steps to relieve your dog’s stress so that they can go to sleep more easily. A restless dog is not a happy dog, so don’t ignore it when your dog is not sleeping at night.