A sleeping dog is a picture of contentment. Whether they are flopped out on floors, sleeping crates or beds, dogs seem to be able to sleep where and when they want. Like humans, however, dogs can suffer from sleeping disorders that range from snoring to narcolepsy.
Sleeping Patterns and Dogs
Dog sleeping patterns differ somewhat from human sleeping patterns: for one thing, dogs have very adaptable sleeping habits. They sleep when it’s quiet, and are up and active when their surroundings are busy and interesting. Dog sleeping patterns reflect the days when dogs roamed as pack animals: their wild ancestors would sleep in dens but would also be alert and ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Dogs also spend more time sleeping than humans. On average, a dog sleeps fourteen hours a day. However, the bigger the dog, the more time he spends sleeping. Large breeds may require as much as sixteen hours of sleep a day.
Do Sleeping Dogs Dream?
While dogs spend more time sleeping than humans, both humans and dogs initially enter a quiet phase while sleeping. After about ten minutes, dogs enter the REM, or rapid eye movement, phase. In the REM phase of sleep, the eyes move back and forth under the eyelids, legs twitch and the dog may whine, bark or growl in its sleep.
Humans dream during the REM phase of sleep, and it is generally accepted that dogs also dream. A sleeping dog’s cycle of REM and deeper sleep is too close to humans to assume otherwise.
Sleeping in Crates and Dens
Dogs are pack animals by nature, and their sleeping patterns reflect this: they like to sleep with the rest of the pack. In the wild, dogs would sleep in dens dug in the earth, with the entire pack sleeping and snoring in a heap.
For the modern dog, sleeping with the pack means sleeping with the rest of the family. Most dogs will happily sleep on your bed if you let them. Some dog owners feel that sleeping with their dogs strengthens the human/dog bond.
However, some dog experts discourage letting sleeping dogs lie in the owner’s bed as the dog may get the mistaken view that he’s higher in the “pack” hierarchy than he actually is. If the dog adopts this attitude, he could also start to develop obedience problems.
Instead of letting dogs sleep on the bed, most experts suggest using sleeping crates either in the bedroom, or close to where the rest of the family sleeps. Sleeping crates can be made comfortable with blankets, and perhaps an old sweater that still bears your scent.
Keep in mind that having your dog sleep in an isolated area will likely result in destructive behavior. A dog that sleeps outside, away from the family, may bark or howl. This behavior reflects how the dog becomes nervous when she is away from the family and indicates her need to sleep with the “pack.” If outside dogs act in this manner, using indoor sleeping crates may solve the problem.
Why’s My Dog Snoring?
If your dog’s snoring, it probably isn’t anything to worry about. Dog snoring is most often caused by a small, harmless obstruction in the throat. Obesity, a common cause of snoring in humans, is also responsible for some canine snoring.
Certain breeds, most notably “squashed nose” (brachycephalic) breeds, are more susceptible to snoring than other breeds. Shar-peis, Pugs, Bulldogs and Pekingese are among the brachycephalic breeds that often snore while sleeping.
Snoring is not usually a canine health concern. However, snoring that interrupts a dog’s sleeping habits and leaves the dog irritable or sleepy can be cause for concern. Allergies may cause snoring that disrupts sleep and should be treated to ensure that the dog can get sufficient restful sleep.
Sleeping Dogs and Narcolepsy
Like humans, dogs can suffer from narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness. Symptoms of narcolepsy, in both dogs and humans, include:
- auditory/visual hallucinations while sleeping
- cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness or paralysis)
- daytime sleepiness
- sleep paralysis.
Cataplexy is one of the most alarming symptoms of narcolepsy. Sudden muscle weakness or even temporary paralysis may be triggered by excitement or strong emotions.
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to narcolepsy than others. Doberman Pinschers and Labrador Retrievers are especially predisposed to narcolepsy: so much so in fact, that both breeds have proven to be important in human narcolepsy research studies. In both breeds, the cause of the sleeping disorder has been found to be a defective gene that encodes brain cell proteins. This “narcolepsy gene” is also present in humans.