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When we think of sleep deprivation we typically think of humans. However, it’s possible for your canine companion to not get enough sleep for a number of reasons, and it’s actually easier for dogs to develop a sleep debt than you might think.
Why Your Dog Might Not Be Getting Enough Sleep
Much like humans, dogs need adequate sleep to help them stay healthy. In fact, the average dog needs up to 20 hours of sleep every day. However, sleep patterns can be disrupted by any number of problems, including:
- Brachycephalic airway syndrome, a form of sleep apnea. Flat-faced breeds, such as pugs, are susceptible to this condition, in which the animal’s physical features can disrupt breathing and make it hard to breathe.
- REM sleep behavior disorder. Typically when a dog is dreaming, their mind is active, but their bodies aren’t; in fact, they are effectively paralyzed. REM sleep behavior disorder prevents that paralysis, though, causing the dog to act out their dreams, sometimes violently, keeping them from getting adequate rest.
- Age. As dogs get older, some develop neurological conditions similar to Alzheimer’s, which make them restless and confused and unable to sleep.
- Trauma. Some dogs, especially those who have been rescued from abusive situations, have a form of PTSD that keeps them from sleeping well. Some dogs also experience anxiety or sadness, which can be brought on by their environment.
Sometimes, dogs simply don’t sleep because they are uncomfortable. They might be too cold or warm, or feel hungry or ill. There may be something happening, such as an animal outside, keeping them awake. A dog who is used to sleeping with it’s humans might also have trouble settling into a new routine if you stop sleeping with pets for some reason. Typically, those disturbances are short-term, though, and can be easily remedied.
How to Tell If Your Dog is Sleep-Deprived
Identifying sleep deprivation in dogs isn’t an exact science, but the signs are often similar to those in humans. These include lethargy or a lack of energy, changes in personality, and disorientation or confusion. Your dog may not want to do their normal tasks, or have trouble completing them or even following simple commands.
Keep in mind, though, that these issues can also be brought on by other factors, like illness, and that sleep deprivation may be a symptom of some other problem. For that reason, it’s important to see a veterinarian if your dog’s behavior changes or you notice ongoing changes to their sleep patterns. The doctor can identify any underlying conditions that are keeping your pooch awake, and prescribe treatment to help them get some rest.
In addition to staying alert to any changes in your dog’s sleep patterns, you can help your dog maintain a healthy sleep schedule by maintaining a consistent routine that includes plenty of exercise. Taking your dog for a long walk or playing in the yard for a while before bedtime can help them get to sleep more easily. Studies also show that dogs sleep better when they are fed a healthy diet, and fed twice a day. Creating a safe, comfortable spot for your dog to sleep can help them feel more secure, and get the sleep they need to live a long and healthy life.