Did you know dogs can sleep up to 18 hours a day?
A good quality night’s sleep is as important for your dog’s health as it is for your health.
Here are the top five reasons I believe why all dogs need great sleep, and why it is so important to provide a supportive sleep environment for our canine companions.
#1 Good sleep supports good behavior
A badly behaved dog might just be a sleep deprived dog. Sleep deprivation causes the release of stress hormones, which can lead to grouchiness and short attention spans, which can manifest as aggression, inability to follow directions, restlessness, hyper-activity, out of character nervousness, and unpredictable behavior. A lack of good sleep negatively impacts your dog’s mental and emotional well being.
#2 Good sleep supports cellular repair
Although you feel like you are shutting down all your systems when you go to sleep, your body actually is doing the opposite. Sleep is when the body goes into repair mode, undoing all the damage you did to it during the day, in dogs and humans! When you are sleeping and not thinking, your brain can shift its energy to repairing cells. If there are damaged cells, then the brain can release the appropriate hormones needed to start repairing them. Adequate sleep that is of sufficient quality is necessary for this process to occur, in any size dog.
#3 Good sleep supports dogs with chronic disease
Good quality sleep is even more important dogs that have chronic health challenges, such as arthritis, diabetes, or hormonal disorders. Dogs with chronic disease are constantly fighting cellular damage, and as we already learned, most cellular repair happens when dogs sleep. Dogs with epilepsy, which a chronic seizure disorder, can actually be more prone to having seizures if they don’t get enough sleep. Furthermore chronic pain from conditions like arthritis can severely interfere with sleep quality and quantity, making good sleep support even more important in these poor dogs. During restful sleep the heart rate slows, breathing slows, and all the muscles in the body can finally relax.
#4 Good sleep supports memory, learning, and brain development
In humans, our memories are organized while we sleep. The main hypothesis out there is that slow wave sleep, which is only acquired during deep, restorative sleep, processes and consolidates all the information we acquire during the day. It’s like the Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’, where the little characters clean out old, unused memories in the form of little colored spheres in the brain of the main character. There is good reason to think this is the same for other mammalian brains, including dogs. Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts learning, as attention and focus decrease in sleep deprived individuals. Lastly, sleep is very important for growing brains – which is part of the reason puppies sleep so much – 12-18 hours a day!
#5 Good sleep supports the immune system
Sleep deprived dogs are more prone to infections. This is because during sleep, a dog’s immune system releases chemical messengers called cytokines. These chemical messengers help promote sleep so that the body can rest and repair. If the body is fighting an infection, or any inflammation, or is under stress, the need for these cytokines and sleep increases to help the body to repair and heal. Good quality sleep is absolutely essential for optimum healthy immune system function.
Psychological as well as physical problems can be responsible for canine sleep deprivation. If you are concerned, talk with your veterinarian, and be proactive by giving your canine companion the supportive sleep environment that he or she needs, and deserves.