You wake up. You look at your clock and you realize you only slept for 5 hours. You already feel exhausted, cranky, and all you want to do is lie down.
Well, this is exactly how dogs feel when they don’t get at least 12 hours of sleep every day. The effects of low quality sleep are similar for dogs and humans:
Sluggishness and lethargy
Inability to do the simplest tasks
Whining or crying during the night
Losing a couple nights of sleep isn’t a big deal. In fact, it can be quite common when they travel with you, get too excited or find themselves in a new environment. It becomes an issue when they consistently fail for weeks to get enough shut-eye.
Stress hormones accumulate, causing more serious health problems. Their immune system weakens, inviting infections and other diseases.
But how can you spot sleep disorders? What are the most common ones and what can you do about them?
It’s pretty much self-explanatory. Your doggo’s regular sleep pattern is disrupted, causing him to stay up all night.
In most cases, it’s a matter of anxiety or pent-up energy. Getting more exercise, increasing the activity before bed could alleviate some of the built-up stress making your buddy more comfortable and help him fall to sleep easier.
Other issues causing insomnia include allergies (Itchiness, a stuffy nose, etc) and physical pain stemming from more serious conditions, like arthritis. If you suspect it’s any of these, you should bring your dog to the vet.
Another thing you should pay attention to is nutrition. If you’ve recently changed the kind of food you give to your dog, it could be causing digestive issues, preventing him from falling asleep.
Albeit cute, snoring can be a sign of a health condition; sleep apnea.
The airways briefly collapse or narrow, interrupting the breathing pattern and waking up your dog.
A little bit of snoring is fine -- especially if your dog was always a snorer. When it becomes loud and continuous, it could be dangerous.
Fortunately, sleep apnea is rare for dogs. But if it becomes an issue, check his nose and throat for infections and make sure he maintains a healthy weight.
Unless the condition seriously affects his sleep, it’s not something you should worry about when you’ve made sure there’s not an underlying problem.
Do Dogs Dream?
You may have noticed that sometimes dogs slightly move their body when they dream. Are they chasing a cat? Or is it REM Behavior Disorder?
When they become extremely active (running, attacking, barking at objects, etc) during sleep, they may suffer from the condition.
(The difference between this disorder and a seizure is that the dog is completely fine after waking up, compared to the discombobulation he experiences after an epileptic episode)
Your vet will usually prescribe medication to reduce sleep activity and help your dog fall and stay asleep.
If your dog randomly collapses after strenuous activity, he could be suffering from…
A neurological condition usually observed in younger dogs, narcolepsy causes the dog to collapse and fall into REM sleep.
It’s usually a genetic disorder, but there are other causes like obesity and immune system issues.
You’ll notice these episodes after periods of acute excitement or enthusiastic playtime.
While it’s not curable, narcolepsy isn’t dangerous and can be managed by minimizing the triggers causing it. For example, maintaining a relaxed environment and calming your dog down when you notice him getting too hyped up.
If narcolepsy starts negatively affecting your buddy, there are treatments available. Your vet can assess if medication is necessary in order to reduce hyperactivity during sleep.
Cataplexy is also a nervous system disorder. Although it’s not sleep related, you should be aware of it.
It looks exactly like narcolepsy. The only difference is that the muscles are paralyzed during an episode and the dog retains his consciousness. Even though it looks scary, it’s not serious.
Other Underlying Issues
In most cases, sleep problems are nothing to worry about and will usually get resolved on their own.
But there are rare occasions you have to be proactive and make sure they aren’t something more serious.
Dementia, cognitive dysfunction, arthritis, tumors, brain degeneration, etc could negatively affect the sleeping pattern of dogs. It’s important to be conscious of those, especially if your dog is older.
Consider natural remedies
Medication isn’t always the solution.
There’re many natural supplements and methods to help your furry friend fall to sleep easier. These are some of your options:
There are studies suggesting CBD oil can help dogs get more calm and relaxed.
Aromatherapy (essential oil like lavender) could also be utilized to make the environment more inviting for sleep.
Lastly, acupuncture has been used to treat sleep disorder and even chronic conditions.
Before administering anything, always:
Consult with your vet
Yes, sleep disorders aren’t something to lose sleep over (pun intended). But you should definitely make sure they aren’t symptoms of a serious health problem.
As stated in the beginning, dogs, like humans, need their sleep! There’s no reason to let your buddy suffer from sleep deprivation when one visit to the vet could make a big difference.
Love is all he needs!
No one really mentions it, but psychological distress and trauma (in extreme cases, PTSD) could be what’s causing all of this.
So make sure you spend enough time with him. And provide plenty of belly rubs, ear scratches, and kisses!
P.S- If you have any questions about sleep disorders, feel free to comment below!