Dogs seem to both be able to sleep a lot but also be light sleepers who can wake up at the slightest noise or movement and not be groggy or sleepy when they do so.
Why is this?
Why Do Dogs Wake Up So Easily?
Dogs can wake up easily because they sleep in short cycles.
They are polyphasic sleepers.
This means their sleep is split up into short sessions throughout the day and night.
Due to their shorter sleep cycles, dogs aren’t always in a deep sleep and can wake up more easily than humans.
This article will explain the different canine sleep stages and why they can get up quickly when something happens to wake them up.
We will also discuss whether your dog is getting the amount of sleep they need to be healthy and how you can ensure it gets enough sleep.
NOTE – Before you go on, ou might like to read this post about why dogs grow so fast.
Do Dogs Ever Deep Sleep?
Considering how easily dogs awaken, it makes sense to wonder if they are ever in a deep sleep?
Dogs can fall into a deep sleep, but for shorter periods than humans do.
A canine’s rapid eye movement (REM) phase only takes up 20-36% of their total sleeping hours.
They are quick to enter REM sleep but are also quick to awake from it.
Scientists found that dogs are more alert than wolves when resting and have a period of heightened alertness following REM sleep.
Let’s look at a dog’s sleep cycle and how they fall asleep.
A Dog’s Sleep Cycle Explained
Humans and canines go through the same stages during a sleep-wake cycle: both species go through phases of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and REM. You can tell what stage your dog is in if you observe its body movements and breathing.
However, the difference between the two species is how long it takes to complete one sleep cycle.
Unlike canines, humans will complete four or five sleep cycles in one night, with long phases of REM sleep.
Researchers found that dogs can complete up to 23 cycles across eight hours, with only six minutes of REM sleep in each cycle.
Dogs can wake up immediately after completing one sleep cycle. Because of their short sleep-wake habits, they can get up quickly without feeling groggy.
The first stage of a dog’s snooze is also the start of the NREM phase. The pup is not fully asleep yet — they are just beginning to lose consciousness.
At this time, the dog’s eye movements become slower as they fall into drowsiness. In addition, you might notice that their breathing becomes slower.
The second stage is still in the NREM phase, but dogs spend most of their resting time in this stage.
This phase occupies about 45% of one sleep cycle.
Although this stage is still considered light sleep, it is deeper than the previous stage.
The dog’s heartbeat becomes slower, and its muscles start to relax. You might see a slight twitch of the limbs and even slower breathing.
Dogs might look like they are already deeply asleep, but that’s far from the truth. They can still wake up easily, so try not to disturb them.
Stage three of NREM is the slow-wave sleep (SWS) phase. SWS in dogs have the following characteristics:
- Slower brain waves.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Lower body temperature.
Additionally, SWS helps a dog’s mind relax. It is the most restorative stage of sleep — a canine’s body will repair and regenerate cells efficiently during this stage.
The dog will be unlikely to wake up or react to anything happening around them by this point.
The last stage of the cycle is the REM phase, where dogs are sound asleep and can dream. This stage is also termed active sleep.
REM sleep has the same function for dogs and humans; it is the stage when learning and memory retention occur.
The doggy brain is hard at work, and you might observe the following behavior:
- Rapid eye movement
- Faster breathing
- Random muscle twitches
The above behaviors are associated with what kind of dreams a dog has. (A common example of a dog dreaming is when they appear to be running in their sleep).
Pet owners must refrain from waking their dogs up when they dream because it can disrupt how they process life experiences.
The short REM phase during a dog’s sleep is why they can jolt awake quickly and also why they need to sleep so often.
However, puppies may spend a long time in dreamland since they are growing up and need more time to process new experiences.
Before we continue, you might enjoy this short video looking at the different positions dogs sleep in and what they can tell you about your dog:
How Many Hours a Day Do Dogs Sleep?
If you are constantly around your dog, you’ve probably noticed them napping a lot.
Dogs sleep on average for 12-14 hours a day. However, the length of sleep depends on age, health status, breed, and size.
A dog can spend 50% of its day asleep and an additional 30% in a light snooze.
Typically, puppies and seniors sleep more than healthy adult dogs because they need more rest to grow or recuperate their strength.
Domestic dogs are diurnal; they get most of their sleep at night like their owners. Dogs are good at adapting to their owner’s daily routine, but they still nap during the day when they can.
Helping Your Dog Have Enough Rest
Getting sufficient rest is essential for a dog too. A dog who isn’t sleeping enough or having disturbed sleep can have behavioral or health issues.
If you notice your dog waking up too often, there are a few things you can do to help them get better rest:
- Devise a bedtime routine for you and your dog.
- Schedule potty time right before bed.
- Ensure that your pet has enough exercise during the day.
- Set up a quiet, calm, safe, and comfortable sleeping environment.
If the sleep issues persist, you should schedule an appointment with the veterinarian to find out why your dog isn’t resting well.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website has some helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills. (If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country).
Final Notes on Why Dogs Wake Up So Easily
Dogs wake up easily because they don’t fall into a deep sleep immediately when resting — canines are still in a half-awake state for about 50% of their sleep cycle.
They also have short sleep-wake cycles and can spring awake immediately after active sleep.
Canines have similar sleep phases as humans do. They wake easily during the first two stages of NREM but are less prone to waking as they enter REM sleep.
Most of a dog’s day is spent asleep, but it can be a problem if they wake up too often from snoozing.
NOTE – You might also like to read this post looking at why dogs curl up in a ball when they sleep.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!