Why Do Older Dogs Sleep More?

As dogs age, it’s common for them to spend more time sleeping. If you’ve noticed that your older furry friend seems to snooze more frequently, you may be wondering what’s causing this change. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind increased sleep in older dogs, the benefits of sleep for canine health, and ways you can support your senior dog’s sleeping needs.

Understanding the Sleep Patterns of Dogs

Just like humans, dogs go through periods of deep and light sleep throughout the night. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average adult dog sleeps between 12-14 hours per day. However, the amount of time a dog spends sleeping can vary based on factors such as breed, age, activity level, and health.

It’s important to note that while dogs do sleep a lot, they also need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation during their waking hours. Dogs that don’t get enough physical and mental activity during the day may struggle to fall asleep at night, leading to behavior problems and other issues.

The Sleep Cycle of Dogs

During deep sleep, dogs experience the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, which is when they dream. Dogs may twitch, whimper, or even move their legs during REM sleep, indicating that they are experiencing vivid dreams.

Interestingly, dogs’ sleep cycles are shorter than humans’. While humans typically have a sleep cycle that lasts around 90 minutes, dogs’ sleep cycles only last around 20 minutes. This means that dogs may enter the REM stage more frequently throughout the night than humans do.

As dogs age, they may experience less deep sleep and more light sleep. This means that while they may still dream during REM sleep, they may be more easily awakened and have a harder time reaching a deep sleep state. This can be especially true for senior dogs, who may struggle with health issues or discomfort that keep them from getting a good night’s sleep.

Comparing Sleep Patterns of Puppies and Older Dogs

Young puppies require more sleep than adult dogs, with some sleeping up to 18-20 hours per day. This is because puppies are growing and developing at a rapid pace, which requires a lot of energy. Puppies may also need to wake up more frequently during the night to go potty.

As dogs age, their sleep needs begin to decrease but still remain higher than that of adult humans. Older dogs may also experience more interrupted sleep, waking up throughout the night due to health issues or discomfort. For example, dogs with arthritis may have a harder time finding a comfortable sleeping position, leading to more tossing and turning throughout the night.

Overall, understanding your dog’s sleep patterns is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. By providing your dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation during the day, you can help them get a good night’s sleep and live a happy, healthy life.

Factors Contributing to Increased Sleep in Older Dogs

As dogs age, they may experience a variety of changes that can affect their sleep patterns. While some dogs may continue to be active and alert well into their senior years, others may begin to sleep more frequently and for longer periods of time. This can be due to a variety of factors, including age-related health issues, cognitive decline, reduced energy levels and metabolism, and medications and their effects on sleep. In this article, we will explore each of these factors in more detail.

Age-Related Health Issues

One of the most common reasons for increased sleep in older dogs is age-related health issues. As dogs age, they may develop a range of conditions that can cause pain, discomfort, or fatigue. For example, arthritis is a common condition in older dogs that can cause joint pain and stiffness, making it difficult for them to move around comfortably. In response, dogs may spend more time sleeping as a way to cope with the discomfort or heal their bodies.

Other health issues that can contribute to increased sleep in older dogs include kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes. These conditions can cause feelings of fatigue and weakness, making it difficult for dogs to stay active and alert. As a result, they may spend more time resting and sleeping to conserve their energy.

Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Another factor that can contribute to increased sleep in older dogs is cognitive decline and dementia. Just like in humans, aging dogs may experience changes in their cognitive function that can affect their memory, learning, and behavior. Dogs with dementia may become confused or disoriented, leading to feelings of anxiety and stress. As a coping mechanism, they may sleep more frequently and for longer periods of time.

Reduced Energy Levels and Metabolism

As dogs age, their energy levels and metabolism may decrease. This means that they require less physical activity to maintain their health and wellbeing. While some dogs may continue to be active and alert well into their senior years, others may experience a decline in their energy levels and become more sedentary. This can result in an increased need for rest and sleep to conserve energy while still allowing them to maintain their overall health.

Medications and Their Effects on Sleep

Finally, medications can also play a role in the sleep patterns of older dogs. Many medications prescribed to older dogs can cause drowsiness or fatigue, leading to increased sleep. For example, pain medications may cause drowsiness, while medications used to treat anxiety or other behavioral issues may cause relaxation and a need for more sleep. It is important to discuss any concerns about your dog’s sleep patterns with your veterinarian to ensure that they are not related to any underlying health issues or medication side effects.

In conclusion, there are many factors that can contribute to increased sleep in older dogs. While some dogs may continue to be active and alert well into their senior years, others may require more rest and sleep to maintain their health and wellbeing. By understanding the factors that can affect your dog’s sleep patterns, you can help ensure that they receive the care and attention they need to stay happy and healthy throughout their golden years.

The Benefits of Sleep for Older Dogs

As dogs age, their bodies and minds go through many changes. One of the most important things that older dogs need is plenty of restful sleep. In fact, sleep is so important for older dogs that it can have a significant impact on their overall health and well-being. Here are some of the key benefits of sleep for older dogs:

Physical Restoration and Healing

During sleep, dogs’ bodies are able to repair and restore themselves in a way that is not possible when they are awake. This is especially true in older dogs with health issues or injuries, as rest allows the body to repair itself more effectively. When a dog is sleeping, its body is able to focus its energy on healing any damage that may have occurred during the day. This can include repairing damaged tissues, strengthening muscles, and even promoting healthy skin and coat.

Mental Health and Cognitive Function

Sleep is crucial for maintaining mental health and cognitive function in older dogs. Just like in humans, interrupted sleep or reduced sleep can contribute to feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. Adequate sleep allows dogs to maintain their cognitive function, memory retention, and overall mood. This is especially important for older dogs, who may be experiencing cognitive decline or other age-related changes to their brain function.

Strengthening the Immune System

Sleep plays an essential role in regulating immune system function. During sleep, the immune system is able to repair and strengthen itself, helping the body fight off infections and diseases. This is particularly important for older dogs, who may have weaker immune systems and be more susceptible to illness. By getting enough sleep, older dogs can help their bodies stay healthy and strong.

Reducing Pain and Inflammation

Older dogs are more likely to experience pain and inflammation due to arthritis or other age-related conditions. Fortunately, sleep can help to reduce these symptoms. When a dog is sleeping, its body releases natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help to alleviate discomfort and reduce swelling. This can help older dogs to feel more comfortable and mobile during the day.

Promoting Healthy Digestion

Digestive issues are common in older dogs, but sleep can help to promote healthy digestion. During sleep, the body is able to focus on digesting and processing food, which can help to prevent digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, getting enough sleep can help to regulate appetite and prevent overeating, which can be a problem for some older dogs.In conclusion, sleep is incredibly important for the health and well-being of older dogs. By getting enough restful sleep, older dogs can enjoy a range of benefits, from physical restoration and healing to improved mental health and cognitive function. If you have an older dog, make sure to provide them with a comfortable and quiet sleeping space, and encourage them to get plenty of rest throughout the day and night.

How to Support Your Older Dog’s Sleep Needs

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Ensure that your older dog has a comfortable place to rest. This may include a supportive bed with blankets or pillows to help ease joint pain. Consider using a humidifier or white noise machine to help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Adjusting Daily Routines and Exercise

Make sure your older dog is getting enough exercise during the day to help promote better sleep at night. However, be mindful of their energy level, and avoid over-exerting them. Establishing a regular routine for feeding, exercise, and sleep can also help support healthy sleep patterns.

Monitoring and Addressing Health Issues

If you suspect your older dog’s increased sleep is due to health issues, consult with your veterinarian. They can help diagnose and treat underlying health concerns, allowing your dog to maintain their overall health and wellbeing.

Consulting with Your Veterinarian

If you’re concerned about your older dog’s sleep patterns, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues or medication concerns. Your vet can provide guidance on how to support your dog’s sleep needs and overall health as they age.


As dogs age, they may sleep more frequently than their younger counterparts. While this may be concerning, it’s often a natural part of the aging process. By understanding the reasons behind increased sleep in older dogs, we can better support their needs and help maintain their overall health and wellbeing.