The importance of sleep in dogs
During sleep, the brain processes the events of the day and the body can settle down so that we can function properly the next day. Sleep is of great importance to dogs (as with humans). It ensures that they remain physically and mentally healthy.
What exactly is sleep?
Sleep is a state of physical rest. The muscles are relaxed, blood pressure and body temperature are decreasing, and the brain perceives virtually nothing of what is happening in the environment. Sleep consists of 5 phases, each with its own brain activity. It starts with a light sleep (phases 1 and 2), then you fall deeper and deeper into sleep (phases 3 and 4). The final and fifth phase is the familiar REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), also called dream sleep. This is characterized by completely relaxed muscles, but the heart rhythm and breathing become more irregular and the blood pressure rises. The eyes quickly go back and forth. This is the phase in which is dreamed. If the REM sleep has been completed, a new sleep cycle starts again. During sleep you walk through 5 of these sleep cycles. Especially deep sleep and REM sleep are important for a good night’s sleep.
How much sleep does a dog need?
Dogs sleep more often and longer than people. They spend at least half of the day asleep, depending on the age this can be up to three quarters of the day.
– A puppy sleeps about 18-20 hours per day.
– An adult dog sleeps an average of 12-14 hours per day.
– Older dogs need more sleep, which can be as much as 16-18 hours per day.
– Some large breeds are known to sleep more than average. Think of Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, Pyrenean mountain dogs and Mastiffs.
It is not entirely clear why dogs need so much sleep. An explanation could be that their REM sleep is shorter than with us. In people, REM sleep covers about 25% of the time we sleep, in dogs it is about 10%. This could mean that dogs need more sleep time to process everything and be fit for the next day.
Effect of sleep deprivation in dogs
Sleep deprivation affects the learning ability, concentration, memory and performance. But not only that. It also affects the immune system (you get sick more quickly) and the way you feel. You can feel tired, lethargic and stressed. In extreme cases it even affects your social life. You are much more irritable and can therefore have much less of the people around you. This applies equally to dogs.
Apnea and snoring with English Bulldogs
Some dog breeds sleep less well due to their abnormal anatomy. It will not come as a surprise that the English Bulldog has breathing problems due to his flat snout, even while sleeping. During especially REM sleep, English Bulldogs show a respiratory disorder that causes them to become oxygen deficient while sleeping. This is called apnea. Apnea causes a lot of sleepiness in both people and dogs during the day. People who say that Bulldogs are lazy can be right about that. However, this is not necessarily a trait, it can also be the result of the abnormal anatomy of this breed.