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Why Your Dog Won’t Sleep at Night: Failure to Snooze

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Dog Health By Kelsey Snyder 8 min read July 19, 2021

Why can't dog sleep
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For most doggos, sleeping is an art form. Your pup may be an expert at the sploot, or he may perfect his cinnamon roll impression as he catches zzzs. 

But not every dog sleeps with such ease, and a lack of sleep is never fun (or healthy) for our fur friends. Sleeplessness can occur at any time in a pooch’s life and may be caused by a number of factors, including environmental conditions, health issues, or age.

Luckily, figuring out what’s keeping your dog awake isn’t usually difficult, and there are plenty of ways to get him back to dreaming about bones again in no time. Explore them with us below!

Why Won’t My Dog Sleep at Night: Key Takeaways

  • Dogs may struggle to get a good night’s sleep due to health problems, anxiety, or changes in their living arrangements. Just like when we don’t get enough rest, sleep disturbances can leave dogs feeling tired, groggy, and irritable.
  • There are a few different ways you can try to help your dog get better rest each night. Calming supplements, increased exercise, and making simple changes to your dog’s sleeping station can help alleviate canine insomnia.
  • You can also try letting your dog sleep in your bed, but there are pros and cons to this approach. And these pros and cons may affect you and your dog, so it’s important to consider the issue carefully.

Reasons Your Dog Won’t Sleep at Night 

If your dog is restless or unable to settle in for bed at the end of a long day, it’s definitely something to pay attention to. Most puppers are happy to snooze and an unwillingness to do so is a clear sign of a problem. 

The most common causes of sleep issues in dogs are:

  • A new environment: Moving isn’t just stressful for humans. Adjusting to a new home is difficult for a dog who’s suddenly overwhelmed with new sights, sounds, and smells. If you’ve recently adopted your doggo, this amplifies his stress since he doesn’t know you yet either.
  • Change in routine: Dogs get used to a schedule like humans. If you’ve recently started working a different shift or he’s getting less attention, your pupper may feel out of sorts and have difficulty settling.
  • Change in household: The addition (or loss) of a household member or fur friend is hard on your dog. Your pup may feel uncertain about his place in the pack or anxious about the change. Consider consulting a trainer to help your dog adjust to a new puppy sibling.
  • Skin problems or allergies: Skin issues or allergies are incredibly uncomfortable. Problems like food allergies, hot spots, or flea infestations can make settling impossible due to excessive itching and should be treated as soon as possible.
  • Illness: Your dog can’t voice if he’s feeling off, but his actions can. Restlessness is often a precursor of things like tummy trouble or kidney issues, which require more frequent potty breaks. Always check with your vet if you think that something is wrong with your dog. 
  • Pain: Discomfort caused by arthritis or other ailments can make laying down uncomfortable, especially if your dog’s bed isn’t well-padded. A restless dog paired with drooling, pacing, or gagging with no vomit can mean bloat — an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary care. Signs of pain include a stiff gait, whining, a change in breathing, panting, the repeated licking of a specific location, or an awkward posture. Any sign of pain is cause for a vet visit.
  • Anxiety: Whether it’s ongoing general anxiety or a sudden spike in anxiousness caused by storms or fireworks, a stressed dog will refuse to settle. He may pace, hide, or vocalize excessively. Anxiety can cause physical side effects too, so it’s important to take it seriously and treat the underlying cause for a happier, healthier fur friend.
  • Youth: Puppies are prone to sleeping problems thanks to seemingly unlimited energy. Your puppy may struggle to adjust to your sleeping schedule, which makes establishing a routine a must. 
  • Age-related illness: As your dog ages, he may develop dementia, which can cause sundowners syndrome, a condition that leads to restlessness in the afternoon and evening. Canine cognitive dysfunction is another sleep-stealer, rousing dogs from sleep at random and causing disorientation. 
  • Nightmares: Doggos can have nightmares just like us — some even appear to sleep walk! Your pup may snarl, cry, or yelp in his sleep, signaling that his dream isn’t so pleasant. Nightmares can be triggered by a trauma or linked to an overall anxiety disorder.
  • Sleep apnea: Usually seen in short-snouted (bulldogs, mastiffs, and pugs) or obese dogs, dog sleep apnea restricts airflow while your pooch is sleeping and actually causes him to stop breathing, which jolts him awake.
  • Lack of exercise: An under-exercised dog is not a happy dog. He’s also unlikely to be a good sleeper. If your pup refuses to settle at night and still wants to play, chances are, he needs more walks or playtime in his routine. 
why can't my dog sleep

Getting Your Dog to Sleep at Night: Strategies and Solutions

The good news is, you can usually help your dog start snoozing again in no time with a few changes. Conquer bedtime again by:

  • Increasing exercise: Burning off excess energy is a surefire way to help tire your dog out if he’s struggling with a change in routine or an overall lack of exercise. High-energy breeds need an outlet and incorporating a new sport, an extra walk a day, or incorporating fun dog walking games can help. Don’t forget about seniors or mobility-challenged doggos either! You can still work out pupper minds with interactive toys that don’t require a lot of movement.
  • Setting up a consistent bathroom schedule: Dogs, like babies, thrive with a routine. Maintaining a regular feeding and bathroom schedule can tweak his inner clock to sync up with yours, leading to a more restful night’s sleep.
  • Providing security: A stressed out pooch may need extra care to feel more comfortable at night. Giving him a tight-fitting garment like a Thundershirt or a dark crate to hide away in with a comfy bed can help. This is especially true during storms or fireworks, when some dogs reach peak anxiety. Providing more belly rubs and other attention never hurts, either.
  • Moving your dog’s sleeping quarters: Sometimes your pup may want to sleep closer to you. This doesn’t necessarily mean with you, but moving his bed or crate closer to your bed or bedroom can help him feel more secure (and less forgotten.)
  • Upgrading his bed: Not every bed will work for every dog. Arthritic dogs, for instance, benefit from memory-foam or other joint-supporting beds. Helping your dog sleep may be as simple as replacing his bed with something better.
  • Calming supplements: A dog with general anxiety or occasional restlessness may sleep better after taking a calming supplement 30 minutes or more before bed. Typically offered in a soft chew, calming supplements can double as a nighttime snack and use active ingredients like melatonin and L-tryptophan that may help soothe an anxious doggo.
  • Darkening the environment: If there are lights on in the house, your dog may still feel the need to be up and moving. Make sure his sleeping area is dark. If needed, try a crate cover. These are particularly helpful during storms or fireworks, when flashes outside may trigger anxiety.
  • Introducing background noise: Playing classical or some other type of chill music on low can help lull your pooch off to sleep by blocking out strange noises. This is especially helpful in new environments, where simple things like a refrigerator or furnace may send your doggo into a fit of anxiousness.
  • Trying CBD: Some owners have found that CBD supplements have helped their anxious dog relax, aiding in sleep. Offered in both oil and treat form, CBD can be implemented as an ongoing treatment or occasional helping hand during bouts of sleeplessness. 
  • Brushing before bed: Not only will a nighttime grooming session keep your pooch looking his best, but it can also be soothing. Grooming is a bonding experience and can help your pupper relax.
  • Visiting the vet: If sleeplessness is prolonged, taking a trip to the vet for a thorough examination is a must. There are some medications available that can help with ongoing issues like sundowners and canine cognitive dysfunction.
Don’t ignore doggie insomnia!

If you’re dog’s insomnia occurs over a period of time, and you’re unable to help him settle with any of the other tips provided above, be sure to consult with your vet.

Your vet may identify a health problem afflicting your pet, and there are medications for many ailments that may help him sleep more readily and comfortably.

Should You Let Your Dog Sleep in Your Bed?

The age-old debate of sharing your snooze space with your doggo is a spicy one.

Advocates love a late night cuddle buddy, while opponents worry about health-related risks. There are two sides of this coin worth noting:

pros

  • Eases anxiety: Dogs plagued with separation anxiety tend to sleep better next to their owners. On the flip side, dogs can calm anxious humans, too.
  • Enhance bonding: Life can keep us away from our puppers more than we like and cuddling all night is a great way to make up for lost time.
  • Establishes routine: With your doggo in bed with you, he’s forced to adjust to your sleep schedule, which means saying goodbye to nighttime whining or early morning mischief.

cons

  • Parasite risk: Doggos (while cute) can carry all sorts of hitchhikers, like fleas, ticks, or ringworm.
  • Allergies: Not only can your dog bring allergy-causing mites, dust, and dander into your bed to aggravate your allergies, but the detergents you use for washing your sheets can irritate him, too.
  • Sleep disturbance: Sleeping with a fur friend can mess with your sleep schedule. Not only can your pooch wake you with barking, rolling, or adjusting, but you may find yourself waking up just to check on your fur friend.
  • Comfort: Sharing a bed can force you into some interesting positions. It can also be hard on an aging dog, who may struggle with getting on and off of the bed.

At the end of the day, do what works best for you and your pupper. 

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Has your doggo ever gone through a bout of sleeplessness? What did you do to help him catch up on his beauty sleep? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by

Kelsey Snyder

Kelsey is a K9 of Mine contributor who has worked with dogs as a shift runner and office manager of a boarding kennel. When she’s not writing, she can be found throwing a ball or losing at tug of war. An animal lover to the max, she lives in South Jersey with her husband, her five dogs Boomer, Taj, Batman, Maya, and Moxie, some kitties, and two grumpy turtles.

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