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Pet Sleep Habits: How to Encourage Good Sleep for Your Dog or Cat

Understand normal pet sleep habits so you can encourage the most rejuvenating rest for your dog or cat.

Getting proper zzz’s is one of the most important building blocks for general health, both for humans and our pets, too. Anyone who has stayed up too late before a long day at work, or spent time with a baby who missed their nap, knows how vital sleep is to our well-being and mood.

While we can usually monitor and manage our own sleep patterns with some success, taking naps when we need to or catching up with an early bedtime, our furry friends might need a little extra support in maintaining healthy pet sleep habits. Here’s what you need to know about the daily sleep schedule of dogs and cats and what you can do to support your pet’s rest and rejuvenation.

Important Things to Know About Pet Sleep Habits

Here are some of the most crucial things you need to understand about pet sleep habits:

  • REM and deep sleep are important regardless of species
  • Dogs and cats will likely sleep at different times of the day
  • Pets can experience various sleep issues
  • Age will impact pet sleep habits

All Pets Need to Have REM and Deep Sleep

While the research on pet sleep habits is limited, we know for certain that dogs and cats have sleep cycles at least somewhat similar to that of humans. They certainly experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a state of deep sleep when humans experience their dreams. Most experts imagine this is also when cats and dogs experience dreams.

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While brief, light naps will probably be a part of your cat or dog’s sleep habits, it’s important that they are getting deeper REM sleep at some point during the day. The amount of deep REM sleep needed for dogs and cats is significantly less than humans, though. Our animals don’t need a full, uninterrupted eight hours of sleep the way most people do, but pet sleep habits should include at least some multi-hour sets of deep sleep for them to feel fully rested.

Dogs and Cats Might Have Different Sleep Schedules

Dogs' sleep patterns tend to be much more regulated and less curious to humans than the pet sleep habits of cats. Cats are crepuscular, which means they experience natural bursts of energy and activity during the twilight hours (dawn and dusk). Many cat parents report their feline friends getting into mischief at night, which might be part of the reason we often see cats taking such long naps during the day. Furthermore, cats need more sleep, so despite the fact they don’t sleep as much at night, they tend to sleep more than dogs in general – and certainly more than most humans! Adult dogs, on the other hand, are typically much more content to simply follow along with the human sleep schedule and rest while their owners rest.

Understanding the Sleep Issues Your Pet Might Struggle With

Dogs and cats can both experience sleep conditions and issues that can either be a symptom of a problem or a problem in and of itself. Both dogs and cats have been known to experience sleep issues such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and insomnia. If you are concerned that your pet has a sleep disorder, don’t make the mistake of assuming animals are less likely to experience sleep problems than humans. While they may not face the same daily stress as people, they can still have mental health issues like depression and anxiety – both of which can contribute to problems with their sleep.

Your Pet’s Sleep Habits Will Change Over Time

Another very important thing to understand about pet sleep habits is that they will not always be consistent. Changes are to be expected as your pet grows and ages. Kittens and puppies need more sleep than adult cats or dogs, and older dogs and cats tend to also need more sleep as they age. Furthermore, other extenuating circumstances like health issues, surgery, pregnancy, and nursing will all impact your pet’s sleep habits.

How to Encourage Better Pet Sleep Habits

Some strategies for encouraging better pet sleep habits include:

  • Maintaining a healthy exercise schedule
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • Designing a restful sleep environment
  • Providing your pet with a melatonin supplement

Proper Daily Exercise Will Help Your Pet Sleep

One of the most effective ways to ensure your dog or cat has no problem falling asleep and maintains normal pet sleep habits is to encourage consistent exercise habits in your animal. When dogs and cats are getting enough functional, healthy activity in their day – both for their brains and their physical bodies – they are more likely to keep on a regular schedule and get the amount of sleep they need.

The exercise needs of cats and dogs vary, but it’s always important to consider your animal’s physical limitations, such as injuries or illnesses, as well as their general activity needs that will be determined by their breed, age, and personality. It’s also important to remember mental exercise can be just as crucial as physical exercise when it comes to tiring out your pet and ensuring healthy pet sleep habits. No matter what, your animal will need some individualized, focused play time with you during the day, and ensuring this happens consistently will contribute to healthier snoozing for your animal.

A Bedtime Routine Can Be Beneficial for Your Pet’s Sleep Habits

Consistency and routine can support positive health outcomes for your pet in all realms of life, and sleep is no exception. When your dog or cat knows what to expect from you, they feel safe and comforted, which makes it easier for them to uphold normal pet sleep habits.

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A bedtime routine – not unlike the one you might set up for a toddler to encourage proper sleep – can be super beneficial for your cat or dog. Using certain cues to show your animal that it is time for sleep can help them understand that you need some quiet time for your own rest, and it might also encourage them to get more restful sleep themselves. This might be a comforting soft toy that you only pull down before bedtime and put away in the morning. A special calming treat can also signal to your dog or cat that it is time for rest. Even verbal cues, like saying “Time for bed,” can help your pet get into the zone for sleep.

What you do during the bedtime routine is up to you, but what you don’t do right before bed is just as important. Don’t get your pet riled up with a crazy game immediately before sleep (though some exercise for dogs or predator/prey playtime for cats earlier in the evening can be a great way to encourage sleep). Other activities that might cause stress or anxiety for your animal – such as running the vacuum or blow drying your hair – should also be avoided immediately before bedtime to give your pet the best chance at a restful night’s sleep.

The Environment Is Key to Healthy, Restful Sleep for Your Pet

While sleeping with your dog isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s very important that your animal’s sleeping environment is arranged to encourage restful, uninterrupted sleep. Sometimes, sleeping in the same bed with our pets can feel comforting for us, but it might keep your pet from getting the truly rejuvenating sleep they really need.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to setting up a sleeping oasis for your dog or cat. Dogs need a soft, comfortable place to rest their bones, especially as they get older and experience joint issues. Cats tend to prefer a sleeping place that is raised off the ground and enclosed. Dogs as well can be happy sleeping in a crate, if they are trained to do so.

Temperature is also a very important factor in encouraging appropriate pet sleep habits. If it is too hot or too cold, your animal will struggle to regulate their body temperature and sleep comfortably. It’s important to remember that a temperature that is comfortable for you may be too hot for your pet. Dogs, in particular, are prone to overheating. You should also never let your pets sleep outside overnight if it is very chilly. Keep the temperature at a moderate level overnight and ensure the temperature of your pet’s sleeping zone is suited to their needs.

Cats can see just as well at night as they can during the day, so the lighting situation isn’t very relevant to their sleep schedule. Dogs, on the other hand, benefit from a dimly lit or dark environment to encourage restful sleep.

Consider a Melatonin Supplement for Your Pet

If you are worried about the pet sleep habits of your dog or cat, they may need a little additional calming support from melatonin. This amazing hormone is made naturally by your animal, and adding an additional supplement of it can encourage more regulated and restful sleep patterns. Melatonin for dogs and melatonin for cats are both safe to use and effective in supporting healthy sleep. This is why we use melatonin in our calming CBD oil for dogs as well as our feline formula, calming CBD oil for cats. Use the resources at your disposal to ensure your animal has the healthiest, most regulated pet sleep habits possible.

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