July 11, 2020 8 min read

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If you’re a pet parent, you may be wondering why dogs sleep more than we do? On average, dogs can sleep from 12 to 14 hours a day, with senior dogs and puppies sleeping much more.  Giant breeds like Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands may snooze for as long as 18 hours a day. 

Just like us, our furry best friends also react to changes in their environment which also affects their sleep cycle. That said, medical conditions like hyperthyroidism and diabetes can affect a dog’s sleep pattern, and should always be taken into consideration. In this article, we’ll discuss how CBD pet products may help with insomnia.

Dog sleep and activity

The American Kennel Club (AKC) adds that dogs should spend 20% of their time being active, 30% of their time awake, but relaxing, and 50% of their time asleep. Dog sleep issues can affect all dogs during any life stage. 

General signs of illness in dogs may include decreased activity and lethargy which sometimes includes other specific signs like vomiting, coughing, diarrhea, lameness, and more. If your dog displays any of these signs, it’s a good idea to visit your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.

 Age, breed, diet, and activity level

The number of hours that your furry best friend spends sleeping will depend on his age, breed, health, and activity schedule. Older dogs and pups average longer hours sleeping than smaller dogs, and dogs with less mental and environmental stimulation also tend to get a lot more snooze time due to boredom. Puppies can sleep up to 20 hours a day, though they’ll spend around the same amount of time in REM sleep.

Large dog breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards will sleep more because of their large body size, and the need to restore their bodies. Larger dogs have fewer dreams, lasting longer than those of smaller dogs.

Health concerns can affect dog sleep as well

Dogs that are on certain medications or that are recovering from illness or surgery will also sleep more while they’re recovering. If your home is a busy home that’s active, your dog is also less likely to spend more hours sleeping because he’ll be interacting with family members.

Diet can affect a dog’s quality of sleep and keep them awake with an upset stomach. Illness can also cause both lack of sleep or excessive sleep. Anxiety, stress, and depression also contribute to a lack of sleep and can keep a dog from achieving enough quality sleep. That said, it’s important to remember that all dogs benefit from a regular sleep routine and daily schedule just like their pet parents.

Dog sleep cycle - Stage one

Dogs have similar sleep cycles to humans and will go through various cycles faster than humans do. Dogs will go through 20 or more sleep cycles, whereas humans go through 4 or 5. Sleep cycle one occurs when your furry best friend is snoozing lightly, and you’ll notice deep and rhythmic breathing. 

This stage involves non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and slow-wave sleep. (SWS) This is light sleep, and your dog will wake easily from unexpected sounds. During sleep cycle one, the dog enters a light sleep, with his heart rate slowing and blood pressure dropping. Your dog’s breathing will be slow and regular.

According to PetMD, dogs will spend 30% of their wake hours “loafing” without doing much of anything.Dr. Mitchell, DVM, DAVP, adds that changes in a dog’s sleep pattern are important to look out for since they could indicate a health condition. “If your dog usually sleeps for 2-3 hours in the morning and then is up for the rest of the day, but then you suddenly notice they are sleeping for 5-6 hours in that time block, it’s time to call the vet. Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease could be the reason for the change in your dog’s normal sleep patterns,” via PetMD.

Stage two

During this stage, the dog enters the rapid eye movement phase, (REM) after 10 minutes of light sleep. During this sleep phase, you’ll notice that your dog will twitch during their nap, as well as bark lightly. 

This is indicative of dreaming, but it does not always mean a bad dream. Your dog’s brain is active during this phase where plenty of dreaming takes place. Here, you’ll find irregular and uneven brain waves similar to when a dog is wide awake.

During this stage, it will be harder to awaken him, and he may not be too pleased if you do. If there are small children around, it’s important to teach them not to interact with him when he sleeps. Dogs that are woken from REM sleep may bite. During the REM sleep phase, you’ll notice the following: 

  • Eye movement
  • Face muscle twitching
  • Whining
  • Soft bark
  • Lethargic “running behavior”

Studies have demonstrated that dogs in the REM sleep cycle have brain activity in the same area as when a dog is out hunting and chasing his prey, so the running behavior is linked to him dreaming of chasing rabbits or small prey. 10% of a dog’s sleep time is spent in the REM sleep cycle. Additionally, pups will spend longer times in their sleep cycle experiencing REM sleep because they’re learning about new things every day and need to process when they sleep.

Stage three

During this stage, after the REM cycle (only accounting for 10% of their day) the dog will enter a light and deep sleep. Dogs will go between REM and SWS phases when they sleep with most dogs having a preferred sleep position. REM sleep will be at its peak when a dog is most relaxed. Sleep positions that indicate a super relaxed furry best friend are when a dog lies on his back with his stomach exposed.

Many dogs enjoy curling up into a ball, with others lying comfortably on their sides. Numerous small breeds enjoy curling under the covers for some shut-eye. That said, it’s important to make sure that your furry best friend enjoys a high-quality sleep, and is not disturbed while sleeping. If you have a puppy, put him on a sleep schedule so that you can set up a good schedule. Pups tend to be overactive, but still, need to get plenty of sleep between potty breaks and exploring.

 Because sleep is such an important factor in a dog’s life, watch out for excessive sleeping, or insomnia. Consult with your vet if your furry best friend changes his sleep schedule suddenly. It could be linked to depression, noise sensitivity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and even deafness. Keep in mind that regular exercise, a comfortable andsupportive dog bed, together with a healthy diet help to maintain a good sleep schedule.

CBD Oil may be beneficial for insomnia, allergies, and pain

CBD oil or dog treats may help your furry best friend get a good night’s rest. But before you go out and purchase a CBD pet product, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian for a full check-up to see whether your dog is in pain.

Dogs like people feel pain when sick or injured. That said, pain management is a routine part of the physical examination and treatment plan in veterinary medicine. With pain comes different types of behaviors linked to a physical problem. 

It may be aggression, lethargy, or other behavioral changes. It’s up to each pet parent to be able to recognize the signs of pain in their dogs, since dogs may act differently when in pain. Keep in mind that if your dog is in pain, he may suffer from insomnia.

According to a newstudy about how cannabidiol can help insomnia. The study added that “CBD appears to be better tolerated than routine psychiatric medications. Furthermore, CBD displays promise as a tool for reducing anxiety in clinical populations,” via NCBI.

A 2010 study on the effects of CBD on depression adds that “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotomimetic compound from Cannabis sativa that induces anxiolytic- and antipsychotic-like effects in animal models. The effects of CBD may be mediated by the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors. As 5-HT(1A) receptor activation may induce antidepressant-like effects,” via PubMed.

The aim of the experiment was to” test the hypothesis that CBD would have antidepressant-like activity in mice as assessed by the forced swimming test. We also investigated if these responses depended on the activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors and on hippocampal expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).” 

The results demonstrated that “BD (30 mg*kg (-1)) treatment reduced immobility time in the forced swimming test, as did the prototype antidepressant imipramine, without changing exploratory behavior in the open-field arena. WAY100635 pretreatment blocked CBD-induced effect in the forced swimming test. CBD (30 mg*kg (-1)) treatment did not change hippocampal BDNF levels. 

CBD induces antidepressant-like effects comparable to those of imipramine. These effects of CBD were probably mediated by activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors.”

Another interesting 2016 research paper says that CBD induces rapid-acting anti-depressants-like effects and enhances cortical 5- HT/glutamate neurotransmission. (The 5-HT 1A receptor is a subtype of 5-HT, and binds with the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is a main inhibitory G- protein with subtypes found mainly in the neocortex.) 

The study explains that “Our results demonstrate that CBD exerts fast and maintained antidepressant-like effects as evidenced by the reversal of the OBX-induced hyperactivity and anhedonia. In vivo microdialysis revealed that the administration of CBD significantly enhanced serotonin and glutamate levels in vmPFCx in a different manner depending on the emotional state and the duration of the treatment. 

The potentiating effect upon neurotransmitters levels occurring immediately after the first injection of CBD might underlie the fast antidepressant-like actions in OBX mice.

Both the antidepressant-like effect and enhanced cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission induced by CBD were prevented by 5-HT1A receptor blockade. Moreover, adaptive changes in pre- and postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptor functionality were also found after chronic CBD. In conclusion, our findings indicate that CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signaling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism, “via PubMed.

Tel Aviv University in a 2014 clinical trial on CBD and its effects on depression adds that a low dosage of THC reduces swelling and inflammation in the brain without psychoactive effects. The researchers also added that CBD has the same properties as THC without the “high” and that it may produce similar outcomes in humans, as it did in the tested mice.

Cannabidiol oil for dogs with depression and anxiety that have insomnia

It’s a well-known fact that cannabidiol orCBD may be effective without any side effects in treating anxiety and depression. If your dog is depressed, he may not be sleeping properly. You’ll need to first ensure that your dog is not suffering from a medical condition, and then get the depression treated by a veterinary behaviorist.

Veterinarians may prescribe Prozac, Zoloft, or Paxil for dogs. Clomicalm may also be effective in treating both anxiety and depression combined with behavior modification. Sedatives, anxiolytics, and antidepressants have proven effective in treating canine depression but may have long term side effects.

Dog parents seeking help for dogs that are depressed or anxious or that suffer from insomnia can always turn to their vets for help. Because a veterinarian cannot make a diagnosis on a one-time occurrence, you’ll need to keep a journal and possibly video your dog to clarify the pattern of your dog’s sleep patterns and behavior. Discuss using a CBD pet product to help your dog with insomnia and depression.


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Meet The Author

Claudia Bensimoun

Claudia Bensimoun author of Post COVID Summer Fun Tips to reduce canine stress

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist and author, and specializes in veterinary content, and eBooks. She's a long-time feature writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. In addition, Bensimoun has written for numerous pet websites, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/ humanitarian relief, veterinary research, and veganism.