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Why Do Dogs Wake up so Easily?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
April 13, 2022
4 min read
Why Do Dogs Wake up so Easily?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

It’s the middle of the night. Swaddled up in your covers, your eyes slowly blink open, and you are greeted by the pitch-black darkness of your room.

As you lie awake, you wonder: why am I up?

You didn’t have a bad dream…you’re not hungry…you don’t even need to use the restroom.

Then it hits you…that eerie feeling like somebody’s watching you. So, you flip on the lamp only to see your pup staring dead at you. A little creepy there, buddy!

And this isn’t the first time. Why can’t they just stay asleep? Why does he wake up so easily?

Generally, dogs wake up so easily because they tend to be light sleepers. They spend about half their time asleep in stage two sleep which is a less deep sleep stage. Their wild pack animal roots, medical and cognitive conditions, age, and size may also explain their light sleeping.

In this article, I will reveal why dogs wake up so easily. I will also explain why dogs tend to be light sleepers and list several possible reasons your dog may be a light sleeper. Finally, I will wrap things up by giving you tips to help your dog sleep through the night.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
01
Why Dogs Wake up so Easily
02
Dogs Are Light Sleepers
03
Why Else May My Dog Wake up so Easily?
04
How to Help Your Dog Get More Sleep
05
Wakey, Wakey!

Why Dogs Wake up so Easily

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You’re not alone if you’ve ever woken up to your pup wide awake at your side! Dogs wake up so easily mainly because they are inherently light sleepers.

Let me explain.

Dogs Are Light Sleepers

While dogs’ and humans’ sleep cycles are similar, they also vary in a few key ways. Dogs and humans both go through four stages of sleep.

These four stages include:

Stage 1

Very light sleep. Limbs are immovable, and you may have very mild awareness of your surroundings.

Stage 2

You are totally asleep but still not in deep sleep. Your brain activity and pulse have slowed down.

Stage 3

A far deeper stage of sleep. This is when breathing and heart rate have slowed considerably. At this point, you are not aware of your environment, and you are way less likely to be woken up.

Stage 4

This is where the deepest sleep is achieved. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) happens during this stage. This is when the brain is most active, and dreaming is most likely to occur.

Dogs spend only about 10 percent of their sleep time in REM, unlike humans, who spend about 25 percent of their time asleep in REM. So it stands to reason that 90 percent of the time your pup is sleeping, their sleep is not all that deep!

In fact, your pup actually spends about 50 percent of the time they are asleep in stage 2. So half of the time your dog is sleeping, they are fully asleep, but they aren’t sleeping extremely deeply.

Dogs Really Are Light Sleepers!

Given all of these truths about your dog’s sleep cycle, it makes sense that they will be likely to wake up more easily. They’re generally not sleeping that deeply to begin with!

But there are other reasons your pup may be waking up so easily.

Let’s examine a few!

Why Else May My Dog Wake up so Easily?

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Your pup’s natural predisposition to spend more time in a lighter sleep explains why they wake up so quickly. But there are other possible reasons why this could be.

Other reasons your dog may wake up so easily include:

Their Wolfpack Roots

Long before dogs became the cuddly, domesticated “man’s best friend” they are today, these little cuties were roughing it out in the wild.

Wild dogs in packs would take turns sleeping while other dogs guarded their pack mates. A dog’s natural ability to wake up easily could save their life!

A dog who sleeps too heavily could easily fall prey to an attacker. In short, getting too good of a night of sleep in the wild could wind up getting your pup killed!

Medical and Cognitive Conditions

Your pup may wake up more easily if there’s something going on with them mentally or physically.

Cognitive conditions like dementia can keep your pup up late with anxiety. Any distress your pup may be feeling emotionally during the day can carry over and have them wide-eyed at night.

Medical conditions like urinary issues and tummy troubles can wake your pup up to use the restroom. Arthritis can also cause your pup to wake up due to stiffness they may feel from a lack of movement during the late-night hours.

Their Age and Size

Your dog may be waking up more or less at night, depending on their age. Puppies generally have more energy and may want to sleep less. Older dogs tend to tire out quicker and need more rest.

Larger dogs also tend to need and get more shut-eye than smaller dogs might.

How to Help Your Dog Get More Sleep

Dogs tend to be light sleepers; that’s just a fact. While you can’t change their biology or wiring, there are things you can do to best set your pup up for a night of sound sleep.

Here are some tips to try out:

  • Tire your pup out with a lot of vigorous exercise before nighttime
  • Feed your pup close enough to their bedtime, so they don’t go to sleep hungry
  • Take your pup out to use the restroom close to sleepy-time so they will be less likely to wake up because they need to go potty
  • Don’t encourage your pup to keep waking up by giving them too much attention (positive or negative)
  • Ensure your pup’s sleeping space is comfortable, i.e., moderate temperature, padded bedding, safe and quiet environment, etc.
  • Stay calm and quiet when your pup wakes up to make it easy for you both to simply go back to sleep

Wakey, Wakey!

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When all you want to do is sleep, the last thing you need is a pup who won’t settle down and go to sleep themselves.

Your pup isn’t trying to be difficult on purpose! Due to his natural sleep cycle, he’s literally just a lighter sleeper. His wild dog roots, medical issues, size, and age could also cause him to sleep more or less.

On the positive side, life with your dog is like a permanent sleepover with your best friend. A best friend you share a bed with who just happens to sleep lighter than you…who likes to move around, pant, stare, sniff and wake you up!

But at the end of the day, what are best friends for?!


Tags
SleepDog Behaviors
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