First, it was diet. Then it was exercise. But now, if you follow the slew of research, getting enough sleep seems to be the key a healthy lifestyle—and not getting enough can have serious, negative results.
In humans, sleep deprivation can affect everything from your brain and immune system to your cardiovascular and metabolic health. Most recently, a study from the Washington University School of Medicine found that lack of sleep causes increased levels of a protein in the brain called tau, a symptom that is associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Why are we talking about people? Well, it’s because humans and dogs (and all mammals) have very similar brain structures. Studies have shown dogs and humans process emotions in a similar manner and recent scientific evidence demonstrates that dogs react to human voices the same way we would.
That means, in terms of their health and well being, it is just as important for our pets to get shut-eye as it is for us. If we’re so similar we, as adults, should make sure our pets are getting the same 7 to 9 hours of sleep the National Sleep Foundation recommends for us, right?
Well, not exactly. Yes, dogs, thanks to tens of thousands of years of domestication, have like us become diurnal—sleeping at night and waking during the day unlike their wild, howling-at-the-moon cousins. This means your pet probably sleeps when you do. But you’ve also probably noticed they also sleep a lot when you are wide-awake.
You see, when humans sack out, our REM cycles last 20 minutes or longer during our 90-minute sleep cycles. These REM cycles are when we have vivid dreams, increased brain activity and total muscle relaxation—all of which contributes immensely to our physical and emotional health.
When dogs crash, their sleep cycles only last about 25 minutes and their REM phases only go on for around 5 or 10 minutes. To make up for these short periods of this much needed sleep, our pets have to get in more catnaps, or dognaps as the case may be.
Another reason they need more sleep is that we haven’t bred out all of dogs’ wild instincts. Like wolves, they are always vigilant, ready for an attack—even when asleep. Because of this, they’re usually standing up and moving even while still waking up. It makes them good protectors of you and your house, rising a lot to check on every little sound or movement also means they have to get more sleep—and it’s our job to make sure they get it.