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Why is Your Dog Restless at Night and What Can You Do About It?

Dogs make wonderful and loving companions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come without their challenges. An anxious dog could easily become the cause of many sleepless nights. Just as the dog’s restless behavior can be disruptive, you may also develop anxiety yourself out of concern for your pup.

If you are currently wondering why your dog is restless and anxious at night, we are here to help. We will review different methods to help your dog sleep soundly through the night while examining the different reasons why your dog may be restless.

You and your pup might need more space, check out our expert recommended Best King Size Mattresses for you both to get the best nights sleep. 

Why Is My Dog Restless at Night All of a Sudden?

Whether you have noticed an uptick in nighttime restlessness or your dog has always been anxious at this time, the following reasons could explain your pup’s behavior.

Fear

Like humans, dogs can experience fearful feelings from time to time, and the reasons they get scared can vary too. For instance, dogs have very sensitive hearing, and as a result, they can become easily restless at night from loud noises. Thunderstorms and fireworks are several examples of loud noises that are known to exacerbate a dog’s anxiety.

Exposure to different environments may also cause them to be fearful. For example, a dog spending the night somewhere new may be extra intimated by their new surroundings and have trouble relaxing.

Separation Anxiety

Sometimes dogs can develop separation anxiety when they are not around their guardians. For instance, a dog’s anxiety could arise at night if they stay overnight somewhere without their guardian or have to sleep in a different room than where their guardian sleeps. Other separation anxiety[1] causes could be that the dog was surrendered or abandoned, adopted by a new family, changes to the dog’s routine or schedule, moving to a new home, or changes in the family such as a member dying or moving away.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA[2]), senior dogs may experience nighttime separation anxiety because they view sleeping as a way of being isolated from their guardian. However, they add that senior dog anxiety from separation could be due to an underlying issue such as a medical disease.

Separation Anxiety Symptoms

  • As you get ready to leave your home, the dog may start pacing, panting, salivating, hiding, trembling, or showing signs of depression.
  • Shortly after you leave, they may become destructive or vocal.
  • Their destructive behavior may be specifically directed at exits such as doors and windows.
  • They may go to the bathroom in the house while you are gone or about to leave.
  • They do not eat while left alone.

Pain

Also, like their human counterparts, pain can prevent dogs from sleeping through the night. Although they can’t describe their pain by speaking, dogs may try to share that they are in discomfort through various signs[3].

Signs a Dog is in Pain

  • Anxious
  • Agitated
  • Vocalization such as whimpering, yelping, or growling
  • Trembling
  • Restless
  • Faster breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Reduced appetite
  • Depression
  • Hesitant to move

Dogs of all ages could experience pain due to medical issues, general wear and tear, or an injury. However, an older dog is at an increased risk for health complications or chronic pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, you should consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Conditions That Could Cause Pain in Dogs

Infection or illness

Like humans, dogs are vulnerable to infections and diseases[4]. Lyme disease, ringworm, and giardia are a few examples of the types of illnesses that can affect canines.

Injury

Some of the more common injuries a dog could experience include ingesting foreign objects, scratches and scrapes, eye injuries, and ligament tears.

Surgery

Whether they are elective or a medical emergency, dogs can also experience discomfort following surgery. Many dogs will inherently want to lick or bite at their post-surgery wounds, which is why you will usually see dogs wear special collars to prevent them from doing this.

Dental Problems

Dogs are also vulnerable to dental problems, such as Gingivitis and Periodontitis, that could become uncomfortable.

Arthritis

Canines can also develop osteoarthritis[5] that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. A veterinarian will be able to formally diagnose if a dog has arthritis.

Experts say there is not one specific reason why a dog develops this condition. Instead, they can develop osteoarthritis over time based on a variety of factors such as their build, being overweight, abnormal joint development, how active they are, previous injuries, orthopedic surgeries, and nutrition.

Bone Disease

Different types of bone diseases can impact young dogs still growing into their full size.  According to VCA Hospitals[6], younger dogs can experience specific bone diseases that include Osteochondritis Dissecans, Panosteitis, Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Elbow Dysplasia, Hip Dysplasia, and Luxating Patella. While some of these can lead to limping in the front and back legs, others can cause limping in just the front or back.

Cancer

Unfortunately, dogs may also develop cancer during their lifetime. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA[7]), over half of pet deaths over the age of 10 are due to cancer.

However, the good news is that preventive care, emerging treatment reserach, and early diagnosis can help pets live longer.

Experts say pet owners should be mindful of certain warning signs that a pet may have cancer. Look for lumps or bumps, wounds that do not heal, swelling, and abnormal bleeding. Additionally, changes in how they eat, sleep, drink, and go to the bathroom could also be cause for concern.

Old Age

As mentioned, our furry companions experience an increased risk of health complications as they age. One of those issues is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), a behavioral syndrome affecting senior dogs. Several cognitive dysfunction symptoms could explain why an older dog might be restless at night. 

The first is changes to their sleep-wake cycle. For example, the dog may become more fidgety at night when they’re supposed to sleep, or they begin to sleep more during the day instead. Dogs may also display repetitive behaviors such as pacing and an overall increase in anxiety and restlessness.

Other Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction in Older Dogs

  • Disorientation
  • Changes in how they interact with you and others
  • Soiling in the house
  • Learning and memory impairments

Not Enough Physical Activity

Many dogs can develop a lot of pent-up energy, and when they do not get enough exercise during the day, this could cause them to become restless at night. So while a walk or two around the block to go to the bathroom is some activity, it likely may not be enough to expel their energy, particularly if the dog is larger.

How to Calm a Restless Dog at Night

Animated Image of a Restless Dog at Night

Create a Calm Environment

If your dog is extra skittish at night, try creating a quiet and dark environment where they can sleep. The dog could be easily startled by loud noises or lights, which may be why they appear restless during the night. 

In the event of thunderstorms or fireworks, keep the windows closed to help muffle the sounds as much as possible. You could also try putting on some calming music to help further drown out the noise outside. 

If you have a den or finished basement that is quieter, you could try letting the dog sleep down there. However, be sure that your dog is okay to be left alone, as this could exacerbate separation anxiety if they have that as well.

Provide Comfort

Sometimes, providing extra comfort for your pup could do the trick when it comes to helping them sleep better.

Good Dog Bed

Just as a new mattress can work wonders for improving your sleep, dogs may also benefit from a cozy bed. For instance, orthopedic dog beds could help relieve pain in dogs with arthritis. Furthermore, a cushiony bed is likely more inducive for peaceful sleeping than a cold hardwood floor.

Check out our recommendations for the Best Dog Bed.

Stuffed Toys or Blankets

Puppies recently separated from their siblings or mother may need extra comfort as they adjust to their new environment. To help them in this process, consider purchasing one or two stuffed toys and a blanket they can cuddle.

Soothing Noises

Playing soothing sounds at night could also help restless dogs feel more relaxed. You can find multiple playlists catered to calming down dogs on Spotify and Youtube.

Daytime Exercise

As mentioned earlier, not getting enough physical activity during the day could cause a dog to feel restless at night. Therefore, you should allow your pup adequate time for daytime exercise, particularly if you notice they are restless at night. 

If you have a backyard, this is an easy opportunity to let the dog run around. However, those who live in apartments or condominiums will need to make time to take their dog out. 

Dog parks, walks, the beach, and hikes are just some of the ways you can provide your pup with physical activity. If they are extra playful, consider bringing along a frisbee or tennis ball to play a game of catch.

Last Minute Bathroom Break

In some cases, a dog could exhibit signs of restlessness because they need to relieve themselves. Taking your canine for a last-minute potty break right before bed could help prevent this from happening, allowing them to rest more comfortably until morning.

Calming Aids

If you have tried multiple tactics but still have no luck, consider giving your pup calming aids. The good news is that calming aids for dogs can come in various forms, such as supplements, vests, collars, oils, and sprays. Although these aids are relatively easy to find, either online or in pet supply stores, you should get one that your dog’s vet approves of since they could affect certain dogs differently.

Speak With Your Dog’s Veterinarian

In general, your dog’s vet will be an excellent resource if your pup is anxious at night. A veterinarian can help determine if an underlying medical issue is causing the restlessness, or they can provide more specific solutions to help your dog rest better. Before the appointment, try to keep a journal of your dog’s nighttime symptoms, so the vet has a clear understanding of how the dog is behaving.

a lady and a dog are sitting on the tempur-adapt bed

Is Sleeping With Your Dog Good or Bad?

What’s good or bad for your home will be relative to the individuals and dogs residing inside, as there is no explicit right or wrong way to sleep with your pup, only what works for your family.

Your Dog’s Health

There have been no drawbacks found to support any evidence that a dog sleeping in your bed would be bad for your dog’s health. Most canines enjoy being close to their owners, especially at night. Some pups, particularly small ones, love snuggling under the covers with their masters, which may help them feel safe and bonded, potentially strengthening trust and feelings of security—in both parties.

Your Health

Snuggling with animals might be great for dogs, but a nightly practice may not be wise for every human. Some individuals struggle with allergies, and allowing a pet to shed nightly in your bed could exacerbate the condition. Further, some pups love to sprawl out, taking up a large portion of the bed, making quality rest a challenge.

On the flip side, there is strong evidence that points to various reasons owning a dog is beneficial to our mental health. Having a dog often encourages exercise, as pups need to go on regular walks, and their happy demeanor can significantly improve our moods

Considerable amounts of research suggest that snoozing next to your pup at night could soothe anxiety, alleviate depression, and increase feelings of security for both of you. When owners were asked in a survey what they appreciated most about having a dog, companionship and mutual love proved to be the number one response.

Why Your Dog Shouldn’t Sleep With You

Sharing a bed with a canine could detract from your sleep quality, similarly to how some people enjoy having the whole bed when a partner is out of town. Dogs are living creatures and, just like us, sometimes have to wiggle around to get comfortable, spread out, stretch, and like to snuggle next to a warm body; this could mean sacrificing a bit of space as a result.

Housetraining

When training your dog to not make any doo-doo’s in the house, it’s wise to take them outside often and consistently. So, if you’re letting your dog sleep in your bed before they’re housetrained, you might run the risk of accidents near or in your sleep space.

Teaching a puppy or adult dog to do their business outside could take tremendous patience, depending on the type of breed. If you plan to let your dog snooze in your bedroom long term but are still potty training them, you can start by crate training them during the night, as dogs typically won’t eliminate in their sleep space.

However, no matter the dog, providing positive reinforcement and lots of praise at each outdoor bathroom break should incentivize them to go outside.

Allergies

Further, snoozing next to your furball could be agony for your sinuses if you have allergies. Keeping a tissue box handy and blowing your nose regularly each night doesn’t exactly pair well with quality sleep.

Some owners opt to take allergy shots or daily antihistamine pills to curb the symptoms. However, many dog breeds are hypoallergenic, like poodles, west highland terriers, and airdales to name a few, so if you’re reading this article preemptively while searching for the perfect pup, there are ways to avoid this issue.

Related: Best Hypoallergenic Mattresses

Resource Guarding

In some instances, pets may become overly obsessive about items they believe to be theirs, otherwise known as “resource guarding,” and they might growl or snarl when you approach an item they’re territorial over. However, this issue typically doesn’t arise in well-adjusted dogs; if it does, a bit of training and patience should do the trick.

Behavioral Issues

Besides the obvious drawbacks, some individuals believe your dog will grow too dominant or spoiled by sleeping in the same space as owners. However, there is not enough evidence between bed-sharing and behavioral issues to draw a correlation with certainty. Further, how the problem arises is still debated; does co-sleeping create attachment problems, or does separation anxiety lead the owner to let the dog into the bed?

Once Your Pup is Resting:

Can Dogs Dream?

Not only do they sleep, but they also dream. And, interestingly enough, dogs apparently create thoughts about things which are quite similar us. Of course, this fact is based on scientific assumptions. You see, dogs have a brain which more complex than ours.

They do show the same electrical sequences. That’s why scientists have accepted that it is quite reasonable to believe that dogs, just like us, are dreaming.

What Do K-9s Dream About?

As we’ve already established, canines are quite similar to us. However, there’s no certain way of being 100% sure what they imagine in their thoughts. We have to guess.

If your dog’s paws are twitching and if his lips are moving, the chances are that the dog is chasing something or it is running in his sleep. If he starts barking while sleeping, he might be preventing a theft or chasing off an intruder in your home? We’ll never know for sure, but the chances are that it’s going to be something like that.

How to Tell If Your K-9 Is Dreaming

Dogs usually start dreaming no more than 20 minutes once they have fallen asleep. One of the most obvious telltale signs that you can be looking out for is the REM cycle. Just like us, they go through a few different phases through their sleep, and rapid eye movement is among them.

The easiest way to notice this is to go ahead and take a closer look at the eyelids – you’d be able to notice whether or not his eyes are moving underneath. If they are – your dog is probably deep in thought. Also, you can look for certain twitches in their body. Just like us, their imaginations might provoke sudden body movements (or even bark). A dog running in sleep or loud dog dreaming noises are quite common, and you are likely to observe them as well.

How Much Sleep Do K-9s Need?

The amount of sleep that your dog needs is going to depend on a few different things. We’ve taken the liberty of summarizing a few of them.

Age

Your dog would average between 12 and 14 hours of the entire 24-hours cycle sleeping. Of course, as the age of your dog progresses, it is going to start to need larger amounts of bedtime as their life would become more difficult – they would tire out a lot easier, and they would need more rest so that they can function properly. Babies and puppies, on the other hand, would spend a lot more time on exhausting their energy.

Breed

Working dogs tend to be staying awake a lot more in comparison. This is something that’s demanded by their physical as well as mental necessities that they have to face every single day. If the dog has a task that will keep his attention active throughout the day – it won’t sleep as much. Of course, the dog would need to catch up on its sleep so that it can conveniently restore its energy.

Health

Sleeping is a very important part of the overall lifestyle of your canine friend, and this is not something that should be bothering you. If your dog takes longer naps – that’s normal. However, if you see that there is a significant change in the sleeping habits of your dog and something feels off – you should contact a professional vet as quickly as you can.

Life Events

There are different life changes which are going to take part in your dog’s overall lifespan. And, just like us – they are also going to react to them. Dogs adapt well to their original environment and, as such, if you alter something of their common experiences, they are likely to get affected.

Dog Sleeping Cycles & Patterns

The sleeping patterns of dogs are quite similar to ours. They would start in a slow wave, and throughout this time the breathing is going to slow down, their heart rate would decrease, and the blood pressure would drop. 10 minutes in, they will enter the REM phase, and their eyes would be rolling under their closed lids.

Their bodies are likely to start reacting to their dreams. The only difference is the duration of this phase – while we tend to spend about 25% of our time sleeping in REM phase, dogs only have about 10%.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I’m trying to crate train my puppy?

We covered earlier that puppies can experience nighttime anxiety after becoming newly separated from their mom and siblings. Many new pet parents will also try to crate train[8] their puppy during this time. Veterinary experts recommend several options to help a puppy sleep through the night while crate training.

The first is to try out a crate cover during summer when the sun sets later and rises earlier. Like humans, puppy sleep patterns can be affected by light and dark. Furthermore, the experts advise turning off additional lights in the room, such as televisions and cell phones.

They also suggest other ways to help the puppy feel secure and cozy inside the crate, such as a dog bed, blanket, soothing scents and sounds, and stuffed toys to cuddle with while they sleep. Pre-bedtime bathroom breaks are also important, but make sure it is relaxed and not an opportunity to play because this could wind them up before bed.

Lastly,  be mindful not to feed your puppy too late or early. If puppies eat too early, they could become hungry during the night, and if they eat too late, they may need to relieve themselves in the middle of the night.

Check Out Our Guide: Best Rated Dog Crate Beds

When does canine dementia usually start?

Canine cognitive dementia[9] typically begins when the dog is 11 years or older. Researchers say this neurodegenerative disease affects about 60 percent of dogs.

While no specific breed is more affected by this than others, experts say it is usually diagnosed in smaller breeds since they tend to have a longer lifespan than larger dogs. Furthermore, they say that CCD’s similarity to Alzheimer’s could provide helpful insight into the human disease.

Should I sleep with my dog?

You might wonder whether sleeping with your pet, either in the same room or bed, could help with their anxiety. Plus, some people sleep with their pets to relieve their own anxious feelings.

Sleeping with your pet is not inherently a bad thing. However, there are factors you will need to consider beforehand, in particular your health and the health of your dog.

For example, dogs with arthritis could have difficulty getting in and out of bed. In this case, a simple solution would be to let them sleep in your bedroom instead of sharing a bed.

If you have allergies, sleeping beside your pet could worsen them. Even if you are not allergic to dogs specifically, they can carry other allergens in their fur, such as pollen, dust, and danger.

Furthermore, co-sleeping with a dog could lead to more disturbed sleep if the animal moves around a lot. You may also accidentally irritate or hurt your pup if you roll over on top of them while you are asleep.

Are some breeds more anxious than others?

Different dog breeds are known to have their own unique personalities, and researchers point out that these traits come from their specific DNA patterns[10]. That raises the question, then, as to whether certain breeds are more likely to experience anxiety.

To determine this, a research team asked dog owners to fill out a survey about their dog’s personality. Based on the responses, they found that certain dog breeds are prone to anxious behaviors.

However, they limited their findings to 14 breeds and 200 responses. In total, the team had received over 13,000 responses covering 264 breeds.

They found that Lagotto Romagnolos, Wheaten Terriers, and mixed breed dogs were most sensitive to noises. Secondly, Spanish water dogs, Shetland dogs, and mixed breeds are the most fearful breeds. Lastly, miniature schnauzers were more aggressive and uneasy around strangers.

Furthermore, these findings may not be entirely genetic but rather a combination of DNA and environmental factors. For example, mixed breeds are more likely to experience time in a shelter, which could increase their risk of developing anxiety.

Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn

Editor

About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper

Resources:

[1] “Separation Anxiety”, ASPCA

[2] “Behavior Problems in Older Dogs”, ASPCA

[3] “How to Know if Your Dog Is in Pain: Signs of Discomfort”, American Kennel Club, May 23, 2021

[4] “Infectious Diseases”, VCA Hospitals

[5] “Arthritis in Dogs”, VCA Hospitals

[6] “Bone Diseases of Growing Dogs”, VCA Hospitals

[7] “My Dog Has Cancer: What Do I Need to Know?”, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, July 29, 2021

[8] “Trainer Tips to Help Your Puppy Sleep Through the Night”, Preventative Vet, September 15, 2021

[9] Sonja Prpar Mihevc, Gregor Majdič, “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s Disease – Two Facets of the Same Disease?”, National Library of Medicine, 2019

[10] “Is your dog anxious? Genes common to its breed could play a role”, Science, March 5, 2020