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When your beloved pooch sleeps, they may twitch, bark or even bite! What is all of that activity? Do dogs dream? And if they do, what do dogs dream about when they sleep?
Pet parents aren’t the only curious ones. Scientists have done lots of research on sleep and mammals, some of which either directly studied dogs, or studies with results that likely include dogs.
If you’re feeling a little curious, read on to find out what dogs dream about when they sleep.
Probably, all animals dream when they sleep. Dreams are an essential part of sleep!
Mammal brains, especially, require a dormant, sleep state. This period of reduced consciousness creates a healing time for the body, where important growth and rejuvenation occurs. Even swimming mammals, like dolphins and whales, sleep. However, they only shutdown one half of the brain at a time during sleep! That’s how they can keep swimming when they sleep.
For most mammals, the whole body must rest and the brain goes into a daily hibernation period. The brain itself utilizes sleep for healing. The part of the sleep cycle where dreaming occurs is called REM--rapid eye movement. As a mammal dreams, involuntary (rapid) eye movements occur.
In studies of dogs, REM sleep accounts for roughly 10% of sleep time. But that REM time is vital to your dog’s health!
So while their eyes are moving and their legs start twitching, what are dogs dreaming about? We have a few guesses and a couple of scientific studies by which to make educated guesses.
Humans and other mammals probably mostly dream about the day’s activities. In one study, scientists disabled the part of the brain in the brainstem which keeps animals from moving in their sleep (the pons). Under these carefully controlled conditions, dogs were observed to act out what they did during the day. For example, pointer’s displayed hunting behavior.
So, when your dog starts “running” in his sleep, he may be chasing his favorite ball!
Sleep also allows dog brains, like human brains, to reshuffle the day’s activities. Different images may line up.
Sleep comes in cycles. Instead of REM happening all at once, there are periods of deeper sleep and lighter sleep (where no dreaming occurs), with short cycles of REM sleep. Deep sleep helps the body heal, light sleep adds up to increased rest for the body, and REM sleep helps the brain. These basic functions appear to be true for all mammals.
Interestingly, humans have been able to solve problems in their sleep. Ever fall asleep thinking about a problem, and then solve it? While dogs won’t likely sleep-solve a Rubix cube, there’s some chance they too need REM to think more clearly the next day.
Puppies often appear to have more twitching and motion while sleeping. While they may have an underdeveloped pons, this twitching mostly likely indicates that they dream more than adult dogs.
Smaller breed dogs also appear to have shorter REM cycles, thus resulting in more dreams. Larger dogs likely have longer dreams because they also have longer sleep cycles.
Also, just like humans, our pets can have disordered sleep. They may get nightmares, get stressed about sleep, or have trouble sleeping.
Insomnia in dogs may be a sign of an underlying health condition or the side effect of a medication, so check with your vet if your dog has new or worsening sleep problems.
Interestingly, the phrase “let sleeping dogs lie” comes from problems waking a dreaming dog. A dog that might bite or bark in its sleep can unintentionally lash out at a person who disturbs it.
So yes, your pooch can get insomnia or nightmares, just like a human.
Humans and dogs alike may prefer to sleep in the same bed. While some people may claim it’s not good to sleep with your dog, studies show some benefits to sleeping with your pet. Women, in particular, in a study, slept better with a dog.
You should not sleep with your dog if:
For some pet parents, it’s better for the dog to sleep on the floor or in their own bed.
If your dog has disordered sleeping, or if you just want to help them get more restful sleep, try calming CBD.
CBD helps restore homeostasis and may improve sleep.
Try Bad Dog’s Calming Tincture for your pet’s more restful zzz’s.