Shih tzu finding it hard to sleep.

Why Won't My Dog Sleep at Night? Causes and Solutions

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 19th January 2024

A sleepless night is neither fun nor healthy for your dog. And if your pooch is having trouble falling asleep, like a true dog parent, so are you.

But you are not alone. Every member of our team of experts has been there, and we know how stressful that is. So today, we’ll help you get to the bottom of things.

In this article, we’ll share with you all the reasons why your dog might have trouble sleeping and what you can do about it.


Reasons Your Dog Won’t Sleep at Night and What to Do About It

Dogs sleep a lot more than we humans do. A good portion of that sleep is during the night, when there’s not much going on around the property. However, certain pooches may experience trouble falling asleep, even though it’s late. Here are some of the most common reasons why.

Related: Dog Sleeping Positions & What They Mean.

A Full Bladder

Sleeping with a full bladder is definitely not comfortable. But dogs that know they can’t relieve themselves inside the house will try holding it until you take them outside.

And while you might have a schedule for potty breaks, your pooch might have drunk more water throughout the day than usual. This can often be the case during warmer months of the year, as dogs lose water through excessive panting, just like humans do with sweating.

Related: Should Dogs Sleep Inside or Outside?

Make sure your dog has enough potty breaks throughout the day, and especially in the evening. Often it helps to add a toilet break into your bedtime routine. That way, your dog will be able to do the “business” in time to prevent a full bladder at night.

Sound or Smell Disturbance

Dogs can hear much better than humans (1). Not only can they hear sounds four times farther away than us, they can also register higher frequencies and even pinpoint where they’re coming from.

So while you might not be disturbed by your neighbour’s window shutters banging in the wind, that sound may be too loud for your pooch to relax and fall asleep. Your canine companion may also be distracted by night visitors, such as rats, bats and squirrels. Human ears may not pick up on the sound of these critters moving across the backyard, but dogs can definitely hear them. And as true “house guardians,” they might feel the need to investigate the mysterious noise.

Aside from their hearing, dogs also have a much stronger sense of smell. In fact, it’s believed to be up to 10,000 times better than a human’s (2). Given that, in perfect conditions, they can smell something that’s 20 kilometres away, it’s no surprise they can sense an unusual smell coming from the backyard or the street (3).

You can’t do much about the sounds and smells coming from the outside. But what you can do is close the windows or play your dog some calming background music to minimise those disturbances.

Stress or Anxiety

You might think that your dog doesn't have a single worry in the world, but that’s not exactly the case. Canines can get stressed or anxious about a lot of things. One of the most common reasons is being left alone. Even well-socialised and trained dogs can feel uneasy about being alone at home, especially when it’s for a longer period of time. Your pooch might stay up longer to wait for your arrival.

Treating dog anxiety is no easy task, as you need to work on the underlying reason why your pooch feels that way and then treat them. But in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to make your dog less stressed or anxious at night.

First and foremost, minimise the disturbances by shutting the blinds or leaving the radio on to muffle the sounds coming from the outside. That should help your canine companion feel more comfortable falling asleep.

Medication and supplements can be of great help in this case. Antidepressants are often prescribed to dogs with anxiety, but you can also try supplements like melatonin and CBD oil, which help in calming them down.

Pain and Physical Discomfort

The reason your canine companion won’t sleep at night might be physical in nature. Dogs can’t talk, so they can’t say what’s troubling them, but you can watch signs of pain or physical discomfort.

Related: The Best Dog Beds.

Skin issues, like allergies or hot spots, are quite uncomfortable. With a constant itch that needs to be scratched, your dog will surely have a hard time relaxing to fall asleep.

For dogs dealing with sore muscles or chronic joint problems, finding a suitable sleeping position is already as hard as it is. And if your pooch is one of those dogs that sleep in the most uncomfortable places around the house, like the hardwood floors, then don’t be surprised by the constant tossing and turning.

If unsure whether your dog is dealing with such physical issues, it’s best to schedule a vet appointment. They should be able to tell you whether your pooch is in pain.

Related: Dogs On The Bed: Should You Sleep With Your Dog?

Change in Routine or Environment

Dogs are creatures of habit, meaning they feel best when having a regular routine, from walking and eating to playing and sleeping. For that reason, they might not always react well to changes.

The same goes for any kind of novelty in their environment. From moving to a new house to simply getting your dog a new bed, these changes can be overwhelming for your pooch. New smells, sights and sounds, all of which can cause your Fido to feel uncertain about the new environment.

Furthermore, the addition or loss of a family member (be it a human or a pet) can also be unsettling. Dogs are pack animals by nature, and the change in households may cause them to feel uneasy about their new position in the pack.

Keeping up with a strict routine can be tough with countless tasks and errands you might have on your daily schedule. However, you should try at least to keep certain activities consistent, like dinner and potty time.

Related: Why Won't My Dog Sleep In Their Bed?

Not Enough Physical or Mental Stimulation

If your pooch doesn’t get enough physical or mental exercise during the day, all that unspent energy will lead to tossing and turning at night.

If all members of the household are out of the house most of the day, your dog is probably spending a good portion of that time asleep. So once you’re back, there’s a well-rested pooch waiting to spend that accumulated energy with you.

If, instead of sleeping, your dog is bringing you toys or begging with those puppy eyes for a walk, then unspent energy is most likely the cause of why your pooch won’t settle at night.

Daily exercise is essential for a dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. Your pooch should spend anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours a day working out, depending on the age, size and health.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start while sleeping. Although it’s generally rare in dogs, it’s not unusual for overweight dogs or brachycephalic breeds (like bulldogs or pugs) to suffer from it (4). If your pooch is snoring when sleeping, that’s a key sign of sleep apnea.

Struggling to breathe while sleeping will frequently cause your dog to wake up and adopt the sleeping position to make breathing more comfortable.

  • If your dog’s sleep apnea is caused by obesity, then getting your pooch on a diet should help in shedding the excess fat and thus solving the issue. In case the cause of sleep apnea is natural obstruction, a veterinarian may prescribe medicine or do surgery on the malformed airway to help with breathing.

Final Thoughts

If your pooch can’t sleep at night, there are a few things you can do, like making the environment more calming or giving your dog relaxing supplements. If nothing works, consider scheduling a vet appointment to rule out any physical problems.

Related: Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?
Related: How Long Do Puppies Sleep For?

References

  1. Bekoff, M. March 7, 2019. “How Dogs Hear and Speak With the World Around Them”. Psychology Today. Retrieved August 19, 2023. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201903/how-dogs-hear-and-speak-the-world-around-them
  2. Llera, R., Buzhardt, L. “How Dogs Use Smell to Perceive the World”. VCA Animal Hospitals. Retrieved August 19, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/how-dogs-use-smell-to-perceive-the-world
  3. “How far away can dogs smell and hear?”. June 9, 2020. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved August 19, 2023. https://set.adelaide.edu.au/news/list/2020/06/09/how-far-away-can-dogs-smell-and-hear
  4. Richards, L. October 22, 2022. “Do dogs get sleep apnoea?” Vet Help Direct. Retrieved August 19, 2023. https://vethelpdirect.com/vetblog/2022/10/22/do-dogs-get-sleep-apnoea/

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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