Have you ever noticed how easily dogs wake up? Your pup may be snoring loudly one minute and suddenly jumping up the next to bark at something. Why dogs wake up so quickly is a bit of a mystery. Not only is it perplexing, but it can also be annoying!
The primary reason dogs wake up so easily is tied to their heritage as wolves and wild dogs who were always on the alert. Dogs have more frequent, yet, shorter sleep cycles than humans. As a result, they sleep more lightly and spend less time in deep sleep, allowing them to quickly wake up in response to a noise or threat.
Keep reading to learn more about a dog’s sleep cycle and ability to wake up quickly.
A Dog’s Biological Sleep Cycles Allow them to Wake Up Easily
Dogs Sleep More Than Humans but in Shorter, Lighter Cycles
Dogs wake up more easily than humans due to frequent but shorter sleep cycles. Humans typically experience 4-5 complete sleep cycles in an 8-hour period going from light to deeper sleep states in each cycle. Studies have shown that dogs have up to 23 sleep cycles in a given 24-hour period, but each is shorter in duration.
As a result, dogs sleep approximately 50% of the time and another 20-30% napping or resting. Dogs sleep much more than humans, averaging 12-14 hours daily. But depending on size and age, dogs can sleep 10 to 18 hours a day. Typically, larger dogs will sleep more than smaller dogs.
A Dog’s REM Cycle is Shorter than a Human’s
Another reason that dogs can wake up so easily is due to their shorter REM cycles. They spend less time in REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when the brain processes the day’s experiences. This is considered the deepest and most restorative stage of sleeping. Dogs spend around 10% of their sleep cycle in REM compared to humans, who are in REM sleep for 25% of their entire cycle.
Therefore, dogs spend more time in the lighter stages of sleeping in which they can easily wake up. You may be perplexed as to why your dog seems to be sound asleep only to jump up at the crack of dawn and be ready to go. If you are like me, it takes some time and a lot of coffee to wake up in the morning!
This is because we stay longer in the deeper state of REM than dogs. A dog will usually have increased alertness following REM sleep and can wake up more quickly due to the shorter cycle of deep sleep.
Do Dogs Sleep Deeply at All? Or Are They Always Half Awake?
Dogs and humans both experience four stages of every sleep cycle:
- The initial stage is short and light as your dog becomes drowsy and begins to drifts off
- In the second stage, your dog will sleep lightly and become more relaxed, encompassing 45% of the total cycle. Your dog may look sound asleep but can wake up very easily in this phase.
- In the slow-wave stage, your dog’s brain waves will slow down and along with lowered body temperature and blood pressure. This is the most relaxing and physically restorative part of sleep. Your dog is more sound asleep in this stage but can still wake up fairly easily.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is the deepest part of the cycle, even though it is the shortest. This is when your dog will dream and try to make sense of daily experiences. During this stage, your dog is pretty much konked out and in La La Land!
Because dogs have slow-wave and REM sleep cycles, even for short periods, they do sleep deeply. This is the part of their cycle when they are much less likely to notice outside sounds and movements which will wake them up. But the lighter sleep stages are much longer, alerting a dog to movements or sounds that may pose a threat.
Often, during the quiet of the early morning or at the end of the day, I have looked lovingly at my two snoring dogs sitting next to me on the couch, thinking about how angelic they look. Unfortunately, my sweet Zen moment is sometimes interrupted when both dogs suddenly jump up barking their heads off at some sound outside. Next, they leap off the sofa, catapult over my legs, and crash through the doggie door in hot pursuit of some wayward cat or opossum in our backyard.
I cannot tell you how unnerving this is — but perhaps you already know! Silly me to think they were sound asleep when they were probably only taking a cat nap! This is incredibly annoying in the middle of the night, waking me up. Thankfully, they usually sleep through the night.
How Fast Asleep Are Dogs When they Twitch and Make Sounds?
I often watch my dogs fall asleep late at night, while I am watching the news or a movie. They make a lot of interesting little noises and movements. They may lick their lips, sneeze, or snort as they adjust their position. Then comes the snoring and deeper breathing. They may roll around a bit or change their head position.
Then, finally, when they drop off, they stay in the same position and lay very still. I usually notice their mouths twitching in a few moments later and may hear some muffled whines or yelps. Often their feet start moving, paddling as if trying to run. A tail might move or jerk momentarily, and their bodies might quiver.
At this point, I know they are in a deep state of sleep and probably dreaming about the day’s activities. This is their REM phase of their sleep cycle when their eyes will move around underneath their eyelids, and their brains are busy thinking about and analyzing their experiences.
I think dogs move more in their sleep than humans do because they are “doers” more than “thinkers” They probably see images of their experiences and try to re-enact them by smelling, running, tasting, and twitching. Most researchers believe that dogs dream about their day’s activities and prior experiences, and like us, they can have nightmares.
But our dogs also dream about pleasant things like food and may even dream about you. If you want to learn more about what your dog may dream about, get our free eBook, Dog Dreams.
Why Does My Dog Wake Up When I Move?
Dogs are naturally more sensitive to movement, smell, and sound than we are. A dog’s hearing range is much broader than ours, and they can hear sounds we cannot. The same is true of a dog’s ability to smell scents. They have a much better sense of smell and can interpret scents and identify their meaning. Dogs trained to sniff out cancer or find people in disasters are examples of how good a dog’s nose can be.
Additionally, even though dogs do not see as well as we do, they are good at detecting movement. This is because their eyes are set farther apart on either side of their nose. It gives them great peripheral vision to catch motion and sudden movements.
So, it is no surprise that our dogs, born to be alert and often serve to help guard us, utilize their senses even while sleeping. Dogs have a second eyelid, a thin film that covers their eyes underneath their thicker eyelid. If you sometimes see your dog’s eyes half opened in a hazy way, your dog is looking through this second eyelid while sleeping. This allows a dog to detect sudden movement even while sleeping.
So, therefore, don’t be surprised if you turn over in bed and your pup wakes up and licks your nose! I usually try not to move around too much in the early morning, as my pups are always ready for breakfast before I am. So, I just stay put to get in a few more winks in case they are only catnapping!
Dogs sleep much more than we do, but they still maintain enough alertness to ward off bad varmints and protect their pack. And they also manage to have several cycles of short but really deep sleep so they can restore their bodies and make sense of their world.