Brown and white cocker spaniel laying on the floor with his paws in front of him, head on the ground and looking up

Reasons Why Your Dog Is Not Sleeping At Night

Pet parents may be struggling with restless nights due to their dog not sleeping and keeping the family awake. This can cause stress within the dynamics of the home, disrupting the peace. Through the personal experience of being up the last two nights with my 19-year old dachshund, I felt it necessary to research why my pet has not been able to be soothed back to sleep. It seems as though offering all things is not settling to him including water, food, a potty break, covering him up, and even his small dose of a vet prescribed pain medication he receives at 9 p.m.

There are dozens of causes for disturbances to the canine sleep-wake cycle. These causes lead to the dog not sleeping, frequently waking up throughout the night whining, restless, crying, barking, and pacing. When the nighttime ritual of trying to get your pup back to sleep has run its course, you bear the frustration of yet another sleepless night. When your pup is finally ready to settle down at 9 a.m., it is now time for you to head out the door for your full, exhausting day of work.

According to PetMD, dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours a day.

So, what are some of the causes that are keeping pups up at night and wreaking havoc on overnight sleep for the family? There are many.


In older dogs, canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome can be causing insomnia by disrupting normal sleep patterns. Brain degeneration causes abnormal changes in memory and awareness. Commonly referred to as dog senility, pets appear confused and disoriented, experiencing a change in established normal sleep-wake patterns.

Insomnia often results in increased nocturnal activity, referred to as “sundowning” in humans, affecting 20% of people with Alzheimer’s disease.


Pain is the most common reason for senior dogs to exhibit nighttime distress, with musculoskeletal and neurogenic being the most common types. A dog’s body weight is made up of 350 pairs of muscles or 45% of their total body composition, making musculoskeletal pain a leader in the game.  This type of pain will often change a pet’s behavior and response to stimuli when they are being examined at the vet’s office. The signs and symptoms that prompted you to take your pet for examination may be in full disguise by your pet while there. A trial of pain medications may be the vet’s recommendation to try to comfort your pet at night.

According to, common pain medications in dogs include Norvox or Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Pervicox, and Metacam.

Sleep Apnea

Although rare in dogs, sleep apnea can cause temporary collapse or narrowing of the airway. This symptom is present in dogs who are overweight, commonly seen in English Bulldogs. Sleep apnea is defined as a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a pet’s breathing is interrupted during sleep and is often identified by loud snoring. Sleep apnea causes pets to stop breathing which jolts them awake for 10 to 20 seconds at a time. If this happens several times during the night, a pet will not be able to have uninterrupted REM sleep.

Sleep apnea is usually treated by a weight-loss diet. Surgical intervention may be warranted if there is a malformation of the respiratory system or nostrils.


Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings. Narcolepsy occurs in dogs when an animal suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, or brief losses of consciousness. A physical exam will show normal physiological and psychological responses. Narcolepsy presents itself as a pet suddenly falling asleep, collapsing onto its side or stomach. Due to the pet sleeping during the day, nighttime restlessness is common. There is no definitive cure for narcolepsy but your veterinarian may prescribe oral medications to help control the frequency and duration of attacks.

According to the VCA Hospital, some dogs benefit from stimulant medications that combat excessive sleepiness and accompany narcolepsy, making the condition easier to live with.

Lack of Exercise

Some breeds will have a difficult time going to sleep at night if they have not received an adequate amount of exercise throughout the day. Younger or working dogs can fall into this category as their need for energy expenditure is greater than an elderly dog. Mental and physical exercises are as beneficial to pets as they are to humans, and exercise will also help ward off doggo arthritis down the road.

A healthy dog should get 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise every day.

Environmental Disturbances

Dogs are creatures of habit and are helpless when it comes to their environment. They trust us as pet parents to keep them safe, and to surround them with comfort. There may be times however the environment they are used to has been changed and it can cause unsettling disturbances in their sleep cycle. These disturbances can include a new noise outside, new lighting, the weather, a new baby in the home, moving their bed or changing their sleeping arrangements, something outside catching their attention, or even moving an end table in your home to the other side of the room.

Evaluate your pets surrounding at night if they are restless and notice any changes that may be causing their sleep disturbance. In most instances, it is likely an easy fix.

In the event your pet is having trouble sleeping, your primary veterinarian’s office will likely be closed. Pin Paws offers pet benefits that include a membership to whiskerDocs, 24/7 pet telehealth. This gives you access to a vet specialist by phone, chat or email any time of day, any day of the year. With this benefit, you and your pet have better chances of counting sheep together and dozing off into la-la land.

For more information on our pet benefits, contact Pin Paws at (888) 918-2386.

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