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When you think about sleep it is a very strange thing.

Lying down, wrapped in a warm puffy blanket with your eyes closed for a large portion of the day seems from the standpoint of pure survival a pretty stupid thing to do.

It leaves you open to attack and it prevents you from both feeding and procreating.

So why have we, and all other mammals, evolved do it?

The answer is both complex and really simple.

In a nutshell, we sleep to allow our body to recover from the hardships we have put in through during the day.

With us still, unconscious and using significantly less energy, our body and brain are able to better perform a number of processes that help us survive the following day.

We all know that sleep is good for our health but very few of us think about how sleep impacts our pets.

Below we take a look at why getting enough rest is so important for our beloved four-legged friends.

Sleep Can Alter Your Pets Behaviour

You know how you feel when you’ve had a bad night’s rest, your head hurts, your back aches and you’re prone to mood swings, meaning you often find yourself snapping at friends and family.

Scientists believe this is due to how sleeplessness affects a small cashew-shaped collection of nuclei in the brain known as the amygdala.

The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain and studies have shown when we are sleep deprived it becomes disproportionately reactive to stimuli.

Meaning we are likely to react to things in an adverse manner that we normally wouldn’t even register.

So what had this to do with our pets?

Well in a lot of ways an animal’s brain isn’t too different from our own.

Many of the same processes that lead to sleepy humans being in a bad mood will also impact our animals.

Take your dog for example.

If the hairy little guy doesn’t get enough rest they may exhibit behavior that is out of character, such as being more stubborn, aggressive or destructive.

When they haven’t had enough shut-eye the same processes are going on in their hairy little heads that happen to us.

Certain stimuli that wouldn’t even see them stir from their basket might send them into a barking mess.

How Much Sleep Does My Pet Need?

Some of you reading this are probably trying to remember the last time you saw your cat when it wasn’t sleeping.

Our feline friends have a reputation for being big snoozers but that is a little unfair, cats live their lives on a different schedule to ours.

Meaning they do much of their daily business when we are tucked up in bed at night.

The same can’t be said for dogs who largely operate on a similar daytime schedule to ourselves.

But how do we know how much sleep our pets need?

Well, the simple answer is that it depends on the individual animal.

Think about humans for a second, depending on your size and the amount of physical activity you do during your waking hours your sleep needs are going to differ from somebody else.

People training for marathons need more sleep than others who lead a more sedentary couch-based lifestyle.

The exact same is true of our pets.

A big dog like a St Bernard burns a lot of energy hauling its lumbering frame around and as such usually requires more sleep than a significantly smaller pooch like a Spaniel.

In fact, it’s not unusual for an adult St Bernards to sleep more than 14 hours a day.

That said, some smaller dogs are fond of a good nap too.

Pugs have a reputation amongst their owners for laziness.

To some extent this is underserved, it’s not necessarily that the little guys sleep more it’s just they have a tendency snore a lot, and quite loudly.

So while they may not sleep more than other species, it’s very noticeable when they are doing it!

What Can I Do to Help my Pet Get Enough Sleep?

So now we know how important sleep is for our hairy friends what can we do to assist them to get better rest?

Well, the most important thing to do is to ensure that their sleeping environment is set up in such a way to encourage healthy sleeping.

Now what this looks like exactly will differ depending on your animal.

Cats, for instance, are fond of sleeping on the high ground, it makes them feel safe, so always ensure they have access to shelves and the tops of cupboards.

Smaller dogs like Pomeranians or Shih Tzus prefer to sleep in enclosed spaces as it gives them the feeling of protection. This means beds with walls.

Larger dogs might prefer beds with low walls, these provide a level of support but enable them to stay cool.

And larger dogs still, will prefer the mat, this means they can sprawl out until their hearts are content.

Whatever your creature and whatever size or shape they pay special attention to their sleep habits.

If they appear restless, then think about mixing it up.

On the flipside, if you think your pet is sleeping too much also take note.

For example, conditions such as canine depression, hyperthyroidism and diabetes can result in dogs sleeping for longer than is healthy.

My advice is to pay attention to your pet and be aware that sleep plays as much a role in their physical and mental health as it does for you and me.

Sarah Cummings

The author Sarah Cummings

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