As every new parent knows, sleep deprivation is an acute form of torture. It leaves your brain woolly and your attitude mildly aggressive. Every little thing becomes an insurmountable problem – oh for a good night’s sleep!
Our pets can become sleep deprived as well and just as in humans, this can lead to a build up of stress hormones, which can cause irritability and aggression. During sleep, the hormone melatonin is released which protects cells and stimulates the immune system, so a lack of sleep reduces your pet’s ability to fight disease.
How much sleep your pet needs varies between species, ages and breeds. Cats nap regularly throughout the day but your dog needs periods of longer sleep. Just like babies, puppies need to sleep regularly. They usually have a mad half hour then crash and burn for an hour or two. It is important to let your puppy and kitten have undisturbed sleep up to 18 hours a day. Do not wake them because they look cute and everyone wants to cuddle them – they need this rest time.
Older animals vary between 14 and 18 hours sleep a day. Larger breeds and older dogs need to rest more where as younger dogs and working breeds will need less than the average. Walking and exercising your dog does not make him tired – just more fit and excited. If you leave him to go to work after his morning walk, give your dog an interactive food puzzle to allow his mind to relax and sooth him into rest during the day whilst you are out.
All pets need a decent bed of their own. Not only is it more hygienic for your pet to have its own bed it also allow him to have a better sleep too. Cats and small dogs love cosy little enclosed dens, whereas a bed with deep support will help older arthritic animals and will protect the joints of overweight animals too. Beds over 10 cms thick can be used to protect the skin from pressure sores. Having said that, some dogs find beds too warm and stretch out on cool tiles instead – as the saying goes, you can only lead a horse to water.
Disturbed sleep can occur for health reasons. Short term illnesses can wake your pet. For example, cystitis or bladder infection will disturb your dog’s sleep and they will ask to go out to the garden more frequently. Dementia, known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome, also affects pets and can change their sleep patterns. Although there is no cure, exercise, diets and medication can reduce some of the effects. Hyperthyroidism affects cats and alters their metabolism. They often need food in the night and it is very difficult to ignore a yowling cat when you’re trying to nod off.
Therefore, it is always worthwhile having an animal checked if their sleep pattern has been has altered so that ill health can be treated early. A good night’s sleep is important for man and beast as well.