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Are Dogs Nocturnal? Canine Sleep Habits Explained

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove


Have you ever tried to transition from working in the day to night shifts and back again? These transition periods are challenging for many people, and some seem almost incapable of working through the night.

Humans are naturally a diurnal species, and it is easier for us to be active during the day1. Your exact circadian rhythm is what differentiates you from a “morning person” and a “night owl.” The short answer is no. Dogs are not nocturnal or diurnal. Dogs are known more as social sleepers than anything.

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Nocturnal Dogs

They seem to sleep all the time, whenever they want. Dogs can sleep throughout the day and then seem happy enough to sleep throughout most of the night.

Are Dogs Nocturnal?

Dogs are not nocturnal or diurnal. Instead, they are known more as social sleepers. Technically, dogs are naturally considered crepuscular. That means they are most active at dusk and dawn. The trait is adaptive and allows them to quickly change their sleep patterns without going through challenging transition periods.

It’s for this reason that you might have somewhat exhausting memories of your dog jumping on you in the morning, ready to go for the day. They get excited when the sun peeks over the horizon and want to go outside.

Luckily, most dogs adapt quickly to their owner’s sleeping schedules since they are pack animals. For example, they will learn over time that you typically sleep until around 8:00 AM.

Even on those mornings that you want to sleep until 9:00 AM, you will find that they are ready to go at 8. How can dogs track time and adopt a specific routine without watches or clocks?

Image Credit: kcho1200, Pixabay

Dog’s Sleeping Routines

A dog is a creature of habit. They appreciate as much structure as you can give them. It helps them feel like they know what’s going on instead of just being led around aimlessly day after day.

A schedule gives your dog a sense of security, which includes a sleeping schedule. You will notice that dogs sleep more than you, so they aren’t just asleep at night. They sleep 12 to 14 hours each day, and puppies need up to 19 hours of sleep a day.

That is why they can easily sleep throughout the night and still be happy to take smaller naps during the day. That pattern of behavior is especially true for dogs that get enough exercise.

It is worth noting that dogs don’t sleep like humans do. Humans go in and out of REM sleep all night long, getting a deep sleep every couple of hours. We need REM sleep for our bodies to repair and for our minds to store helpful information and memories from the day before.

Dogs never go into a REM cycle of sleep. They are ever-alert, only sleeping gently at all times. Some researchers believe that dogs sleep much longer than humans because of this lighter sleep.

This pattern of sleeping is a survival instinct for dogs. Humans have been protected by secure structures like homes for thousands of years. We have evolved away from needing to be alert constantly, and we can get the same quality of sleep in less time to be awake for longer.

It is essential to monitor your dog’s sleeping habits because changes in their common patterns often indicate health issues. They typically exhibit changes due to pain or discomfort since they prefer to stick to their routine.

mix breed dog sleeping in dog bed
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shutterstock

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In Summary

Dogs are not nocturnal or diurnal. The closest thing to describe them in their natural or more wild state is “crepuscular.” However, they are social sleepers and will happily adapt to their owner’s sleep schedule, as long as they get enough exercise.

If you have an adult dog who no longer wants to sleep through the night or take their regular daytime naps,  look into any possible health conditions or supplement their exercise routines.

Featured Image Credit: tortugadatacorp, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

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