This article was updated on April 29th, 2023
Getting a great night’s sleep is crucial to our health and wellbeing. The same goes for our pets. It can also be frustrating when sleep is interrupted by our dogs becoming unsettled. My dog used to wake me up often after I moved into a new apartment. She was startled by the evening traffic in my apartment building. This activity caused her to bark often.
Not only did this result in some sleepless nights, but it was also a stressful time for her. Her inability to sleep was caused by the anxiety of moving, but there are many reasons why a dog may not sleep soundly throughout the night. In this article, I will review the top causes and best home remedies to help your dog sleep through the night.
Why Isn’t My Dog Sleeping Through the Night? Top Causes
While most dogs sleep deeply, there can be several reasons why your pup may not sleep all night long. Here is a list of the most common reasons:
1. Bathroom breaks
Most dogs can hold their bowels or bladder overnight, but young puppies and senior dogs may need more frequent potty breaks. Dogs experiencing urinary or gastrointestinal problems may also need to go out more frequently. If your dog suddenly needs frequent trips to the bathroom and cannot hold it overnight, you should investigate the cause with your veterinarian.
2. Behavioral reasons
Some dogs are on alert in the evenings while their family is sleeping. If you live in a high-traffic area or a region with wildlife, your dog may hear noises outside. This may result in dogs appearing restless or barking at night. Dogs may also experience significant separation anxiety. If you find that your dog cannot settle in the evenings while they are separated from you, this may be a sign of separation anxiety.
3. Cognitive Dysfunction
As dogs age, their cognitive function declines similarly to humans. Unusual barking at nighttime is a very classic sign of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. This is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans. Learn more about cognitive dysfunction in dogs.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
4. Poor Vision
Dogs with visual issues may have decreased ability to see in the dark. This can lead to stress when lights are turned off. Dogs with poor vision may bark or whine in the evenings. You may also notice that they bump into objects or struggle to navigate at night.
A sign of pain may be that your dog has a hard time getting comfortable when trying to sleep. This may be most notable if they are lying on the floor or on a hard surface. Dogs in pain will frequently shift or reposition themselves.
High-energy dogs and puppies may be too wound up to settle at night. You may find that it is time for bed and they are still in play mode.
Home Remedies to Make Your Dog Sleep All Night
There are several home remedies that you can utilize to help your pup sleep at night:
1. Before Bed Potty Break
All dogs should be allowed outside to pee and poop before bed. This can ensure they have the opportunity to empty their bowels and bladder, therefore decreasing the need to go overnight. This is especially important in young puppies.
2. Withholding Water Before Bed
Picking up the water bowl an hour or two before bed will prevent your pup from drinking right before bed and therefore needing to go to the bathroom overnight. This technique is very safe unless your pet suffers from a disease where they need to drink more frequently. Water intake should not be limited for dogs with kidney disease, cardiac disease, or diabetes.
A vigorous exercise session a few hours before bed may help tucker your pup out and ensure they sleep soundly. This may include a game of fetch or a long walk.
4 White Noise
Using a white noise machine can help drown out noises in and around the home. This can be a gentle distraction to allow your dog to sleep deeply.
5. Thundershirt or Calming Pheromones
Dogs experiencing evening stress or separation anxiety may benefit from a calming thundershirt or a diffuser with calming pheromones.
Dogs with poor vision may feel more at ease with night lights in the room where they often sleep.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
7. Puzzle Toys
A great solution for nighttime boredom is a puzzle or Kong toy. This keeps your pet stimulated at bedtime and can help tucker them out.
Medicines to Make Your Dog Sleep All Night
If home remedies are not working, several medications can offer calming effects.
1. Over-the-Counter Options
- Melatonin – This is a readily available over-the-counter medication that is frequently used in humans that have a hard time falling asleep. Similar benefits are noted in dogs.
- Benadryl – this is an anti-histamine medication that is most often used for allergic reactions. It has a side effect of causing sedation and is often a safe option to help a dog relax.
- L-tryptophan – this is an amino acid supplement that is most famous for causing sleepiness after Thanksgiving dinner. It can help quell anxiety, stress, and fear.
- Calming Supplements – there are many supplements available over the counter to help calm anxious dogs. Most have a blend of herbal ingredients. Read our page about natural dog anxiety remedies.
2. Prescription Medications
- Trazodone – this is a medication initially intended to treat depression, but it works more effectively as a sedative. It is commonly used to reduce stress in dogs and can be given before bedtime.
- Gabapentin – this is a pain medication commonly used after surgery in dogs but also has the added benefit of being a mild sedative.
- Benzodiazepines – these are short-term anti-anxiety medications that can be used during periods of high stress. A common use is for dogs with thunderstorm fears.
- Long-term anti-anxiety medications – are best reserved for dogs with chronic separation anxiety or fearful behavior. Common options are fluoxetine, clomipramine, and amitriptyline. These must be given long-term to be effective and cannot be stopped suddenly.
- Selegiline – this is a medication used for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease in humans and may help alleviate signs of canine cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs.
At What Point Should I Call the Vet?
Now that you’ve read about multiple options to help remedy sleepless nights, there are plenty of ways to troubleshoot your dog not sleeping. If home remedies are not working, it is time to discuss this concern with your veterinarian. Any dog displaying signs of pain, excessive urination, diarrhea, excessive thirst, or abnormal cognitive function, should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.
What Will the Vet Do to Help My Dog Sleep All Night?
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination to assess for any potential causes of your dog being unable to settle at night. This will include an assessment of neurological function, eyesight, and an orthopedic examination. They may recommend bloodwork and urine testing to rule out common illnesses that may cause your pup to feel unwell. If your dog is displaying abnormal cognitive behavior at home, it is helpful to document this behavior with videos and keep a diary of what is happening and any factors influencing the behavior.
FAQs About Dogs Sleeping Through the Night
Is There a Sleeping Pill for Dogs?
Yes! There are many over-the-counter and prescription options to help your dog sleep at night. These range from calming supplements, and anti-histamines, to oral sedatives.
Will Benadryl Help My Dog Sleep All Night?
Benadryl is an anti-histamine medication that offers sedative properties. It can be used safely in most dogs to help them sleep more soundly. It is important to note that Benadryl can have side effects that include an upset stomach, drooling, panting, and increased heart rate.
Can Dogs Take Melatonin?
Melatonin is a safe option to give dogs and offers sedative properties that can quell stress and anxiety. It is important to first discuss dosing with your veterinarian as this medication can be overdosed. You must also ensure products do not contain xylitol.
Should I Give My Dog a Sedative to Help Him Sleep All Night?
Sedatives should only be given to dogs after a veterinarian has determined that there is not an underlying medical issue causing their sleeplessness. You would not want to mask signs of illness. Ultimately, sedatives are often very safe for use at night and your veterinarian will help you decide which option is best.
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