What Can You Give Your Dog To Sleep At Night?

Legs of a child under a white blanket next to a cute dog Jack Russell Terrier

Being a dog parent comes with a lot of responsibilities and necessary behavioral changes, but not getting enough sleep because your dog somehow never goes to bed when everyone does should never be one of them.

If your nighttime routine involves having a fitful sleep that is constantly interrupted by a dog that won’t stop scratching at your bedroom door or whining to get your attention, you have a significant problem on your hands. It can be extremely frustrating when your dog becomes restless just as you are ready to tuck in for the night.

There are various reasons your pet might be suffering from canine insomnia and burning the midnight candles, but what matters is getting it the help it needs to enjoy a peaceful night’s rest every day. Below is everything you need to know about why your dog isn’t going to bed at night, putting your pup out like a light, and helping it enjoy a refreshing rest every night.

Young latin man and dog sitting on the sofa at home

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Why Can’t My Doggo Sleep?

You finish your nightly bedtime rituals, lay in bed, and prepare to drift into a peaceful sleep. Suddenly- like clockwork- you hear that all too familiar whine or pacing that signifies that your dog is up and about and has refused to go to bed.

You are fuming, knowing your precious doggo is going to keep you up all night, and you are going to start the next day burnt out and low on energy. ‘Doesn’t he realize it’s midnight?’, you ask yourself for the umpteenth time this week. A good night’s sleep is as vital to your dog as it is to you.

Admittedly, it might look like your doggo is simply a nocturnal animal that prefers to be up during the wee hours when the world goes dark, but in reality, there may be underlying factors that contribute to your pup’s inability to sleep. Seeing that these factors can vary in severity, it is essential to know what might be troubling your doggo instead of being mad at its nightly antics.

Dogs love nothing more than to play, eat, and sleep. If your pup finds it difficult to do the latter, some changes must be made. These changes begin by crossing off possible reasons your dog might find it challenging to settle into a sleep routine. Sleeplessness in our canine friends may be caused by environmental conditions, health problems, or age.

Some reasons your dog might be finding it difficult to sleep at night include:

  • New environment: Changing environments can be stressful for dogs, no matter how comfortable you try to help them be. They have to deal with new sounds, a different sight than they are used to, and even the texture or taste of the food they enjoy in their new home can make them extremely stressed. Because they have trouble settling in, they will find it difficult to doze off as they usually do.
  • Change in the family: believe it or not, household changes affect dogs in more ways than we think. The loss or addition of a new family member or pet in the house can disrupt your dog’s sleeping pattern if it has not quite gotten used to the change. While some dogs handle change well, some others find it difficult to conform to what is supposed to be a sudden new way of life.
  • Illness: sick dogs often sleep too much or not as much as they usually do. If your dog, who used to have a regular sleep schedule, now seems to find it challenging to go to bed, it might indicate something is wrong with your pup. 
  • Pain: Dogs in pain will find it difficult to settle in bed and sleep at night. They are usually restless and will try to get your attention with whines, growls, or cries, or will simply suffer in silence. They typically have other tell-tale signs like panting, mobility problems like limping, excessive grooming of the pain site, isolation, or a constant need to be close to their human. The signs vary with the type and cause of pain.
  • Nightmares: unfortunately, like us, dogs have nightmares. While they do not dream about the boogeyman or the type of monsters that plague our dreams, they recall and possibly relive traumatic events in their nightmares. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs also experience the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep phase. Since most of our dreams happen during the REM sleep phase, it only makes sense that dogs dream too. Nightmares can cause anxiety about sleep that your pup might dread going to bed, causing it to prefer to pace instead.
  • Terrible temperature: do you know how you get too hot or cold to sleep peacefully? Your dog can experience this, too, which makes it too uncomfortable to go to sleep. 
  • Over-activity: some dogs are extremely active with a high energy level that they prefer to burn out before going to bed. In dogs like this, little to no exercise during the day keeps them up at night. Not depleting their energy level before bed can leave them feeling too hyperactive to settle down.
  • Sleep apnea: dogs experience sleep apnea as we do, which ruins their ability- and by effect, yours too- to sleep peacefully at night. Dogs who suffer from sleep apnea usually temporarily stop breathing, causing oxygen deprivation and forcing their body to jolt awake to breathe. Although sleep apnea is generally rare in dogs, it is common in obese dogs and brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs like Dogue de Bordeaux, French Bulldogs, and pugs.
  • Unhealthy sleep routine: has it occurred to you that you may be the cause of your dog’s unhealthy sleeping habit? Although dogs are unpredictable, they pick up a routine quickly and often stick to it, whether healthy or not.

What Can You Give Your Dog To Sleep At Night?

There are different speed aids designed to help your dog fall asleep faster. These are:

1. Medical Sleep Aids

For humans, our inability to sleep is nothing a trip to our medicine cabinet cannot solve. For dogs, it is not that simple. If your dog finds it hard to sleep, it is essential to consult your vet for the best solution, which is usually in the form of over-the-counter medicines and supplements.

These supplements and medicines are non-toxic solutions to help your pup get enough sleep to remain healthy. Some of these drugs include:

Diphenhydramine

You might find this one particularly familiar. Also known as Benadryl, Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergies in humans and animals. It has multiple uses, one of which is to relieve symptoms of anxiety in pets, especially if the pet is sick, has motion sickness, and is being transported a long distance.

However, Diphenhydramine remains a potent sleep aid for dogs. Like many other drugs, Diphenhydramine is a non-toxic drug that poses no serious risk to your dog’s health only if used in the proper dosage. If you get the urge to administer the medication to your dog without a vet’s prescription, don’t.

Benadryl or Diphenhydramine poisoning in dogs is real, and it can lead to abnormal heart rate, aggression, difficulty breathing, agitation, extreme drowsiness,  tremors and muscle spasms, and increased blood pressure, among others.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone made in the body that also exists as a medical sleep aid supplement used by humans and animals (as far as it is administered in a controlled dosage). When produced in the body, Melatonin is tasked with regulating sleep-wake cycles.

Darkness triggers the production of melatonin, making us fall asleep. Light has the opposite effect. Melatonin supplements are naturally-derived hormones that help to regulate sleep by supplementing naturally produced hormones in the body. If you notice your dog finds it difficult to sleep through the night, you should talk to your vet about prescribing melatonin to your pup.

The prescribed melatonin dosage is anything from 1-6 mg, depending on the age, health, and size of your dog. Melatonin is a non-toxic supplement as long as it is administered within the proper dosage and not paired with any drug that can be toxic when reacted with the supplement. 

CBD Oil

No, CBD or Cannabidiol oil won’t make your dog high because it is made from hemp. It is mainly used as a pain and inflammation medication thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. In dogs, CBD oil is used to reduce joint pain, reduce allergies, alleviate anxiety, manage seizures, and even control inflammatory bowel disease.

However, due to its sedative and calming effects when used on dogs, CBD oil is also a popular sleep aid among many dog parents. Although many vets do not prescribe CBD oil to dog owners, you can still talk to your vet about administering it to your pup. After all, a non-toxic way to help your puppy relax doesn’t hurt anyone.

Doxylamine

Doxylamine is an antihistamine used in the short-term treatment of insomnia. Like other drugs on this list, it is used by both humans and animals.Doxylamine functions similarly to Diphenhydramine. An overdose of Doxylamine also poses serious health risks for your pup.

Don’t go out on a whim to administer Doxylamine to your dog. Get your vet to provide the proper prescription.

Hypnotic Medication

Hypnotic drugs are a group of drugs that are chemically engineered to help people- or animals- suffering from sleep-related problems get restful sleep. They are also called sleep aids and are prescribed depending on the type of sleep problem the patient suffers. 

2. Natural remedies

Herbs

Natural herbs are often as effective as medications when it comes to helping your dog sleep. Herbs like valerian, chamomile, and passionflower exert calming and relaxing properties on dogs, making it easier to go to sleep. You can also explore flower essences as a sleep aid for your dog.

However, discuss natural remedies with your vet before administering any natural medication to your dog.

person massaging a black dog during therapy

Massage

A relaxing massage is probably what your dog needs to go right to sleep. If a massage isn’t enough, it is a great way to complement other medications you might have administered to it, making it easier for him to fall asleep. If your dog feels tense or anxious before bed, a massage is just what it needs to relax.

Soft, slow, soothing strokes encourage the production of endorphins in your dog’s body. Get your dog to lay in bed. Massage his side, head, neck, tummy, back, legs, and paws.  For a more effective massage, ensure you set the stage to the right ambiance. Minimize light entry, use relaxing sounds and dog-appeasing pheromones if you can.

Exercise

Take a leaf from the famous mothering skill that involves tiring out toddlers with lots of daily activities. When you involve your dogs during the day, it helps them burn off the excess energy that might keep them awake at night. This way, you are not only keeping your dog fit and healthy but also ensuring it goes to sleep faster at night.

Tips To Help Your Dog Get A Good Night’s Rest

If your dog keeps you up at night, here are some tips you can use to ensure you both get the rest you need.

  • Tire your furry companion out: tiring your pup out will increase its chances of falling asleep as soon as it’s time for bed. Since dogs are often full of energy, tiring out your dog will involve lots of daytime exercise and activities. Don’t make the mistake of trying to tire your dog out right before bed. This will have the opposite effect as your pup is now wide awake and ready to play.
  • Ensure the bed and beddings are comfortable: just as you find it difficult to go to sleep in an uncomfortable bed, your doggo might be dreading going to sleep because his bedding doesn’t feel right. 
  • Limit water before bedtime: If you are one of those dog parents who encourage your dog to drink water before bed, you may be setting your dog- and yourself- up for long, sleepless nights. Unless your dog has underlying medical conditions, it should stop drinking water at least two hours before bed. This will limit the times you need to get out of bed to take your pup to the bathroom. Less water before bed equals an emptier bladder while they sleep.
  • Let your pup sleep with you: if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it won’t be able to get a wink of sleep, and neither will you. So, to avoid a long night filled with unending whining and cries, let your pup share the bed or at least the room with you.
  • Set the stage: when it’s time for bed, help your pup enjoy a comfy environment. This means no noise, dim or no lights, and no external stimulation.
  • Offer calming pre-bedtime activities: it doesn’t matter if it is an evening walk or a relaxing chew toy, it is essential to find a relaxing activity that your dog can engage in before bed.
  • Create a routine: dogs are creatures of habit and require a steady routine that lets them know when it’s time for a particular action. Having a constant bedtime routine will help your dog get used to going to bed faster because it already knows what comes after its nighttime routine is sleep. Conversely, if your nighttime activities are random and sporadic, you will have a dog that finds it difficult to understand that it is time for bed.
  • Be consistent: give your dog time to adapt to your new routine.

Helping Your Dog Get A Good Night’s Rest

Dogs love to sleep, so if your dog finds it difficult to go to bed at night, something is terribly wrong. To help your dog get the rest it needs, you need to start by finding the root of the problem.

Although there are different reasons why your dog stays up at night, there are also numerous solutions you can use to help it relax and go to sleep faster. For a long-term solution, speak to your vet to get your dog the help it needs. 

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Jonas Muthoni