Narcolepsy - Do My Dogs Have It?

Why do dogs sleep so much?
Why do dogs sleep so much? | Source

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Have you ever wondered why your dog sleeps so much? That question has plagued me for years. I’m beginning to think that the large majority of canines suffer from narcolepsy. This condition doesn’t seem to be breed specific, although it can be individually specific. In other words, the average German shepherd might sleep just as much as the average Chihuahua does, while some German shepherd dogs might sleep more than others. See what I mean? I’ve owned numerous dog breeds, and every one of my pooches was a sleepyhead. Maybe I just had the bad (or good) fortune to have ended up with lazy dogs. We now have a Basset hound and two Great Danes, and all three are champion sleepers. They’re also opportunistic nappers. If anyone in the house is taking a nap, our dogs feel compelled to join their sleeping human family members. If the dogs can’t find a human to join in napping, they’ll snuggle up together for some shuteye. A dog might sleep from twelve to fourteen hours a day, and puppies, older dogs, and infirmed individuals usually sleep even more. Why do dogs sleep so much? Maybe they have narcolepsy.

Hamlet especially enjoys napping with "his" kids.
Hamlet especially enjoys napping with "his" kids. | Source
Narcolepsy Dogs
Narcolepsy Dogs | Source

Narcolepsy

Do you know about narcolepsy in humans? Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that makes its victims have abnormal sleep patterns. People suffering from the condition might experience excessive daytime sleepiness, and they might fall asleep at the drop of a hat – sometimes at inopportune times. My ex-brother-in-law, for example, told about a narcoleptic pal of his who would sometimes fall asleep while eating. My former family member said he’d seen the guy wind up with his face in a plate of food several times.

The whole sleep pattern thing is different with narcoleptics. When “normal” people fall asleep, it usually takes us an hour or an hour and a half to reach REM sleep. For those with narcolepsy, however, this stage of sleep can be achieved rapidly, sometimes in as little as five minutes or so. Despite what most people think, narcoleptics don’t always spend more time sleeping than people who don’t have the condition. They might just sleep differently, with abnormal sleep cycles and patterns. They might actually have trouble sleeping at night, or they might find it impossible to sleep for long periods at one time.

Really, Grendel? The entire sofa?
Really, Grendel? The entire sofa? | Source
Must nap with small human...must nap with small human...must nap with small human.
Must nap with small human...must nap with small human...must nap with small human. | Source

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

I’ve found out more about the symptoms of narcolepsy in humans and have tried to diagnose my dogs using the guidelines. Narcolepsy symptoms include:

· Daytime sleepiness. Yep, my boys certainly exhibit this sign of narcolepsy! They snooze off and on for most of the day.

· Waking up regularly in the middle of the night. Ugh. Place a big red check mark on this one. The Danes sleep with me, and I can attest to the fact that they wake several times during the night. Oftentimes, they have to go out to potty in the wee hours.

· A sudden and temporary loss of muscle function. Check. What else would explain their clumsiness when they first wake up from sleep or a nap?

· Nightmares accompanied by jerking leg movements. Definitely check this symptom! My fawn male, Hamlet, sleeps as close to me as is physically possible, and he often wakes me up with his violently jerking long limbs. Sometimes I have to wake him up in order to make him stop.

· Difficulty waking up. Hamlet usually wakes up easily, but his brothers, Grendel and Sparky, don’t. Sometimes I have to prod and shake them to get them fully conscious and aware.

· Hallucinations. I’m not sure about this one. I really have no way of knowing whether my furkids hallucinate or not. I’ve asked them, but they’re been very close mouthed.

So, I’ve listed six of the main symptoms of narcolepsy that humans experience, and my dogs have at least five of the symptoms. What about your dog – have you seen narcolepsy symptoms in it? Is this condition widespread among canines, or are there other reasons dogs sleep so much?

another champion napper
another champion napper | Source

Top 10 Reasons Dogs Sleep So Much

Okay, these are tongue-in-cheek answers to why do dogs sleep so much. Yeah, you can probably tell that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about his, and I’ve come up with some not-so-plausible reasons. Like David Letterman, I’ve come up with a top ten list:

10. Most brands of dog food contain large amounts of sleep-inducing drugs like opioids. When you feed your dog, you’re unknowingly giving it another drug dose.

9. Most dogs suffer from extreme depression, for which excessive sleeping is a symptom.

8. Canines require a lot more food, better quality protein, and more calories than we realize. Because they’re not getting what they need, they have to sleep a lot to conserve energy and to avoid starving to death. My dogs said to tell you that if they’re fed a generous diet of beef tenderloin, they won’t have to spend so many hours snoozing.

7. Dogs are much more calculating and manipulative than we realize, but it’s hard for them to think and plan with their eyes open. When your dog seems to be sleeping peacefully, it could very well be making elaborate plans and engaging in some difficult problem solving, like “How do I get the cookie jar off the kitchen counter?” “If the back yard fence is five feet tall, how fast will I have to going in order to get enough force and lift to clear the fence?” “What strategy can I employ to teach that stupid human to catch a Frisbee in his mouth?”

6. It’s part of a huge dog conspiracy. They want to lull us humans into a false sense of security and to see them as just lazy dogs that are harmless. Once we totally let down our guard, the dogs will attempt to take over the world.

5. Canines function on anti-photosynthesis. While plants have to use sunlight to produce energy, dogs must have darkness in order to do so.

4. Dogs have tiny television sets on the insides of their eyelids. The only way they can watch their favorite shows is to close their eyes.

3. Canines sleep so much because they love dreaming. It’s sort of like a virtual reality game for them, and they can choose and program their own dreams. They might decide to dream bout chasing a rabbit, being romantic, consuming a juicy steak, or being a doggie hero.

2. Most humans don’t know this, but dogs are very religious. When you think they’re sleeping, oftentimes they’re actually praying.

1. And the number one reason dogs sleep so much (drum roll, please) drrrrrrrrrrrrrrr:

Because they can!

synchronized napping
synchronized napping | Source
Grendel isn't usually too concerned about his sleeping positions.
Grendel isn't usually too concerned about his sleeping positions. | Source

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much – seriously

Okay, I’m going to be serious here now. I was so curious about the dog sleeping issue that I attempted to research it online. I really didn’t find much, though, so I called the veterinarians we’ve been using for years to ask them their thoughts on the topic. Both these guys have years and years of experience and training with dogs, but neither was exactly sure about the issue at hand. They both feel that dogs sleep a lot largely out of boredom. One of the vets told me to try playing with the dogs all day to see if that reduced the number of hours of sleep for the mutts. I don’t have that kind of energy or ability, especially since I’m nursing a knee injury. Maybe after my surgical repair and recovery, I’ll try the experiment.

I’ve done some research on wild dogs and on wolves, both cousins of our domesticated dogs. Gray wolves and African wild dogs often hunt at night, beginning at sunset. They might also seek prey in the early morning, before sunrise. This is especially true in hot weather. During the heat of the day, the packs like to remain in the cool comfort of shade or in underground dens. As the sun sets, the temperature drops, and the canids then go on the prowl for food. As such, wild canids can be said to be semi-nocturnal. Maybe our domesticated dogs are, too. Perhaps through domestication, mankind has “screwed up” the dog’s natural instincts where sleep patterns are concerned. Or perhaps our pets are up and going in the middle of the night when we’re sound asleep. That’s just one of my theories.

Another theory I have, based on some of the research I’ve done, is that dogs don’t get as much deep sleep as people get, so seven or eight hours of light sleep isn’t enough for our furry friends. They need to sleep for longer periods in order to get the same amount of recuperation as we humans get. I’ve noticed that my dogs are sometimes very “light” sleepers. Take yesterday, for instance. All my furkids were seemingly fast asleep, but when there was a soft sound from the kitchen, they all jumped up, all of a sudden wide awake and barking ferociously. When the noise stopped, they pranced around proudly as they looked at me, as if to say, “See, Mom – we weren’t really asleep. We were just resting our eyes. We’re ever vigilant in protecting you and your stuff.” When my dogs are asleep, they wake up instantly when I enter the room - unless I want them to. Go figure.

Still, I think my vets were mostly correct with their answer to “Why do dogs sleep so much?” Think about it. Canines don’t have a lot to do to fill up the hours of their days. They don’t have to hunt for food, they don’t have to stake out new territory or protect current territory, and they don’t have to find mates. They don’t have to spend time finding new watering holes, either. Even if domesticated dogs have instincts to do all these activities, we’ve mostly taken away their chances to do so. For the most part, pet dogs either live in human homes or in fenced-in areas. They can’t read, and they can’t play video games. They can watch TV if we let them, but they usually have little interest in television and movies because they don’t understand what’s going on or what's being said. Like my vet said, if I were trapped on an island where there was nothing to do, I’d probably sleep a lot, too. Whatcha think? Why do dogs sleep so much, in your opinion?

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Comments 7 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

I kinda like your supposition number four, Holle - dogs sleep so much because they have tiny television sets on the insides of their eyelids. Which they have to close their eyes to watch. Makes perfect sense to me! How's the knee, BTW? Ready for a soccer match yet?


habee profile image

habee 3 years ago from Georgia Author

Lol. No, no soccer yet. I'm having surgery next week.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

I think your ten reasons would do well on the Tonight Show. I could hear Jay Lenno's voice reading them. Also good article and good pictures. Thanks for sharing. Voted Up!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 3 years ago from California

LOL!

Our dogs didn't get the memo that they were supposed to sleep a lot. (Border Collies) The guys who live here don't sleep much for that matter either.

Sit at the computer too long they will drop a ball on the keyboard. Take all the toys away and they snuggle under your arm so you can't type.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

I never really thought about this. I have not really had dogs that slept for long periods...my kitty, now she is another story.

This was very interesting though and I am passing it along to some of my friends who have doggies who nap a lot.

Sending you Angels this evening :) ps


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 3 years ago from Central Texas

At my house, anything that gets bored -- sleeps -- and I suspect that's true of my Ubba-Dog, too. Loved this Hub -- very entertaining and definitely food for thought! Best/Sis


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

I had to laugh at the part where the dogs wake up at the tiniest noise. And you can't make a move, really, without waking them up.

I think my dogs roam around the house at nite more than sleep.

Your dogs look so comfy. I love the pix. I think I want to take a nap now!

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