Sleep as it is a necessity to humans; it is to canines. Sleep helps your canines’ brain development, helps process information, and boosts the immune system.
According to PetMD, lack of sleep can lead to bad mood cycles. It can also make the dog prone to infections.
So, if you have noticed your dog is restless or anxious at night and not getting enough sleep, the cause needs to be investigated.
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to a dog’s sleeping routine. Some dogs may suffer from separation anxiety and may do well with sleeping in the same room as you initially. In addition, some dogs may be suffering from health issues that may require vet care.
Other reasons could include lack of exercise, change in environment, or problems with the dog’s sleeping condition.
So if your dog acts weird at night, is restless, and does not get enough sleep, we will explore possible reasons for such behavior. We will also look at some tips that may calm your dog and help get it a good night’s rest.
Why is My Dog Restless and Anxious at Night All of a Sudden – Possible Causes
Some causes for your dog’s restlessness at night can be managed with lifestyle changes, while others may require vet help.
Let us look at some of the possible causes that may get your dog all worked up at night.
1. Your Dog Has Excess Energy with No Outlet to Spend
Dogs were initially bred for specific reasons like hunting, guarding, herding, or for pulling weights, or navigating. Some dog breeds were trained to work hard during the day in the field.
These breeds could be highly energetic, intelligent, and devoted. The dogs may no longer be used for their initial purpose, but the hardworking traits have been passed down through generations.
So, now a full day of work at the field is replaced with activities like walks, runs, and swims. If you do not keep such dogs productively engaged, they can get bored and develop undesirable habits.
For example, breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Border Collies, and Jack Russell Terriers are highly energetic breeds.
They may need anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes of physical exercise. Further, they need to be engaged with interactive toys and puzzles. You also need to spend quality time with them.
And naturally, when they are bound with energy, it will be difficult for them to wind down for the day. So the human equivalent could be that if you are too excited or full of energy, you will find it difficult to go to bed in such situations.
2. Your Dog’s Sleeping Conditions Are Not Ideal
Another reason for your dog’s sudden restlessness at night could be its uncomfortable bedding. For example, you may think a soft, plushy bed may be good for the dog, but that is not the case.
Beds that are too soft do not provide the support necessary while sleeping. If yours is a senior dog, it might have difficulty getting in and out of bed. Their aging joints and bones need additional support when they lie down in the sleeping position.
If your dog sleeps on the floor, then the surface and temperature could be the problem. Your dog needs firm support while sleeping, but a hard floor might be too harsh. Also, the cold might be discomforting for the pet if it is the winter season.
On the other hand, making the dog sleep on a bed with cuddly toys and blankets during the summer is also not ideal. The dog’s body might get too hot. You may find them panting in the middle of the night, as that is how they cool down their body temperature.
The behavior of dogs is often motivated by survival. They will not do things that make them uncomfortable. So as it learns bedtime equals discomfort, it will get stressed during the night.
If your pet behaves normally throughout the day and there are no unusual symptoms, then start by checking its sleeping environment.
3. Your Dog Could be Suffering From Separation Anxiety
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety will not do well when they are alone. So, if the dog sleeps in a separate room alone or in a place away from its guardians, it may get anxious at night.
Such dogs can also show other signs like peeing and pooping inside the house, howling, barking, chewing, and even trying to escape when left alone.
According to ASPCA, there could be several reasons why dogs develop separation anxiety. For example, they might have been abandoned, given up to a shelter, their owners could have passed away, or it could be a sudden change in their schedule and environment.
Such dogs can become restless or even agitated at night if they are away from their owners. In the case of mild separation anxiety, counterconditioning methods may help. However, discussing possible treatment options with the vet in severe cases would be best.
4. Your Dog Could be in Pain
Your dog could be suffering from a painful health condition that could be preventing it from getting a good night’s sleep.
For example, your dog could be suffering from joint pains, arthritis, or hip dysplasia. These conditions will hinder the dog from plopping into a comfortable sleeping position. In addition, as the dog’s joints ache, finding a position that causes the least discomfort may take some time. In the meantime, it may whimper or howl in pain.
Dental issues like periodontitis can also result in chronic pain. The condition may not show visible symptoms until it becomes severe. You should not ignore dental problems as they may lead to complications like loss of tooth, abscesses, jaw fracture, and organ damage.
Other reasons for pain in dogs could include flea or tick bites, allergies, infections, or injury.
If the reason your dog acts weird at night is pain, then it may show signs during the day as well.
For example, if the cause is joint pain, the dog may show signs like:
- Hesitancy to take stairs
- Hesitancy to indulge in activities like running and jumping
- Pain while getting into a peeing or pooping position
If the cause is dental issues, the dog may show signs like:
- Loss of appetite
- Bad breath
- Teeth discoloration
If your dog gets anxious, whimpers, screams, or howls at night, monitor it during the day for other signs. Then, please contact the vet, as these health conditions require treatment. The vet will help manage the pet’s symptoms if the condition is not curable.
5. Your Dog’s Age Could be Affecting its Sleep Cycle
Restless nights could be an issue with puppies and senior dogs.
In the case of puppies, they will take time to adjust to their new home and surroundings. During the initial weeks, puppies sleep cozily with their mother and other littermates around.
Once separated from the litter, it is natural for them to get used to sleeping alone. The environment of the crate could be comparatively lackluster and could take time to get used to.
You could give them company at night, but sharing your bed with puppies is not advisable. They have little to no bladder control, and you could wake up to a mess every morning.
In the case of senior dogs, underlying health conditions, pain, and anxiety could be the reason for getting restless at night. For example, old dogs could develop a disorder called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
CCD is a behavioral syndrome seen in senior dogs. One of the symptoms of the condition is sleep-wake cycle disturbance. The dog may sleep through the day and then lay wide awake during the night.
Other symptoms may include:
- Peeing and pooping inside the house
- Extreme irritability
- Changes in behavior
- Increased anxiousness
Restless sleep would be one of the first symptoms you will notice. Please report any behavioral changes to the vet. Once the condition is diagnosed, the treatment may include medication and nutritional and lifestyle changes.
6. Your Dog is Dealing with the Change in Environment
Sleeping in a new environment can be difficult for anyone. That first day on a trip, the first few nights in your new home in a different city or country can be difficult.
It takes some time to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. In addition, if you have moved cross-country, the difference in time zones could affect your sleep cycle.
It will be the same for your dog as well. Canines are creatures of habit. When you move to a new home, it disrupts their routine. They need to adjust to new surroundings, smells, people, and weather. Their feeding, pooping, and sleeping cycle may also undergo change.
Some dogs are adaptable by nature and may take to a new home in a few days. But some dogs may take anywhere from weeks to even months to adjust to their new environment. In such cases, you should be prepared to deal with some sleepless nights ahead.
7. Your Dog is Scared
A dog’s vision, though it sees differently, is better than humans in low-light scenarios. So, you might wonder if it is possible for your dog to be scared of the dark.
The answer is yes. It could be your dog’s vision problems, heightened sense of hearing and smell, past experiences, or other health conditions that could be possible causes.
For example, a dog’s vision can become poor, or the dog may lose its vision entirely from several health conditions like cataracts, SARDS, and retinal atrophy. There are also some breeds, like Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Pugs, that are prone to blindness.
Dogs that cannot see well may bump into things, fall, or get injured. These experiences can be difficult for the dog. Thus, your pet could become restless and anxious when left alone in the dark during bedtime.
It will be challenging for your dog to see in a pitch-dark room. In such cases, its hearing and smelling senses are at their peak. You may not hear the insects or birds flying around at night, but your dog may. So the dog may not be scared of the dark, but because of unfamiliar things, it can hear or smell.
When it comes to bad experiences, the stronger the emotion the dog feels, the stronger the memory will be. So, if your dog was locked up in dark rooms as punishment in the past, it may feel restless when it finds itself in a similar situation.
It would help if you were patient with such dogs. Leaving a small light on or letting them sleep in your room or right outside may help.
8. Your Dog’s Dinner Schedule is Off
Dogs tend to poop 30 minutes after finishing a meal. However, the time could be an hour or two, depending on the dog’s age, metabolism and health.
Typically dogs can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to digest their meals fully. The time could be shorter in the case of puppies and longer in terms of senior dogs.
If you feed your dog twice a day, it is more likely to poop twice a day as well. But you need to time your dog’s meals and walks accordingly.
For example, if you feed your dog its second meal too early, around 1 or 2 pm in the afternoon, the dog may be ready to poop around bedtime. Adult dogs may be able to hold their poop for 12 hours or longer. But this is not an ideal situation to leave your dog in every night.
Your dog could be restless at night because it has to poop, you will not let it out, and now it is forced to hold its poop.
On the other hand, feeding your dog around its bedtime is also not a good idea. You may feed the dog late and then take it out for a walk immediately after because it is close to bedtime.
This is not ideal, as walking, playing, running, or any rigorous activity after eating can lead to bloating, vomiting, and stomach upset. The situation can be worse for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
According to vets, you should wait for a minimum of two hours after your dog’s meal to take it for a walk. Your dog’s restlessness could be a result of stomach upset.
9. Your Dog is Restless Because of Outside Stimuli
Dogs need a quiet and comfortable environment when going off to sleep. As mentioned above, your dog’s sense of smell and hearing is heightened in the dark.
So, if your dog sleeps near a window, it is likely to get disturbed by honks and passing vehicles.
When the dog sleeps, it first enters a stage called slow wave sleep (SWS). The dog’s mental processes will start to quiet down, whereas its body will still be active. It is the next stage, called rapid eye movement (REM), where the dog falls into a deep slumber.
In the SWS stage, the dog may seem like it is relaxed and resting, but outside stimuli could be enough to wake it up. Your dog may get up whining and irritated as it cannot fall asleep peacefully.
What Can I Do to Calm Down My Restless and Anxious Dog at Night?
Now that we have explored the possible causes of why your dog acts weird at night let us look at some tips that can help deal with such behavior.
1. Ensure the Dog Has a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
This is a primary requirement when it comes to a good night’s rest for your pet. Start with the bed. Understand what dog bed would be best suited for your dog.
For example, circular dog beds are popular among dog parents. The bed is designed to provide maximum comfort and a warm and cozy feeling. The slightly raised edges can be pillows for your pet. The design imitates the experience your dog’s ancestors would have when sleeping in the wild after digging the spot for comfort.
If you have a senior dog or a breed prone to joint-related medical conditions, they will benefit from an orthopedic bed.
You can add in a soft blanket depending on the weather.
Ensure the dog has a quiet place to wind down. For example, if the room it sleeps in has a window, cover it with thick curtains. Avoid placing the dog’s bed near the house’s main door, where it can be disturbed easily.
2. Create a Bedtime Routine
If your dog gets fussy while sleeping, a bedtime routine involving cuddle toys, music, and calming aids may help.
For example, give the dog its favorite cuddle toy when it is time to sleep. Reserve the toy only for bedtime to make the dog understand its importance.
There have been studies that suggest music has a similar calming effect on canines as it does on humans. You could even play some white noise to help the dog wind down and get ready to sleep.
One may also use scents and oils to create a calming environment. But we recommend talking to the vet before you include any essential oils or scents in your dog’s routine.
Consistently following a routine will result in a sleeping habit that will soothe your dog’s nerves before it goes to sleep. This may also help the dog adapt to a new environment better and quicker.
3. Fulfill the Dog’s Physical and Mental Stimulation Needs
You should fulfill this essential requirement to maintain your pet’s overall health. Some dog breeds need high-intensity exercise, while others do well with short walking sessions.
Some dogs do well on their own; they are independent and do not need a lot of attention. But on the other hand, some dogs need to be engaged in productive activities.
So maintain exercise and playtime sessions and spend quality time with your pet according to its needs.
If you have a busy schedule, consider hiring a dog sitter or enrolling the pet in a doggy daycare. This significantly reduces the time it spends alone and also reduces the chances of the pet developing destructive habits.
4. Stick to the Dog’s Feeding Schedule
When starting out with a puppy, depending on their breed, they will need multiple meals during the day. For example, toy dog breeds may need 4 to 6 meals a day because their stomachs can be tiny. On the other hand, puppies from large dog breeds may need 3 to 4 meals daily.
For adult dogs, two meals a day should work. For proper diet and feeding schedules, you can discuss them with the vet.
Maintaining a feeding routine is essential because it will help regulate your dog’s bowel movement. You will get an idea of how much time the dog takes to poop. You can then further schedule its walks and bed timings accordingly.
5. Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
For dogs with separation anxiety, let them sleep in a crate that you can place in your bedroom. Make the crate inviting by putting the dog’s favorite toys and a blanket inside. The dog’s vocalizations can get intense if it finds itself alone at night.
So even if it wakes up from its sleep, seeing you around may help calm it down.
Once the dog gets comfortable, you can place the crate outside your bedroom door. This way, if the dog gets up all anxious, you can reach it quickly.
Also, work on easing your dog’s anxiety throughout the day. For example, AKC recommends desensitizing the dog to the act of you leaving. You could leave the dog alone for short periods and gradually increase the time. You can give it a small treat while leaving.
Train the dog to stay and leave things alone when you command it. Do not encourage overly clingy behavior. If your dog’s condition is severe, the vet may prescribe medications to help calm the dog.
6. Discuss the Dog’s Symptoms with the Vet
If it is a health condition affecting your dog’s sleep, then in most cases, the pet will also show symptoms during the day.
You cannot treat these health conditions at home; you need to discuss the symptoms with the vet. Treatment may involve medication, therapies, diet, and lifestyle changes depending on the diagnosis.
There are several reasons why your dog acts weird at night. It could be a lack of exercise, an uncomfortable sleeping environment, disturbance from outside stimuli, an irregular feeding cycle, or the dog’s age.
Other health-related reasons include joint pain, arthritis, hip dysplasia, allergies, infections, dental issues, and injuries. Your dog could also be scared because of poor vision, anxiety, and past traumatic experiences.
Practices like giving the dog a safe place to sleep, exercising and feeding it, keeping it engaged, and creating a bedtime routine may help.
If you notice other unusual symptoms during the day, please get in touch with the vet.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.