If you're anything like me, you STRUGGLE to get enough sleep.
Living with narcolepsy makes sleep feel almost impossible for me at night, but I know how important it is to my mood, my health, and my focus.
And you know who else my lack of sleep affects?
Dogs need even more sleep than we do. About 16 hours PER DAY!
That's almost double our daily needs.
Dogs also have a shorter sleep cycle than we do, which means they wake more often - and need more - to experience the same effect as we do.
Because of this, I focus heavily on sleep in all of my training protocols. Sometimes fixing a lack of sleep makes enough difference in training to make things 10 times easier for their owner.
So today, I wanted to share with you my top tips to getting better sleep with your dog.
1. Keep a consistent routine.
This one is really hard for me (thanks ADHD), but I manage to do okay when I realize that my dog needs it!
Dogs typically sleep overnight just like us, and they also tend to be more sleepy and relaxed from mid-day to the afternoon.
They are most active at dusk and dawn!
Because of this, I plan my activities for my dogs during those two times (think decompression walks or frisbee practice).
I plan my own activities in the mid-day/afternoon when they are more prone to sleep.
It's actually a perfect work-day situation for both of us and very convenient to mark the start and end of my days!
If you know your dog needs naps, I suggest picking a consistent time each day for them to nap in a quiet, undisturbed area.
2. Make the space sleep-friendly for your dog.
You wouldn't want to sleep in a room where people were cooking, chopping, playing loud music, or dancing, would you?
I sure wouldn't.
For you and your dog, you need a space that is friendly to sleep.
For one of my dogs, this is a crate with a cover for some darkness in a quiet part of the house with white noise or music. He struggles with light sleep, so I try to keep his space as dark and quiet as possible.
For my other dog, she needs only calm, low noise, and a comfy couch. She sleeps okay through most things.
For the human's bedtime, this might look different.
One of my dogs sleeps great through the night and barely makes noise. She is fine to sleep in a dog bed near my bed. We have all lights off and a fan going to drown out any outside apartment noise. We keep it very cool and cozy, and that is perfect for both of us.
My other pup, the light sleeper, will change positions frequently and hit the sides of his crate. If he were in the bedroom, we'd all be kept up.
For him, he has his own room to sleep in peace and quiet without us waking him or him waking us. (he has since graduated into our own room with a soft crate!)
If your dog has different needs (or you need a dog free night of sleep), don't feel bad. Dogs don't like sleep deprived and cranky guardians just as much as we do.
3. Utilize alarms.
Alarms will be your best friend!
Use an alarm to help you wake up at a consistent time each day (your dogs will love that!), and use one to tell you when it's time to start your winding down routine.
Both of these will easily be picked up on by your dogs, which can really help you get the motivation to get going!
If you're like me, and you struggle to start winding down because you are so excited about your free time and hobbies, you can actually train your dog to respond to your wind down alarm.
For me, I like my dog to pull my phone from my hands (I have a pull-tab on it) and bring it to my bedroom.
That is enough of a disturbance to get me up and moving for my wind down routine.
4. Prepare for sleep.
Let's talk wind-down routines.
Wind down routines help you and your dog prepare for sleep and start quieting your brain down before bed.
I have one for me and my dogs too!
Mine starts with taking the dogs for one last potty break (my dog helps me here). Before my alarm to take them out, I stop all super active training or play time with my pups - usually we cuddle on the couch with some fun TV together.
Then, my alarm goes off, and my pup pulls my phone over to the leash up station in our house. I take them out, and put the boy dog to bed.
While he is winding down for sleep, I usually have a small snack. I share little pieces with Quimby as she relaxes by my feet to help promote calmness during that time.
After my snack, I fill up my water and head to bed. I make Quimby's bed of blankets, and she digs in them until they are sufficiently comfy for her to plop down for the night.
I fill up my pill container, and pick out my clothes for the morning, placing them somewhere easily accessible for Quimby to reach.
Then I brush my teeth, turn off the lights, turn on the fan to dull the noises for me and my dogs, and crawl into bed!
This whole routine tells both my brain and my dogs what is happening, and now they consistently sleep at the same time as I do.
5. Remember dogs can help.
There are many ways your dog can help you with your sleep struggles.
Besides the above example of helping you start a night routine, your dog can also help you get out of bed, get your clothes together, and many other things to help during your sleep or wake routine.
I personally struggle to get out of bed, so my pup helps by responding to my alarm and pulling the phone to the other side of the room. She also brings me my clothes in the morning and helps me remember to fill my medication.
If you are struggling with specific parts of your routine, see if you can get creative with fun tricks your dog can do!
Remember, these are only considered tasks if they mitigate your disability.
But anyone can benefit from fun tricks!
I hope these tips are helpful for your sleep routine with your pups.
If you need any help with these things and want more personal support, come join me in my $5 membership, the (Simple) life with dogs!
We can't wait to meet you!