Do Dogs Dream? Exploring The Sleep Science Of Canines.
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If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely wondered about what exactly goes on in your four-legged friend’s brain. What are they really thinking? What would they say if they could talk? Are they dreaming?
We’re huge pooch fans here at Bearaby and are proud to call our headquarters home to more than a few furry office pets and “foster fails.” Over fetch and treats, we also found ourselves pondering these questions about our four-legged colleagues.
While we’re usually researching the world of human sleep cycles, our dogs have inspired us to dig deeper into the world of animal sleep and dreams. We learned some very interesting things about puppy slumber and have gathered the facts to share with you and your own furry best friend.
Cuddle up with your pooch under your weighted blanket and prepare to learn all you ever wanted to know about doggie dreaming!
What’s the normal sleep cycle of a dog?
Dogs are champion snoozers. The average dog sleeps up to 12-14 hours a day, split between chunks of heavy sleep and frequent catnaps. Talk about living the dream!
While dogs sleep much more than humans, the cycle of our dogs’ dreams is quite similar to our own. They move through phases of wakefulness, REM, and non-REM sleep. They move through feeling awake, drowsy, and totally asleep.
Like humans, dogs enter REM sleep, but much quicker than us. After about 20 minutes, dogs transition into REM for about 2-3 minutes. Here, they may twitch, breathe heavy, or whimper (this is more likely in puppies and very old dogs).
How do dogs dream?
Have you ever noticed your pup dreaming? When dogs dream, they’ll often whimper or make a muffled woof, twitch their legs, and breathe heavily. These are all signs that your dog is in dreamland!
We’ve long known that dogs dream, but the question remains: what do dogs dream about? Humans typically dream about events of the day or memories from their past. Most dreams are made up of aspects of events that have actually happened.
Researchers at MIT studied rat brains to help them discover if animals also dream about their actual experiences. According to Matthew Wilson of the MIT Center for Learning and Memory, "We looked at the firing patterns of a collection of individual cells to determine the content of rats' dreams.” These researchers were able to devise a study that tested rats running in a maze. During their dreams, the rats displayed the same brain activity they had while running the maze earlier. From this, Wilson suggests, “we know that they are in fact dreaming and their dreams are connected to actual experiences."
These new findings are currently being used to help scientists better understand how animals think. They are now studying which experiences animals dream about (and which ones they don’t) to learn more about why animals (and humans, too) dream.
Do all dogs dream the same?
It turns out that doggie dreams can be as varied as our beloved breeds. Pointers are known for searching and pointing in their dreams, while other breeds may dream of their most notable activities and characteristics.
If you want to catch your pup in a dream, wait until about 10-20 minutes after they fall asleep. You’ll notice their eyes roll back – the key sign that they are entering dreamland. Different dogs have different dream patterns. Smaller dogs are believed to dream more often, and younger or senior dogs are thought to dream more than middle-aged dogs.
Can studying doggie dreams help humans?
While studying the dreamlife of our furry friends might sound like a frivolous waste of science, nothing could be further from the truth. The study of sleep-wake patterns and dreaming in dogs has led to some important discoveries, and hopefully more answers for us in the future.
One amazing example is the discovery of a special gene and chemical that could change the way we treat narcolepsy. And it all started with sleepy dogs.
In the 1970’s, William Dement, a sleep researcher at Stanford University, discovered that some dogs displayed similar narcolepsy symptoms as his human subjects. His research led to the discovery of a specific gene, hypocretin receptor 2. This gene prevents a special chemical (hypocretin) from reaching the brain, resulting in the sudden collapse and muscle weakness of narcolepsy.
Further research showed that humans who suffered from narcolepsy also had similar issues with hypocretin in the brain. Since then, scientists have been working on using hypocretin to help prevent narcolepsy in humans.
Can dogs use weighted blankets?
If you’ve recently brought one of our Bearaby weighted blankets into your home, it won’t take long before your furry friend decides to make it his own! We love seeing photos of you and your new Nappers, but we grin with utter joy when we see your pets loving our blankets as much as you do.
We think it may have something to do with the cooling sensation of those weighted weaves. Because our blankets are hand-knit with our chunky weighted yarn, air is able to circulate in and around your body (and your pooch’s!) in a way that keeps everyone cool, while also staying cozy. We think dogs also love that all our blankets are made with organic, highly breathable cotton and eucalyptus fibers. Natural to the touch, smooth on your skin - er, fur - and perfect for an afternoon nap.
If your pet is particularly fond of your weighted blanket, feel free to share the snuggle. Just be sure to make sure your pet is comfortable and can easily move around or leave the hugging weight of the blanket. What better way to release the stress of the day than cuddled up with your best friend and your Napper?
What we can learn from our dreaming dogs
At Bearaby, we believe dogs are mini life coaches for all of us. The energy, playfulness, and dedication to rest is something to be admired! Here are a few things we’ve learned from the cutest coworkers in the office:
Rest when tired. Dogs are masters at taking a break when they need it. Do they work hard? Sure. Take naps? Daily.
Go for Gold. Leave it to your pup to find the most comfortable spot in the house – whether that’s on your pristine sofa, your cashmere sweater, or under (or on top of!) your brand new knitted Bearaby Napper. What can we say? They know what they like, and they go for it.
Chase your dreams. Science suggests doggy dreams mimic what they love to do in real life – chase squirrels, run through parks, hunt for treats. As humans, we should follow suit and keep our daydreams alive.
Ready to live like Lassie? Cuddle up with your Bearaby weighted blanket and go on to chase your dreams (just be prepared to share).
• Studies show: dogs do dream!
• Dogs are huge sleep lovers and quickly enter REM sleep (and dreamland) about 20 minutes after falling asleep.
• Dogs have a lot to teach us humans. The sleep science of dogs is currently being used to help find answers for human sleep disorders, and their nap-happy attitude can encourage us all to take the time to rest.
Did you know?
You just might be the subject of your dog’s dreams. Research shows that dogs are highly attached to their owners and likely dream about their face or smell.