Do Dogs Like Sleeping In The Dark? (Explained By Trainer)

dog sleeping in the dark

Sleep is a very, very important part of life and quite arguably, downright amazing!

Having an enjoyable and efficient day can only be done with a great night of sleep (or some coffee). For dogs, it is the same, though they don’t need the coffee part to be hyper lunatics and rule the day! 

Sleeping in the dark is an ideal way to get rest as it promotes our natural circadian rhythm and allows us to fully utilize our REM sleep! While humans tend to sleep only during the nighttime (with an occasional afternoon nap), our canine companions function differently. 

Dogs will sleep soundly several times throughout the day and night, which may leave you wondering: do dogs like to sleep in the dark? 

Ultimately, dogs can sleep in any light setting, though darkness is recommended to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Dogs like to sleep in the dark and tend to sleep better with no lights unless they have a fear associated with darkness. Puppies can be sensitive to light and dark, especially when new to their surroundings. 

It can be difficult to answer this question with a single yes or no because it isn’t that easy! Even with scientific studies, every dog is unique and will need a sleep setting that works for them. 

First, we will take a look at if they like sleeping in the dark and if it is better for them. 

A discussion on nightlights is next which should help you decide if partial or dim lighting will benefit your pooch more and if their fear of the dark is holding them back! 

Puppies will be last on our list, though this period of their life is the most important, so be sure to read up and ensure any stress or hesitation is eliminated! 

Do Dogs Like Sleeping In The Dark?

Our pampered pups still share many things in common with their wolf ancestors, but being nocturnal has faded away over time since domestication. They’ll often go to bed when we do, as they conform to the human sleep schedule (referred to as social sleeping).

Dogs sleep more than humans on a daily basis, though, which means that some of that sleep is bound to spill over into the daytime even when we are awake and active. Your pup snoozes just fine when it is light out, so you might be wondering if they even notice the dark at all! Furthermore, do they prefer either darkness or light, or is it just the same for them?

While dogs can slumber fine during the day, some do prefer snoozing in the dark and will find a way to hide from the sunlight. A habit of my pups is to dig into their chosen blanket and wrap themselves like burritos- napping peacefully in their darkened den while the sun is shining through the windows!

Other pups may sleep sprawled out in the sun during the day, but when it comes time to shut off the lights for bed, the whining and nervous pacing ensue, unable to settle down.

It is important to ascertain whether your individual dog prefers full darkness, partial light, or full light to rest calmly. And because every pup is unalike their favor towards dozing off in the dark will also vary.

There is no single answer to this question that encompasses all dogs, so let’s try to dissect the canine behaviors surrounding sleep to understand if our pups rest better in the dark or with some light.

Do Dogs Sleep Better In The Dark?

All animals have a natural, internal 24-hour clock known as a circadian rhythm, responding to the environment and regulating their sleep-wake cycle. Dogs are no exception!

With this said, dogs were found to have a diurnal rhythm of these sleep and wake cycles, meaning they follow day and night – an adaptation to human activity.

Recent research has found that dogs actually do sleep better in the dark than during the day! Scientists discovered that night sleep for a dog had greater sleep efficiency than daytime naps with the best rest occurring between the times of 9 pm and 6 am. The capability of your pup to go into deep REM sleep at night also depends on if they feel safe where they lay to rest (exposed to any possible dangers) and if their pre-sleep interactions were positive or stressful.

Dogs may also be snoozing better in the dark because of the natural release of melatonin once night falls. This hormone is produced by a majority of mammals and aids in regulating the circadian cycles, promoting relaxation when it is time for sleep. Since the body doesn’t signal for a release of melatonin when it is light outside, your pup will still snooze but it won’t be as efficient in restoring your pup’s energy levels!

Do you ever have a hard time falling asleep if there is a light on? Well, your eyelids can only block out so much of it before it starts interrupting the sheep-counting process!

Our pups are the same way, with some preferring a bit of background lighting and others tossing, turning, and circling in their bed at the sight of a bright room.

Similar to humans, dogs might sleep better in the dark because it correlates to a lack of light stimulation. This soothing environment could also be the signal that bedtime has arrived and it is time to doze off for the night.

While it is safe to say that most pups do happen to sleep better at night, there will still be a few that have a hard time with the darkness and find themselves restless. We will talk about that a bit more below but first…

Should They Sleep In The Dark?

Remember that dogs can range anywhere between 10-16 hours of sleep per day depending on their age, size, breed, and other health differences. That is a long time to be inactive, and we only have (typically) 12 hours of darkness.

It isn’t going to be possible for them to sleep solely during the nighttime! You see every pooch in the world take a nap at least once or twice when the sun is up, and this is an inevitable, natural occurrence.

It isn’t a requirement to make sure your dog’s sleeping quarters are pitch black for proper sleep. Dogs can doze just fine with light, and darkness is only a recommendation to promote your pooch’s natural circadian cycle!

Ultimately, your pup’s individual preferences should determine if you keep a nightlight on for them or not, but don’t feel obligated to keep the room as dark as possible!

Do Dogs Need A Light On At Night?

Dogs have excellent vision in the dark thanks to the tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer in their eye that helps magnify light in any low-light situation. However, this doesn’t mean that they can see in a pitch-black room with no windows. There is no light to reflect and absorb!

Don’t feel like you have to keep a light on at night, especially if you have windows in the room your pooch dozes off in. The minimal light coming in from street lamps or the moon should be enough for your dog to see just fine when he needs to!

Even if you have blackout curtains or the room happens to be windowless, most dogs still don’t need a source of light throughout the night! They’ll sleep better in the dark, though some dogs don’t seem to be affected by a light on at all and can still rest just the same.

You will want to consider keeping a light on at night if you notice that your pup is restless when he should be asleep. This source of light can be a comfort for your dog and allow him to feel safe to sleep amid the darkness.

If he can’t seem to stop whining, barking, or circling in his crate, or if he is skittish only when the sun isn’t out, then your dog might actually be what everyone refers to as “scared of the dark”. Though it is more so just a heightened state of senses that might trigger some anxiety for your pooch!

Is My Dog Afraid Of The Dark?

A plethora of people (myself included) are afraid of the dark, and dogs can be too! All it takes is one negative experience and the fear of the dark will stick in your life.

This phobia develops mostly at a young age, and it is the lack of vision that can cause the other senses to go into overdrive.

Thanks to scary movies, I became convinced that a murderer or soul-sucking ghost will appear behind me the second I turn my lights off! And while this fear isn’t always rational, it can take a serious toll on you if you can’t do something to change your situation.

That is how dogs feel, especially if they are kept in a crate for the night and only darkness surrounds them! Now all of a sudden they are vulnerable, unable to see or run away, and can only rely on their hearing and smell to detect danger. Imagine hearing something unpleasant and not being able to see where it is coming from or even what it is!

If you are worried that your pup is dealing with a bout of fear when you turn the lights off for bedtime, observe his behavior! If he is whimpering, whining, barking, or howling in the middle of the night, this could be either that they need something or they are apprehensive about not being able to see.

He could also show his fright by keeping his tail tucked or his ears pinned back. You may see that your nighttime walks are significantly different than those in the morning, as your pup is pulling on the leash trying to get back home. Or, he might avoid shadows and other dark areas altogether!

Take your dog to the vet and have his eyes examined to rule out any eye disease. Not being able to see normally can stress your pup out when the sun goes down as he doesn’t feel as secure in his capabilities and becomes more vulnerable to his surroundings.

If his eyes are healthy, then work on desensitizing and counterconditioning your pup to the dark. Read here for more information on what these techniques are and how to utilize them to your benefit! It is a daunting task at first, but you and your pup will be thankful (and feel unshakeable) later on!

Should Puppies Sleep In The Dark?

Have you just brought home a new puppy and are wondering what to do at night? Are you crate-training your puppy and want to make sure that he feels comfortable and safe?

Puppies are a bit different than adult dogs since they are introduced to a fresh, unfamiliar place and need time to adjust. They will likely miss the safety and support of their littermates and mother, so being alone can be stressful!

They don’t know their surroundings yet so when it gets dark, they may feel unsettled or threatened, finding it hard to sleep. After all, something scary could pop up and they wouldn’t know what it is or where to go because they can’t see and aren’t acquainted with their crate setup!

Puppies have a crucial stage of their life starting at 3 weeks old and lasting until around 14 weeks old. In this sensitive period, a puppy’s brain is extremely receptive to his surroundings and starts to learn everything possible. This is the start of your baby’s social journey, so it is important to eliminate stressors and provide positive experiences to give your dog the confidence and friendliness for a fulfilling life!

Because of this tender phase in your pup’s development, it might be beneficial to keep a nightlight by the crate to help your puppy get used to his new home and special snooze spot. This extra bit of light could make a huge difference in calming and reassuring him, giving him the best chance at a good night’s sleep!

As I mentioned earlier, every individual dog will be different! Just as some adult dogs don’t appreciate having a light on at night, some puppies will also be restless with the light and want to play with you because it makes them feel energetic and active!

Whether you notice your puppy preferring darkness or light, ensure that you stay close by at night until he feels secure. If any issues come up and your new fur baby starts to freak out, you can be there right away to ease the stress and fear. This will help your puppy come to trust you and know that he is in a safe place, allowing him (and also you) to rest easier throughout the night!

One fascinating study examined the variance in daily sleep between 16-week-old puppies and 12-month-old dogs. The researchers recorded that the mean averages were fairly similar, with puppies at 4 months sleeping 11.2 hours per day and dogs at 12 months sleeping 10.8 hours per day.

This isn’t as long as many people think, though it isn’t impossible to witness your puppy sleep upwards of 18 hours per day!

Regardless, it all comes back to the fact that your dog will not sleep only during the night. There will be naps throughout the day, whether it be morning or afternoon! So don’t be concerned about when your puppy sleeps. Just be sure to determine what his personal preferences are when night falls, if darkness greater benefits your pooch, or if some light helps ease him into a more restful sleep.

Closing Thoughts

Dogs are social sleepers that have adjusted to their human companion’s sleep schedule. Luckily for us, this means that our buddy will (usually) sleep through the night, though they will still be taking those afternoon naps on the couch. 

It is normal for dogs to sleep a bunch, and it can be suggested by related research that dogs’ sleep is more efficient in the dark, which may then correlate to the dog preferring to sleep in the dark versus the light. 

The most important takeaway is that every dog will have different preferences! 

Some prefer pitch-black environments for a restful sleep, while others find themselves tense once the sun sets for worry of bad things happening when they can’t see! 

Puppies are more sensitive to various stimuli, and this can include lights. It might make them more active and do the opposite of what you would want to happen. On the other hand, some puppies feel more comfortable with the light, especially if you just brought them home.

Take some time to see what works best for your pup so you can both get the best results out of sleeping!

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