Chances are if you look over at your bulldog right now, they’re happily snoring away. With the amount that bulldogs sleep, it might seem like your pup is asleep more than they’re awake! It’s only natural for a responsible bulldog owner to begin to wonder if it’s normal for their dog to spend so many hours catching Zs instead of frisbees.
Why do bulldogs sleep so much? And how long do bulldogs sleep?
Like other breeds, the average adult bulldog sleeps 12-14 hours a day with puppies and elderly dogs sleeping more. As a non-sporting breed, bulldogs spend much of their time napping and lounging. Sleeping a lot is usually normal for bulldogs, but excessive sleeping can be a sign something is wrong.
For bulldogs, this sleep consists of uninterrupted sleep for around 8 hours at night and napping 6-8 hours throughout the day. This seems like a lot to us, but it’s a pretty normal amount in the doggie world. That said, if your bulldog is sleeping excessive amounts even for its breed, it may have a health issue.
This article dives into 5 reasons why it’s normal for your bulldog to sleep a lot and 5 things to look out for. Plus, there are tips and tricks to make sure your pup gets enough sleep.
5 Reasons Bulldogs Sleep So Much
Bulldogs will happily spend much of the day sleeping, but why? Just about every breed sleeps for at least 12 hours a night, but bulldogs may need a bit longer. The amount of sleep a bulldog needs depends highly on age, but there are some key underlying genetic factors.
Reason 1: All Dogs Need A Lot Of Sleep
Different species of animals sleep an incredibly diverse amount of time per day, with bats sleeping as much as 20 hours a day and giraffes sleeping as little as 2! Even so, the amount that dogs sleep per day is still considered to be quite a bit compared to similar species.
Unlike dogs, wolves are nocturnal and sleep only 4-10 hours a day. In the process of domestication, dogs developed a diurnal sleeping pattern to match their human counterparts. Like us, all dogs sleep roughly 8 hours a night. Daily naps, on the other hand, are irregular and split throughout the day.
One theory for all these extra naps is that dogs get less REM sleep during each sleep cycle. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is one of two major types of basic sleep for you and your dog. During non-REM sleep– known as SWS (slow-wave sleep)– your dog’s brain is at rest and has low, regular brain waves.
It might seem unintuitive, but the deepest part of sleep is actually when we are the most active! During REM sleep, your dog’s eyes dart around beneath its eyelids and it may even twitch or bark. This is the phase where dogs dream and the part that makes them feel rested in the morning. You are in REM sleep 25% of the time you are sleeping, but your pup only gets REM sleep 10% of the time!
In other words, some experts theorize that humans sleep less than dogs because our sleep is more “efficient.”
Reason 2: Bulldogs Are Non-Sporting Dogs
Dogs nap a lot, but bulldogs nap even more! Truthfully, a good chunk of the time we think they are asleep bulldogs are simply lounging around. Some may consider their bulldogs lazy, but taking it easy is simply in their blood.
English Bulldogs originated in the 13th century after pugs and mastiffs were crossed to create a breed for fighting bulls. This cruel “game” gave ancient bulldogs a noticeably fierce and determined nature as they were forced to take down bulls even in extreme injury or pain. Thankfully, bull-baiting was outlawed in England in the 1830s, leading to bulldogs nearly becoming an extinct breed while other bully breeds grew in popularity.
Devoted lovers of the sturdy breed began selecting dogs with gentle and sweet natures for the explicit purpose of making the bulldog a family pet. Bulldogs still retain their brave nature from their fighting days (which can sometimes if you need a guard dog) but have instead been bred for a sluggish yet sweet temperament for nearly two centuries.
Accordingly, Bulldogs have been placed in the non-sporting group by the American Kennel Club and are biologically predisposed to be less active than their working counterparts.
Reason 3: Bulldogs Are Brachycephalic
The bulldog’s most recognizable trait has to be its goofy, smooshed snout. For as adorable and distinctive as their faces make them, bulldogs have a host of health issues because of it.
The broad, short-snouted head shape that bulldogs have is referred to as brachycephalic. Brachycephalic (translating to short-headed) dogs are those with a head that is at least 80% as wide as it is long, such as boxers and chow chows.
These types of dogs have difficulty with heat regulation and proper breathing, so even moderate amounts of exercise wear them out and even put them at risk for heat-related illness. Thier big head can also make it difficult to find a properly sized collar, too! As goofy and fun-loving as they are, bulldogs usually need to end playtime with a nice nap to cool off and get proper airflow.
Reason 4: Young Bulldogs Need Extra Sleep To Grow
Since puppies are famous for being playful and energetic, you may be wondering how on Earth they sleep 18-20 hours a day. But anyone who has been around a bulldog puppy knows that they can go from running around the room to snoring at the drop of a hat- no matter what the time!
This behavior is not only amusing but also critical to your puppy’s development. According to veterinarian Jeff Warber in an interview with Yahoo! News, puppies experience rapid muscular, mental, and physical growth. This makes play and exercise important for the healthy development of a young bulldog in every way, which wears them out quickly.
With all the food that they eat and the growing that they do, bulldog puppies need quite a bit of shut-eye throughout the day!
Reason 5: Older Dogs Need More Sleep
In its later years, a bulldog will likely sleep more as part of the aging process. Senior dogs may sleep 14-15 hours a day, and even 18-20 hours a day is considered normal. While there isn’t a precise definition as to when a dog becomes a senior citizen, small dogs are typically considered elderly when they’re 7 or older.
After this point, everything slows down a bit, from your dog’s metabolism to their daily walks. Even perfectly healthy elderly dogs will become significantly less active throughout the day.
As long as this change in sleep isn’t accompanied by several key symptoms, your old pup is simply enjoying its golden years!
5 Issues That Cause Excessive Sleep In Your Dog
It’s perfectly normal and acceptable for bulldogs to sleep upwards of 12 hours a day. However, strange sleeping patterns or excessive tiredness in bulldogs can indicate that your pup isn’t getting the proper sleep it deserves. Bulldogs are unfortunately susceptible to sleep disorders– namely, sleep apnea.
Of course, there are a few more common causes to consider before jumping to the conclusion that your dog has this issue.
Reason 1: An Irregular Sleep Schedule
Although your dog might not be able to read your watch, it still has a biological clock! Like most mammals, dogs have a circadian rhythm that acts as a 24-hour timer to regulate sleep. In wild dogs, this pattern would be synchronized with the natural light pattern of the rising and setting sun.
Domestic dogs may not share the same sleep patterns as humans, but we often sleep at the same time. This is fine when we have regular sleep, but life events or unexpected changes may require us to wake and sleep at odd times. Dogs are easily awoken due to their short sleep cycles, and many of us unintentionally disturb our dog’s sleep.
All of us have to adjust our sleep-schedules every now and then, but frequent changes can be problematic for both you and your bulldog. When your dog’s circadian rhythm is confused by abnormal sleep schedules, their sleep quality will be significantly impacted. And since your pooch can’t exactly chug coffee or energy drinks like you can, it may try to “catch up” during the day.
Luckily, your dog’s sleep will likely improve (and yours!) once it starts sleeping consistently.
Reason 2: Sickness
A sleepy bulldog is by no means guaranteed to be sick, but lethargy is a common sign of a variety of diseases and medical conditions.
Extreme tiredness is often an early sign of parvovirus or other infections. In these cases, it is often paired with other symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, abnormal appetite and sudden weight-loss. Metabolic disorders can also cause tiredness and present with a variety of symptoms. These include changes in appetite, changes in weight, and excessive thirst.
If your dog’s sleepiness is accompanied by other symptoms and has increased out of nowhere, there’s likely some cause for concern.
There are plenty of other possible medical causes for tiredness in your pup, including anemia, poisoning, and even canine depression. Narrowing down the cause from dozens of potential health issues requires the aid of a vet for proper identification and treatment. You may discover that nothing is wrong, but when it comes to the health of your beloved pet, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Reason 3: Sleep Apnea
Many of us can’t imagine a sleeping bulldog without it snoring.
As cute and funny as snoring can be every now and again, it can indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening disorder. Sleep apnea is when a dog frequently stops breathing in their sleep and is jolted awake throughout the night.
This is as scary as it is dangerous for your pup.
Due to their easily obstructed airways, sleep apnea in bulldogs is so common that they are often used as models for it in studies. That said, sleep apnea is preventable in every breed. In humans and dogs alike, the biggest predictors for sleep apnea are obesity and old age. Keeping your bulldog fit can go a long way in saving its health and its sleep.
If your dog is constantly snoring loudly and then waking up, don’t wait to address it– a vet visit is required as soon as possible.
Reason 4: Insomnia
Sleep Apnea may be the most common sleep disorder to affect bulldogs, but it isn’t the only one. Along with many others, narcolepsy, insomnia, and REM behavior disorders are all conditions your dog could face.
Defined simply as a disorder that can make falling and staying asleep difficult, insomnia is a multifaceted condition. Underlying causes such as arthritis pain, nighttime incontinence, and stress are often culprits, but insomnia can be a diagnosis in and of itself.
Insomnia often develops in senior dogs and can be the result of diseases such as early Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
If your dog is showing signs of insomnia, a vet visit for proper diagnosis is in order.
Reason 5: Neurological Conditions
Poor sleep may be the result of two major neurological conditions– narcolepsy and REM sleep disorder.
As opposed to sleep apnea, narcolepsy is most commonly observed in puppies. Narcolepsy is a genetic disorder that results in abnormal neurological patterns and low production of hypocretin, a hormone responsible for alertness. A narcoleptic dog will fall asleep seemingly out of nowhere, especially when excited. Often, narcolepsy is paired with another disorder known as cataplexy, which is the temporary paralysis of your dog.
Narcolepsy is an incurable and life-long condition, but is neither dangerous nor uncomfortable for your pup in most circumstances. Even so, if you suspect your dog has narcolepsy, you should speak to your veterinarian for further information.
REM behavior disorders have a less understood cause than narcolepsy and can develop at any age. Dogs with this disorder will “act out” their dreams or sleepwalk. All dogs let out a sleep-woof or twitch at times, but REM sleep disorders are visibly more extreme than this and far more likely to disrupt sleep. Below is an example of a dog with a REM movement disorder.
If you were constantly running in your sleep, you would be exhausted too! REM sleep disorders may not be entirely curable, but prescribed medicine from your vet such as clonazepam can do wonders in reducing symptoms.
How To Help Your Bulldog Get Enough Sleep
Now that you know proper sleep is important for your bulldog’s health, you may be wondering how exactly to ensure your dog gets the quality sleep it needs. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to help your dog get enough shut-eye.
Set a Schedule
Dogs may have adjusted their sleep schedules to match ours somewhat, but at the end of the day there are some key differences between the sleep of us and our canine friends. Dogs have polyphasic sleep, meaning their sleep is split up throughout the day.
That said, having a regular time to go to sleep at night for their uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep can help your dog’s circadian rhythm stay stable. Usually, the best way to do this for everyone involved is for you to have a set bedtime as well.
You don’t have to go to sleep at the same time on the dot, however. Humans have a pretty elastic sleep cycle. And compared to you, your dog’s waking and sleeping patterns are even more flexible due to their shorter sleep cycles. In other words, there’s no harm in staying up and sleeping in a bit on the weekends.
As long as you have a general ballpark for when you and your dog go to sleep, you’re good!
Make a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
The transition into sleep itself has been proven to have a significant impact on the quality of your dog’s sleep. Giving your dog a comfortable environment before it goes to sleep is important to ensure quality of sleep and avoid interruptions.
Pavlov’s dogs weren’t the only pups that were impacted by classic conditioning! Environmental cues such as location or events can easily shape biological functions for our canine friends. Giving your bulldog a designated bed and area to sleep in may help signal to your dog that sleep time has begun.
For bulldogs, overheating is an uncomfortable and disruptive possibility. Keeping them in a cool (but not cold!) room keeps them comfortable. One way to ensure they sleep at the correct temperature is to get them a specific bed. An elevated bed such as this or a dog bed with cooling gel like this can help keep your pup cool throughout the night.
Finally, despite their nocturnal origins, darkness is important in shaping a dog’s sleep. When their environment is dark, a dog produces melatonin to promote sleep. Keeping the room dark before and during sleep is always a good idea.
Let It Sleep With You
According to an adorable 2020 study, 70% of surveyed owners sleep in the same room as their dogs. Of that 70%, roughly half reported their dog shares their bed! Despite previous theories, this cohabitation rarely disturbed sleep and was therapeutic and psychologically healthy for both parties involved.
Admittedly, bulldogs aren’t exactly the perfect bedmates for everyone. As a brachycephalic breed, bulldogs are prone to snoring in their sleep, and can certainly slobber quite a bit. Not to mention their moderate shedding can decorate your sheets in an unwanted layer of fur.
Thankfully, a protective bed cover for pets, like this great waterproof cover, can help keep your bed clean if you want your pooch to snooze with you.
That said, the choice to let your dog sleep with you or not is entirely yours! As long as you can handle the snoring, sleeping with your bulldog in the room may help you both sleep better.
Keep Your Dog In Shape
Keeping a bulldog healthy is something of a balancing game. As a breed that is easily predisposed to obesity, regular exercise is key to your dog’s health. Unfortunately, bulldogs are also prone to heat exhaustion and breathing difficulties, so vigorous exercise is a no-go.
Light to moderate exercise with plenty of water and a cool environment can not only keep your bulldog healthy but also improve its sleep! A fully exercised bulldog is a worn-out bulldog, so catching some healthy Zs and getting REM sleep is easy after a workout. By avoiding obesity, your dog is also significantly less likely to develop sleep apnea or other obstructive conditions that could disrupt your dog’s sleep.
Dogs sleep a lot throughout the day due to their polyphasic sleeping patterns. Frequent naps throughout the day are to be expected with any dog, and bulldogs are particularly prone to spending much of the day napping. Most of the time, relaxing is all in the day’s work of a bulldog and no need for concern.
Of course, if your dog is acting strangely or sleeping more out of nowhere, contacting your vet is a good idea.
But as long as your bulldog seems happy and healthy, let a sleeping dog lie!