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4 Most Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs

Sleep is vital for your pet’s well-being, but just like humans, dogs can also suffer from sleep disorders. These disorders can impact your dog's health and well-being and disrupt your household. Here, we’ll explain the four most common sleep disorders in dogs and how to manage them.

What Are the Most Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs?

While sleep disorders are generally uncommon in dogs, the most notable ones include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorder. If you notice signs of these disorders in your dog, consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Recording a video of your dog's behavior can be extremely helpful for your vet.

1. Insomnia in Dogs

Insomnia in dogs is usually caused by underlying behavioral or medical issues, such as:

  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Dementia)

  • Anxiety or Stress

  • Pain

  • Excessive Itchiness

Signs of insomnia include pacing, whining, barking, or acting confused at night, and trying to wake their human family members. Insomnia is more common in older dogs, but younger dogs with anxiety or flea allergies can also be affected.

2. Sleep Apnea in Dogs

Sleep apnea occurs when a dog momentarily stops breathing while sleeping, due to a narrowed or blocked airway. This is most common in flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds like Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs, as well as dogs with severe obesity.

Signs of Sleep Apnea:

  • Loud snoring

  • Excessive daytime tiredness

  • Jolting awake during sleep

If your dog shows signs of sleep apnea, contact your veterinarian. If their gums appear muddy or bluish, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Narcolepsy in Dogs

Narcolepsy is a condition where a dog experiences excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden physical collapses (cataplexy) during excitement or play. This can be inherited or acquired.

Inherited Narcolepsy:

  • Affects breeds like Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and Dachshunds

  • Caused by a genetic mutation affecting sleep regulation

Acquired Narcolepsy:

  • Typically affects dogs between seven months and seven years old

  • The underlying cause is unknown

While narcolepsy isn't life-threatening, it requires lifelong management.

4. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM sleep behavior disorder causes dogs to exhibit violent movements and odd behaviors during sleep, such as:

  • Limb movements

  • Howling, barking, growling

  • Chewing or biting

This disorder often starts in younger dogs and usually requires lifelong management.

Treatment for Sleep Disorders in Dogs


  • Medications: Trazodone, clorazepate, alprazolam, flurazepam, clonazepam

  • Supplements: Valerian, kava, melatonin (consult your vet first)

  • Managing underlying conditions: Pain medications, orthopedic beds for arthritis, prescription diets, and supplements for cognitive dysfunction

  • Changes to daytime routine: Physical and mental activities to burn off energy and relieve anxiety

Sleep Apnea:

  • Surgery: Procedures to widen nostrils or remove excess tissue in brachycephalic breeds

  • Weight loss: Maintain a healthy weight with the help of your veterinarian


  • Medications: Antidepressants to reduce excitement and stimulant medications for daytime sleepiness

  • Safety measures: Avoid glass feeding bowls, use elevated food bowls, and avoid walking in dangerous areas

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder:

  • Medications: Potassium bromide or tricyclic antidepressants for dogs with additional behavioral conditions

Are Sleep Disorders More Common in Older Dogs?

Not all sleep disorders are more common in older dogs. While canine cognitive dysfunction and arthritis can lead to insomnia in older dogs, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorder often first appear in younger dogs.

Sleep disorders can significantly impact your dog’s quality of life. Recognizing the signs and seeking veterinary care can help manage these conditions effectively. For more information on your pet’s health, visit

4 Most Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs
4 Most Common Sleep Disorders in Dogs


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