It is absolutely possible for a dog to sleep more during the winter. If you live somewhere with long, dark, cold winters, you have probably noticed a change in your dog’s behaviors during the winter months. A combination of cold weather and low light conditions can definitely prompt your dog to sleep more often. But why do dogs sleep more in winter and is that a issue?
Areas that don’t really have a distinct winter, southwestern states for example, may have less of a problem with this. In fact, people who live in warmer areas may actually notice that their dog is more alert in the winter, and sleeps more in the warmer months.
But the question remains, why do dogs sleep more in winter?
Why Do Dogs Sleep More In Winter?
Blame the Hormones
There are a few reasons for your dog’s increase in sleep during the winter. The first is the increased production of melatonin. Like humans, dogs produce melatonin. This is the hormone in your dog's brain that helps regulate his sleep cycles. It is produced through the pineal gland. The pineal gland is light sensitive, so as a result melatonin is usually secreted at night, in the dark.
In fact, the production of melatonin is inhibited when light hits the retina. So from that we can conclude that in the winter when there is less light and sunshine, more melatonin is produced in the dog's body. Melatonin has quite a few different effects, but the most prominent is it will cause sleepiness. Therefore, when dogs are producing more melatonin due to dark winter conditions, they are going to sleep more.
Another factor as to why do dogs sleep more in winter is the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that works to regulate dog's mood. Reduced sunlight can result in less serotonin being released in your dog’s brain. A deficit of serotonin can cause your dog to feel tired, cranky, and lethargic. Serotonin is synthesized by the pineal gland to produce melatonin. As a result, your dog may be sleeping more due to low levels of serotonin.
How to Keep Your Dog Awake
If you are worried about why do dogs sleep more in winter and your canine seems to be napping too much, you can help combat it. Low levels of light seems to be the main cause of increased sleepiness in dogs during winter. An effective solution would be to boost light exposure.
One step to take would be to place your dog’s bed close to a window or glass door to expose them to the little bit of light that is available. Also, try to walk your dog during the brightest times of the day to maximize exposure to daylight. Interior lighting can help as well, but the closer to natural light it is, the better.
Compact fluorescent bulbs have white light sources that mimic daylight, which could be used to mimic light in your home. If you purchase these, make sure that they are either full spectrum or daylight bulbs. Turn on these lights for at least an hour everyday and interact with your dog with them on so that your pet's eyes are actually open, exposing their retinas to the light.
Potential Medical Issues
But these regular reasons for why do dogs sleep more in winter aren't the only ones, and there also may be a medical issue. Keep in mind, like humans, dogs can suffer from apathy, boredom and depression. This can be increased during the winter because of the low light levels. If your dog is depressed, he will likely be less active, less alert, and sleep more.
You may start noticing less excitement when you walk in, grab the leash, and do other things that normally gets your dog up and going. Depression in dogs is caused by increased melatonin and decreased serotonin, so it is more likely to happen during the winter.
Combating this would involve taking the same steps mentioned above, but with more extreme measures. To fight your dog's depression, you must be insistent on walks, play, and more. Expose your dog to as much sunlight as possible as it will increase serotonin levels. This should work to combat depression.
Also, engage his brain and mentally stimulate your dog to keep his brain active and fight off boredom and lethargy.
So do dogs sleep more in winter? Yes. And is it normal for them? Absolutely. If your dog is medically sound, then there's nothing wrong with them having to sleep more. Aside from the change in their brain hormones, they might simply just be cold and want to cuddle up more. It isn’t exactly a cause for concern, and there are ways we can help them become more awake during the winter.
The absolute most important step is light exposure and mental stimulation. During the daytime, keep your home as bright as possible. Open window shades and florescent light bulbs are two simple ways to stimulate natural light in your home, and play with your dog, engage him. It is important that your dog receives adequate exercise and proper nutrition, especially during the winter, as it prevents boredom which in turn becomes sleepiness.