Ever feel like your dog is just a human with paws? Now, a Hungarian study discovered that dogs suffer with sleep issues after enduring a stressful experience, just like we do.
The study found that, like humans, dogs who experienced a negative situation, took longer to fall asleep than the group who had a positive one. The dogs were subjected to negative experiences such as being tied in one place or being ignored by their owner. The positive experiences lasted six minutes and included fun, engaging things like petting and playing.
Not only did the stressed-out dogs have trouble getting to sleep, they continued to suffer even once they entered dreamland. The pups who had a bad day had less time in true deep sleep and had more minutes in the lighter REM sleep. While REM sleep is essential for dreaming, it doesn’t provide most restful sleep that our bodies need.
This study, done by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, used EEG monitors to track the sleep activity of 16 dogs, both purebred and mixed breed. Researchers also tracked heart rate variability to confirm the negative experiences were in fact being perceived negatively by the dogs. The positive experiences, however, such as petting, ear scratches and light play, increased oxytocin levels (the anti-stress hormone) in both dogs and their humans.
It’s important to note that the occasional restless night won’t harm your dog. However, consistent sleep issues can lead to problems with aggression and behavior changes, says Dr. Anna Kis, lead researcher of the study.
More research is needed on the sleeping habits of our four-legged friends, and it is a growing area of interest. In a recent study on sleep spindles, also led by Dr. Kis, it was found that proper sleep aids in dogs learning capabilities and memory formation.
Each day we discover something else that makes dogs even more amazing, as if we needed another reason to love them.
So tonight before you go to bed, give your pup a belly rub, scratch their ears, and wish them sweet dreams. They’ll thank you for it later.