This year, a study done by researchers from various institutions in Hungary showed that dogs experience disturbed sleep patterns when stressed.
The paper, which was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, took into account the sleep experiences of 16 pooches of different breeds that were exposed to either positive or negative emotional experiences pre-sleep, like being given affectionate hugs, or being approached by an intimidating stranger.
And the results? Dogs that were exposed to positive experiences had a deeper and more consistent sleep pattern, while dogs that were stressed before sleep were prone to an irregular sleep-wake rhythm.
For this experiment, an Electroencephalography (EEG) sensor was attached to all 16 pet dogs to monitor and record electrical activity of the brain. After their positive and negative experiences throughout the day, the dogs were then allowed to rest in a designated place for up to three hours as researchers monitored their brain waves.
The findings showed that the dogs that had experienced a stressful event were able to fall asleep approximately twice as fast as compared to the relaxed hounds. Additionally, prior research suggested that dogs tend to separate themselves as quickly as possible from their stressful emotions.
Based on the results, the researchers concluded that the dogs that had negative experiences spent on average 20 fewer minutes of deep sleep than the dogs that had positive experiences, and also had more minutes of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
All in all, sleep is a good welfare indicator in dogs, and the study’s finding that short emotional treatments influence sleep macrostructure also suggest that sleep research could be usefully implemented in future canine well-being research.
The findings also revealed that individual variability, positive and negative social interactions and general personality traits play a part in sleep pattern differences.