Does CBD Help Dogs Sleep at Night?

Posted by Nicole Wanner, D.V.M. on

Dog sleeping in the clouds

CBD oil has become a popular product in recent years, with some praising its ability to support a good night's rest. As a dog owner, you might wonder: does CBD help dogs sleep at night?

Currently, there is not enough scientific evidence to definitively say that CBD treats sleep issues in humans or pets. Treating your dog's sleeping problems is best accomplished with help from your veterinarian.

Still, you might wonder what we know about CBD and sleep so far. In this guide, we'll explore the biology of sleep, scientific research on sleep and CBD, and more.

What Is Sleep?

The Science of Sleep
As a dog owner, it's important to you that your furry friend gets a restful night's slumber. But you may wonder: what's happening when my dog sleeps?

Sleep is an altered mind state marked by reduced activity in the nervous system. Your dog's breathing and heart rate slow down when they're asleep. Body temperature also goes down slightly.

There are two main types of sleep in people and dogs: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM sleep. 

Non-REM sleep, or deep sleep, happens in multiple stages throughout the night. Dogs generally spend more time in deep sleep than humans (1). 

REM sleep involves rapid eye movements, higher brain activity, and more vivid dreaming. Researchers believe that REM helps dogs process emotions and form new memories. Your dog's face and legs may even twitch as they dream! 

Sleep and Health

Sleep is an essential physical process that supports overall health and well-being. Dogs sleep an average of 10 hours per night, but the range is between 8 and 16 hours.

During your dog's nightly snooze, their body is repairing itself, storing memories, and regulating hormones. 

These nighttime activities are automatic but affect every aspect of your dog's health. Sleep supports a balanced immune system, regulates blood pressure, and helps manage joint pain and other ailments, among other functions. 

Just like humans, dogs need rest to maintain their overall health and well-being.

Causes of Insomnia in Dogs

Dogs dream just like people. Unfortunately, they suffer from sleep disorders, too. 

Medically-recognized sleep disorders in dogs include:

  • Narcolepsy: Canine narcolepsy causes daytime "sleep attacks." Affected dogs also go limp when they get excited (cataplexy) and sleep poorly at night. A genetic mutation usually causes narcolepsy in dogs.

  • Sleep disorder breathing: This illness is basically "dog sleep apnea." Affected dogs snore and wake up often at night. "Smush-nose" or brachycephalic breeds like English Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the most at risk.

  • REM sleep behavior disorder: In this unusual condition, dogs have episodes of violent body movements, barking, howling, or biting while sleeping or napping. The brain loses its ability to stop the dog from acting out their dreams.

Insomnia is the medical term for lack of sleep, which sleep disorders can cause. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog may suffer from a sleep disorder.

What Is CBD?

What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound found in the cannabis (hemp) plant. 

Unlike its chemical cousin, THC, CBD is non-psychoactive. It does not produce a "high."

CBD product labels often include terms like "full spectrum," "broad spectrum," or "CBD isolates." Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the compounds found in the hemp plant, including CBD, terpenes, and other cannabinoids. 

The amount of THC in full-spectrum CBD is tiny, but not zero. Broad-spectrum CBD is THC-free but still contains terpenes and other plant compounds. CBD isolates contain CBD and nothing else.

Is CBD from Hemp or Marijuana?

In the United States, legal CBD must come from hemp (2). 

Hemp is a term for Cannabis plants that contain little or no THC, while marijuana refers to plants with high THC content.

Does CBD Help Dogs Sleep at Night?

CBD is not approved to treat sleep disorders in humans or animals. There is inadequate evidence to say that CBD helps dogs sleep.

Still, some people who take CBD have reported better sleep. The biology of sleep in humans and dogs is similar, so it's worth comparing. What do we know so far?

Scientific research studies on CBD for sleep in dogs are lacking. But does the research tell us anything about CBD and sleep in humans? 

One study found that 78% of people taking daily CBD reported improved sleep after two months (3). The study was small, however, and the difference in sleep quality measured by standard medical questionnaires was modest. 

A larger, more controlled trial of CBD for sleep in people found no effect on nighttime brain wave patterns, which fluctuate with sleep stage and quality (4). But, the participants in that study only took CBD for one night.

How CBD Could Boost Sleep in Dogs

Dog Sleeping
We don't know much yet about how CBD impacts sleep in dogs. Fortunately, we have more information about something that affects sleep quality: joint pain.

Joint pain is one of several ailments that may prevent your dog from sleeping at night. The most common cause of joint pain in dogs is osteoarthritis, which causes pain and inflammation in the joints. 

A few small but high-quality studies indicate that CBD may relieve joint pain in dogs with osteoarthritis (5).

Arthritis can make it hard for dogs to move around and do their favorite everyday activities. As any person with arthritis can tell you, it also makes falling asleep difficult!

Joint pain and poor sleep can form a vicious cycle. The body repairs itself while we sleep, so fewer hours of snoozing means less time to heal.

Does CBD Make Dogs Sleepy During the Day?

Some prescription sleep medications have the side effect of causing daytime drowsiness. It makes sense to wonder if CBD could cause the same problem.

There are no large studies on CBD and daytime drowsiness in dogs. But, a study we discussed earlier also found that people who took CBD the night before weren't impaired the following day (4).

If you notice that your dog is sleepy at unusual times, plays less, or shows other signs when taking CBD, reduce their dose and consult your veterinarian.

CBD for Puppies to Sleep

You may be thinking, "my adult dog sleeps just fine, but my new puppy is driving me nuts!"

Bringing home a new puppy is a happy but often stressful occasion. Puppies naturally wake up more at night and tend to cry when alone.

CBD might seem like a safe way to calm your puppy at night so you can get some shut-eye yourself. However, as a veterinarian, I do not recommend giving CBD oil for puppies to sleep.

Puppies weigh much less than adult dogs, so a regular CBD dose could be far too much for them. Side effects of CBD are generally more common as the dosage increases.

Because they're young, puppies also have an altered metabolism. That means that even the dose for a small adult dog (or cat) of the same weight could still be too much. 

Conclusion

Overall, sleep is essential for maintaining good health. The quality of your dog's sleep influences their health in countless ways. 

There's no guarantee that CBD will help your dog sleep, but scientists are learning more every day.

If you're concerned about your dog's sleep, reach out to your veterinarian. They'll help determine the underlying cause and get your pup back to dreamland in a hurry.


References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154619301378
  2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2018.00315/full
  5. https://journals.lww.com/pain/Abstract/2020/09000/A_randomized,_double_blind,_placebo_controlled.24.aspx

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Author

Dr. Nicole Wanner graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. Currently, she is an academic research veterinarian studying CBD and DNA. Her research has been published in trusted international research journals. Dr. Wanner is passionate about pet wellness and has professional interests in genetics, behavior, and healthy aging. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and reading sci-fi novels. She shares her home with her husband Evan and their two mischievous rescue cats, Sylvie and Nemo.