Most dog owners want to leave the lights on for their dogs, so they feel more comfortable sleeping in the dark, especially when they are alone.
Some dogs like to sleep in the dark, while others don’t. As with most things, it’s usually a matter of preference.
The bottom line is dogs don’t need darkness to sleep.
Find out how dogs sleep at night, if they have night vision, and if they prefer to be left alone. Find a good night light for your dog if you suspect they are afraid of the dark.
Do Dogs Like to Sleep in the Dark?
Every dog has their preference when it comes to sleeping. Some feel calmer and more comfortable without the lights, while others can’t sleep properly when they’re on.
It’s the same with dogs wanting to sleep in colder or hotter rooms or sleeping with or without a pillow.
Compare the quality and length of your dog’s sleep with the lights on and then off to learn which one they prefer.
If you want to know whether dogs sleep better in the dark, then the answer also depends.
Remember that dogs are descended from wolves. These creatures are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the morning and afternoon, then stay awake at night.
This might be hardwired in their DNA. But domestication and living with humans allowed dogs to adapt to sleeping at night when we do.
When humans started working and living with dogs, dogs started following our routines and habits. If we sleep at night, so do they. If we sleep with the lights on, so do they.
Being closer to humans also means they feel safer with us and more afraid when they can’t see us during the night.
This means dogs are now nocturnal and diurnal, active during the day and sleeping at night. This is due to both nature and nurture.
Their sleep cycles become adapted to us as they learn to happily rest with the lights off.
Dogs Don’t Need Darkness to Sleep
No, dogs do not need total darkness to be able to doze off.
They can sleep regardless of the light condition.
They sleep as much during the day as they do at night. It means they can sleep or wake up whenever they want, though they usually do.
In one study, dogs at 16 weeks slept longer during the day and in total over a 24-hour period, but less time during the night than dogs at 12 months.
This implies that some dogs can even sleep better with the lights on since their sleep duration is longer during the day.
Aside from that, dogs also sleep more than humans do. We only need 8 hours of sleep a day, but dogs can sleep from 7 to 16 hours daily.
Why Your Dog Likes to Sleep in the Dark
You don’t have to turn the lights off for your dog to sleep better. But it’s undeniable that many dogs prefer a zero-light situation when sleeping the way their ancestors did.
Some will wake you up because they want you to turn the light off, while others will try to go to a darker place, like the restroom or under the stairs.
Here are some possible reasons why your dog enjoys sleeping in the dark:
- Less noise means less stress for their brains. So some dogs prefer sleeping in the dark because it is quieter than sleeping in the light.
- Darkness signals the brain that it’s time to rest because it is naturally calming and relaxing.
- Being asleep during the night is easier for dogs because it is quieter. This is true even if they spent most of the day sleeping as well.
- Dogs like to keep up with our schedule, so they sleep when we sleep and follow us. When it’s dark, they will naturally sleep.
Do Dogs Have Good Night Vision?
They can navigate in dim light but not in zero-light conditions. So, you don’t have to worry about them not being able to see clearly in the dark, or being afraid of the dark.
The structure of their eyes is very different. Apart from having larger pupils, their retinas also have lots of light-sensitive cells called rods.
These are the same cells that can differentiate between light and shadow. These photoreceptors are enough to absorb light even in dim rooms.
The rod-dominant retina collects light with the help of the 9-20-layer thick tapetum lucidum. It does this by reflecting the light from the retina back to the retina.
Take note that dogs can see well in low-light rooms, but not in no-light rooms where there is no light to be absorbed by the eyes.
On the downside, dogs have very few cone cells or color-absorbing cells. They can only see a few colors’ vibrancy, so they rely mostly on their rods instead.
They also help with the following:
- motion detection
- visual perspective
- visual acuity
- visual field of view
- form/shape sharpness.
Another critical aspect of your dog’s vision is motion detection. They are more sensitive to moving objects than us, all thanks to their rods.
The placement of their eyes on the face is also one contributing factor to their sharp vision. The canine eyes are placed in front of the face and not on the sides.
This allows them to see an object better, depending on the distance.
Aside from their vision, dogs have other powerful senses that help them survive in the dark. They hear and smell better than us humans.
These senses compensate for their lack of color perception, especially in the dark.
Leaving your Dog in the Dark
Even though your dog can see better in the dark than we can, they don’t deserve to be left alone in the dark for a long time.
It also doesn’t matter if their sense of smell or hearing can make up for their lack of vision when in zero-light environments.
We have socialized them to depend on us and be more comfortable when everything is bright.
If you have a night shift, or you just want to leave the house for a while during the evening, you can leave them for a few hours only without light.
We recommend leaving a light on for them, especially if you have a senior dog or a dog with vision problems.
It doesn’t have to be the brightest light. They just need to see a little more clearly to avoid falling, tripping, and other kinds of accidents.
Signs Your Dog is Afraid of the Dark
While some dogs enjoy sleeping in the dark because of their night vision, some just don’t like the experience of it. This is more likely to be the case with puppies.
Here are some signs that your dog is afraid of the dark:
- turning around or leaving when the room is dark
- moving closer to you
- destructive behavior like chewing and digging
- peeing and pooping
- trying to go to a lit area.
Learning how to help a fearful dog starts with understanding what they are afraid of and why.
If your dog is afraid of the dark, it’s usually because they associate the dark with bad experiences.
It’s not because they are frightened of what might be in the dark the way most humans feel.
Here are some possible reasons why your dog is afraid of the dark:
- vision problems
- separation anxiety
- associating the dark with past trauma.
Do Dog Parents Leave a Light On?
In an informal survey, it was reported that 157 out of 167 dog parents leave the lights on for their dogs.
The researcher also asked when the dog owners leave the lights on, and they stated that they only do this when they are not around at night to keep them less anxious.
More anecdotes say that it didn’t feel acceptable to leave dogs in total darkness.
Others say that they leave the lights on at night regardless of the dog’s preferences.
It seems that leaving a light on for our dogs may have more to do with our sense of comfort and concern rather than whether our dogs really need it.
Should You Leave Lights on for Your Dog?
Because you don’t want to leave your furry friend in the dark for a long time, you’re probably considering leaving the lights on.
This can be a good idea as long as you don’t leave them on for too long.
However, you might also wonder if leaving them on will disturb your dog’s sleeping pattern or reduce the quality of their sleep.
A small light will not interrupt your dog’s sleeping routine. You don’t need to leave all the bright house lights on for your dog at night.
You can train your dog that daytime is for exercising, playtime, and eating, and nighttime is for sleeping. A small night light will not disrupt this training.
But if you see them leaving the room when the lights are on, it’s probably because they prefer sleeping in the dark. In this case, try a dimmer light.
We also suggest this if your dog is getting more playful at night when the lights are on. This may indicate that they are confused and thinking it is morning or afternoon.
Don’t Leave the Lights on Too Long
Dogs shouldn’t be left alone in the dark for too long. But you also shouldn’t leave the lights on for too long. Sounds complicated, right?
But it only means that you should never leave your dog alone for too long.
Your dog might knock over lamps and cause fire risks, destruction of your furniture, and injure themselves.
It is also costly and bad for the environment when you leave the lights on longer. You could look for lights with a timer to help you avoid expensive electric bills.
It’s also a given that you should never leave your dog alone with a candle burning.
Do You Need a Night Light for Puppies?
Puppies tend to suffer from separation anxiety more than adult dogs do.
That is why many dog parents consider getting a puppy night light especially for those that have just been removed from a litter.
If you just brought home your new puppy and they’re still getting used to their new environment, then it’s a good idea to get a night light for them.
Anxiety may also result from this huge change in their life, so you can avoid whining and barking with a light.
This, however, will not treat their separation anxiety. Consider training them to see you as the pack leader at a young age to avoid bad behavior as they grow older.
Best Night Light for Dogs
If you’re considering getting a night light for your dog, here are our top suggestions.
Best Motion Sensor Night Light
Mr. Beams Sleep-Friendly Night Light is made especially for bedrooms, bathrooms, or hallways to provide just enough light when you or your dog walks near it.
This multipurpose battery-powered light does not require any wiring or socket, so it is easy to install and assemble.
The motion sensor turns the light on when movement is detected and provides 20 lumens of soft light with a 30-second automatic shut-off.
Best LED Dog Collar
Blazin Safety LED Dog Collar offers excellent visibility of the surroundings when your dog is trying to navigate their way in the dark.
Not only is it ideal for when they are sleeping, but it’s also perfect for walking during the night to avoid cars bumping into them.
It’s available in four sizes and eleven colors while running for over seven hours. Just enough to assist them the whole night.
How to Help a Dog Sleep at Night
Lighting is just one factor to consider when your dog can’t sleep at night. Here are other ways to help them.
Give Them Lots of Water
Giving your dog lots of water and taking them outside to pee before bedtime will help prevent them from waking you up at night to go out.
Take them out as late as possible. If you can, do it right before bedtime.
You can also add ice cubes to their bowl so they can be more occupied drinking and chewing on the ice.
The ice cubes will also keep them hydrated without drinking too much.
When taking your dog out to pee, be as quick as possible. You don’t want to get them too excited and hyperactive before bedtime..
Crate Your Dog
If your dog gets distracted by your spacious house full of objects, then it’s probably time to confine them to their crate.
This is easy to do if you have crate-trained them as a puppy. They need to be comfortable in their personal space first to avoid issues with sleeping and being alone.
Praise your dog when they follow you to the crate and toss a few treats. Wish them good night then leave right away.
Don’t stay too long to avoid separation anxiety. Staying will also make them expect you will do it all the time when they are in the crate.
Once your dog is in and comfortable, leave them be.
Exercise Your Dog
A tired dog is a good dog. Once your dog has put their energy to good use, it’s easier for them to fall asleep.
You won’t find them being destructive, waking you up, or staying with you on your pillow at night. It’s also less likely that they will make unnecessary noises.
Exercise your dog a few hours before sleeping if possible.
You shouldn’t do this immediately before bedtime. Otherwise, they might still be energetic and have trouble sleeping.
FAQ Dogs and Sleeping Habits
Are Dogs Afraid of the Dark?
Now that you know that dogs are okay with sleeping whether it’s bright or dark, you’ll also understand that dogs seldomly fear the dark.
This is largely due to their night vision, which is much sharper than ours. Their so-called fear is usually just a sign of an even bigger problem, like past trauma or separation anxiety.
Know what’s making your dog scared of the dark to help them overcome it.
When Should I Let My Dog Sleep Outside?
If you plan on training your dog to sleep outside, make sure they are already old enough to do so.
Some believe that 9 weeks old is old enough to allow their dogs to stay outside, but this isn’t right.
Your puppy cannot regulate their body temperature well yet, so they can be prone to illness if it’s too hot or cold outside.
You also want to make sure that your puppy has completed all their vaccinations already before allowing them to go out.
Learn why you shouldn’t let your 9-week old puppy sleep outside and how to prepare before making them outside dogs.
Why Does My Dog Always Sleep on Top of Me?
Dogs have continued their practice of staying close to their pack in situations where they are vulnerable, such as sleeping.
Their ancestors used to live in packs in the wild where the members submit themselves to the pack leader and rely on them for survival.
But they may also be sleeping on you due to separation anxiety, attention-seeking, and protection.
Learn why your dog sleeps on top of you so you can address the problem right away.
Dogs Like to Sleep Anytime and Anywhere.
Most of the time, our furry friends don’t care about how bright or dark the room is. They’re also willing to take a nap inside or outside the house, during the night or day.
However, if your dog is showing signs of dislike or fear of sleeping in the dark, it can be because of their past trauma, experiences, or current medical conditions.
It can also be because of visual problems like glaucoma, tumor, or conjunctivitis.
You can also check if they don’t feel comfortable sleeping in the dark by examining your dog’s sleeping positions.