As much as some humans may try to deny it, a good night’s rest is as vital to our health as the air we breathe or the food we eat. We’ve all experienced the night and day difference between 8 hours of undisturbed shut-eye versus 8 hours of tossing and turning, but the benefits of restful sleep go far beyond improving our mood or making us feel more energized. The same is true for all creatures.
In fact, sleep is so important that nature has invented creative ways to ensure all animals can enjoy its restorative benefits. Dolphins sleep one brain hemisphere at a time so they can keep swimming; migratory Swainson Thrush birds take hundreds of little power naps lasting only a few seconds each so they can keep flying. Even fruit flies appear to sleep, alternating periods of deep rest with activity.
In dogs, sleep plays a critical role in immune function, metabolism, cognitive health, and other vital functions. Now, most pups have no problem enjoying the benefits of a good snooze. We’ve all known dogs that can seemingly fall asleep anywhere, sometimes in the most ridiculous positions. But for animals suffering from joint disorders, this isn’t always the case. Their chronic pain and discomfort can make falling asleep and staying that way much more difficult. Unfortunately, the restorative health benefits sleep brings are more important for these dogs than ever.
Why Sleep Is So Important for Dogs with Joint Issues
When it comes to the relationship between dogs experiencing the discomfort of joint issues and sleep, the problem is a two-way street: not only can joint pain cause sleep loss, but sleep deprivation makes joint pain worse, and can even accelerate joint damage. Here are the specifics of why sleep is so vital to these dogs’ health (as well as the health of all dogs).
1. It Curbs Inflammation and Reduces Pain
Chronic inflammation in dogs is linked to joint disorders such as arthritis (as well as a host of other issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and digestive problems). Allowing the body to get the deep rest sleep provides is crucial for helping to reduce inflammation, as it lowers the levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood. And less inflammation means less pain and stiffness for your beloved pet.
2. It Promotes Healthy Weight
If your dog is having trouble sleeping, their tired brain is less effective at controlling appetite. Not getting enough shut-eye causes certain hormones to go up in the blood, and those same hormones drive appetite, which means your dog will be more prone to overeating. Plus, sleep deprivation prompts the body to release higher levels of insulin after mealtimes, which promotes fat storage. The more excess weight your pup is carrying around, the more stress and strain is being put on their joints.
3. It Regenerates Cells and Tissues
If your dog isn’t getting enough sleep, their body is being robbed of precious time it needs to regenerate itself. Dogs’ bodies use most of the night to produce proteins that heal damage done to cells and tissues when they’re awake and more metabolically active. For this reason, lack of sleep actually accelerates joint damage by depriving the body of utilizing its natural healing abilities.
4. It Improves Overall Immune Function
While dogs are dozing, their immune system produces protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies. Sleep deprivation means your pet’s immune system doesn’t have the chance to build up its forces and will be less effective at fending off foreign invaders that can lead to disease, and also makes for longer recovery times.
5. It Elevates Mood
For a dog already dealing with the stress of chronic pain and mobility issues, being chronically tired as well only compounds the problem. Just as you feel better after a good night’s sleep, a well-rested dog is able to enjoy life more. This is something every dog parent wants for their beloved pet.
What You Can Do to Help
It’s clear that sleep is critical for your dog’s health. Unfortunately, just as you find it difficult to nod off when you can’t get comfortable, so too can the discomfort of joint pain make your dog unable to get the adequate, quality sleep they need. So what can you do to help?
One of the best things you can do is to provide your pup with an orthopedic bed that gives them the right amounts of comfort and support. There are countless dog beds on the market that call themselves orthopedic, and you must use caution when selecting one since some are made with cheap materials which doesn’t last. A true orthopedic dog bed must be able to conform to the animal’s body, distributing their weight evenly across the surface. This eliminates pressure points on the joints, helping to relieve the pain.