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Why are dogs' sleep patterns so restless? Experts decipher this phenomenon

Pitbull dog sleeping in bed with teddy dog-wow © Aleksey Boyko - Shutterstock

Pet dreams often arouse the curiosity of pet owners. Experts have explained what happens in a dog’s mind when they are sleeping.

By Emilie Heyl

Published on the

Marcos Frank, a professor at Washington State University, has studied how sleep works in animals: "I've seen it in my own dogs. They run, they whine, they bark and they wake up as if they don't know where they are," he told CNN Health.

REM sleep in dogs

Marcos Frank explains that involuntary muscle twitches called "myoclonus" are common in dogs as in humans.

This can be seen when a dog's paws shake or move repeatedly during sleep. In this case, the animals fall into REM sleep.

A study published at the end of the 1970s by the journal Physiology & Behavior revealed that overall sleep accounts for 12% of a dog's life.

As with humans, scientists believe that REM sleep in dogs plays a role in memory consolidation.

Reinforcing memories made during the day

In 2017, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports actually found that dogs could use napping to reinforce memories established when they are awake.

But why are dog dreams so fascinating to owners? For philosopher David M. Peña-Guzmán, associate professor of humanities and liberal studies at San Francisco State University, this attention "makes it easier to imagine them as creatures with rich inner lives," he tells CNN.

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