Do Dogs Know When Humans Are Sleeping

Dogs have been domesticated for around 11,000 years and have been loyal companions, of humans ever since. Dogs are well known for their incredible senses, including their connection to their owner’s emotions. In this article, we discuss whether dogs also know when humans are sleeping and what this means for you as an owner.  

Dogs will know when humans are sleeping from their own understanding of sleep. These cues will involve the shutting of eyes, breathing habits, lying down, and positioning yourself in bed. It can also be possible for dogs to sense temperatures and other chemical reactions that are produced during sleep, which when learned can help them understand if a human is sleeping.  

Besides knowing your sleeping habits and whether or not you are awake, dogs are keenly aware of people’s emotions and seem to have a sixth sense about certain places or people and whether they are safe. Below, we’ll look at how dogs can tell when you are sleeping with their keen observation skills.  


How Do Dogs Know When We’re Sleeping

There are several ways your dog may know you are awake. For the most part, this can be attributed to their observational skills, intuition, and the habits that you and they have built up. Dogs learn these habits by using their senses of:

  • Sight: If your dog sleeps in the room with you, they can see up close and personal whether you are awake or asleep. As your dog is most likely wanting you to wake up they will keep an eye on certain cues that tell them you are about to wake up. These cues could include your eyelids fluttering, your stomach and chest moving more as you come out of the deep breaths of sleeping, and that you move your limbs more often or start to roll over. Here an article I wrote which involves some discussion on how well dogs can see in the dark “Are Dogs Afraid Of The Dark”


  • Touch: If your dog sleeps right next to you, they will be able to feel when you are waking. Increased tension in the body as you come to alertness as well as an increased shifting and movement of the body will let them know that you are about to open your eyes. Dogs do similar things when you are sitting on the sofa. You may find your dog sleeps just at your feet, this is so that any movements you make they will be alerted to.   


  • Sound: In some cases, your dog may choose to sleep in a different room. Take a look at our article on “Why Does My Dog Sleep In Another Room” for more information on this subject. Even if your dog isn’t in the same room as you, their superior sense of hearing means that they can tell when you wake up. You may think that rolling over in bed was quiet, but your dog can hear the sheets rustling and the springs on your bed creaking as you move. Also, if you have an alarm clock that goes off at the same time every day, they will eventually associate the alarm’s sound with your waking. It’s also possible that your dog will know by routine what time to wake up and insist that you wake up every morning at that time….even on weekends. Check out our article on “Why Does My Dog Wake Up So Early” if you’re having trouble with an early rising pooch. 


  • Smell: Shortly before you wake up, your body releases more of the hormone cortisol. Your dog can smell this (among many other things), and if they connect that scent to the fact that you usually start moving around or get out of bed, it will also indicate to them that you are awake or will wake soon. Your dog’s sense of smell is incredible and is one of their main ways of understanding the world, have a look at some of these articles if you’re interested in learning more about your dog’s nose – 

“Why Does My Dog Smell Everything On A Walk”

“How Long Can A Dog Follow A Scent – Understanding Your Dogs Nose” 

“Can Dogs Sense Bad People – Understanding Someone’s Intentions”


Dogs smelling during a walk

Why Do Dogs Wake You Up

Dogs have no qualms about waking up their humans if they think they need to be awake—even if it is the middle of the night. They are social creatures and pack animals and want their packs to experience what they experience. Furthermore, since they have identified that you are their provider, they will come to you when they need or want something. Some of the reasons why your dog may wake you are:

  • They need to use the bathroom: Just like humans, dogs sometimes need to go in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, and their bodies have woken up because they can’t hold it any longer. This situation can be particularly difficult when training puppies. As a rule, I would not have your dog sleep in the same room as you until they are fully toilet trained. It would also be a good idea to let your dog out for the toilet before going to bed, this should ensure they won’t need the loo. 
  • They are sick: Your dog may have eaten something that disagreed with them or just isn’t feeling well and wants you nearby. This may also be linked to wanting to go outside, this is a good thing as your dog is understanding the rules of hygiene and will only be sick outside. This shouldn’t come up too often but be prepared for a tough night. 
  • They are bored: Dogs have different sleeping patterns than humans. They don’t have to sleep as much in one stretch as we do, and as such, they may be ready to play and interact or go for a walk during a time when you are ready to sleep. Teaching your dog boundaries regarding playtime is important whether sleeping or not they should know when to act excited and when to calm down. Here’s an interesting article on ways to challenge your dogs mind.
  • They sense danger: If an intruder is trying to break in, or there are loud or dangerous weather occurrences, they may try to alert you. Dogs that are anxious around loud noises may wake you as well, such as during a late-night thunderstorm. If there are some more unusual noises such as late-night arrives home then your dog may react to this by barking. You may want to discourage barking when it is nonsensical, discouragement at the wrong times may lead to your dog not warning you when there is an actual break-in.
  • They are lonely: Dogs are social creatures. If they are the only dog in the house and sleep in a different room from you, they may wake up and just want to be with you. Giving them plenty of interaction and mental stimulation during the day can combat the effects of neediness, just be sure not to play too late.  
  • You have made a pattern of playing with them during the night: If your dog wakes you up because they are bored and you play with them, then they will think it is okay and keep waking you around the same time. This also goes for food, don’t give in to early morning wake-ups, as soon as you feed them and go back to bed they will learn that this system works and they get food when they wake you up. 

How Do Dogs Try To Wake Humans Up

Like humans, dog personalities are all different, and the way they express themselves is different. This extends to how they may try to get you up. Some of the more common ways are:

  • Scratching at the door: If your dog doesn’t sleep in the same room as you, they may choose the option of trying to get to you by making a persistent grating noise on the door’s surface. 
  • Barking and whining: If you keep your dog penned at night, they will let you know from across the house that they are ready to get up and get started with their day. 
  • Snuffling: Some dogs know that all the motivation you need to get up is having something cold and wet shoved in your face. Enter their nose!
  • Breathing in your face: Sometimes potent dog breath is the very thing needed to wake you from your slumber. 
  • Sitting by the bed and staring at you: Some dogs are patient, and if they realize you can sense that eyes are on you, they do not need to do anything else to get your attention. 
  • Wrestling: Some dogs are very much like children and have no problem dive bombing or climbing all over you in the morning if they think you need to get a move on. 
  • Licking: Certain dogs like to give you morning kisses on your hands, toes, and face.


Dogs are insightful, observant creatures. They can tell by sound, scent, and sight not only when you are awake and the signs that you are close to waking up, but how they can get you to wake up, too. 

Sometimes their ability to wake you up can be a good thing as they may be warning you that danger is nearby. Other times it can be more of a nuisance, and they need to be retrained about appropriate times to sound the alarm. Remember that your dog is not trying to frustrate you but just wants to communicate their needs to you and be with you because they love you!  

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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