Do Dogs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Sleep with one eye open… – James Hetfield

I think that my humans are always a little scared and surprised when they assume that I’m awake and listening to every word that they say, but I’m really fast asleep and dreaming about chasing squirrels and rabbits.

That’s one of my favorite dreams, but even in my happiest place, I still don’t manage to catch either of them. It doesn’t really seem fair, does it? Where was I? Oh yes, that’s right, startling and scaring my humans when they catch me sleeping with my eyes wide open.

dog and eeyore

So You Do Sleep With Your Eyes Open, Then?

I do, and while I can’t confirm whether all beagles do it, this beagle does sleep with his eyes open. I don’t do it all the time, but I do it every now and then.

But, I’m not the only one who does it, as I’ve caught one of my humans sleeping with their eyes open as well, and to be honest, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It seems perfectly natural to me.

Are You Serious? What’s Natural About Sleeping With Your Eyes Open?

We’re not the only ones who do it and it isn’t just us dogs who sleep with our eyes open, plenty of other animals do it too.

While we don’t know exactly why we do it, but following a number of doggy discussions and midnight barking sessions devoted to the study of the snoozing with our eyes open phenomenon, we have a pretty good idea why it happens.

It’s an ancestral thing, and like most of the species who still do it, it originally evolved as a defensive mechanism to ensure that we’d always be aware of any predators trying to sneak up on us, and maybe those predators who saw us with our eyes open would then think twice about trying to make us their dinner.

A wiser dog than me theorized that the reason we still do it is due to loyalty and pack instinct. We’re so devoted to our humans, that we want to make sure that nothing preys on them on our watch and while we’re around. So sometimes we keep at least one eye open while we’re sleeping to make sure that our humans are always safe.

It’s also the reason that we don’t sleep the same way that humans do. While you can sleep for anything up to twelve hours (and believe me, I wish I could too), we usually only sleep for thirty minutes at a time before we wake up and have to settle down again. It keeps us alert and makes sure that we’re always aware, and wary, of our surroundings.

The Mysterious Third Eye (lid)

We do have one distinct advantage over humans when we sleep with our eyes slightly open, and that’s the same one that a lot of other animals have – it’s called a nictitating membrane.

Really though, that’s just a complicated, scientific way of saying that we have a third eyelid, which is what that membrane essentially is.

When you see us dozing and happily snoring, with eyes partially open, you’re not actually seeing our eyes, you’re seeing that membrane.

It provides the illusion that we’re actually awake, when we aren’t and makes sure that our eyes are protected from dust and dirt and don’t dry up.

Do All Dogs Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

That’s a good question, and I actually don’t know the answer.

We’re not scientists and we don’t do clinical studies, because we’re dogs and trying to hold clipboards and use calculators without opposable thumbs is incredibly difficult.

However, at this point, I think it’s fairly certain that most of us do sleep with our eyes open occasionally, and that given that there’s no linking causality between our breed, age, or gender, it’s fairly safe to say that it’s something that we do because we’re biologically programmed to.

You fall asleep on the couch after a long day at the office, and sometimes we sleep with our eyes open.

So You’re Okay When You’re Sleeping With Your Eyes Open?

The short answer is yes, we’re absolutely fine and the long answer is… It’s a little more complicated than that.

Sometimes, if a dog is sleeping with his eyes open, it can be indicative of a neurological problem that you might need to take him to a dog doctor to be treated for.

Two of the most common neurological disorders that we’re troubled by and sleeping with our eyes open can be indicative of, are similar to conditions that you humans can also suffer from, narcolepsy and epilepsy.

Narcolepsy is a genetic disorder that means humans and dogs can’t regulate their sleeping patterns properly and the switch inside their heads that controls waking and sleeping, flickers between both causing dogs and humans to suddenly, and seemingly without explanation fall asleep.

If a dog suddenly falls asleep with his eyes open, it could mean that he’s suffering from narcolepsy. Or he might just be tired after a long walk.

Epilepsy can also present itself in dogs as either Grand Mal ( the symptoms of which almost always include violent, and often dangerous shaking) seizure, or a Petit Mal seizure, in which the dog in question appears to be sleeping with his eyes open, but is, in reality, suffering from one of the aforementioned seizures.

How Do I Know the Difference?

If your best friend often sleeps with both eyes, or one eye, open then there’s a significantly increased chance that he could be suffering from either epilepsy or narcolepsy.

If he’s ever fallen suddenly asleep while eating his dinner or keeping you company on one of your walks, he could be suffering from narcolepsy.

And if he’s sleeping with his eyes open and you can’t wake him by gently calling his name from a couple of feet away, likewise he could be suffering from epilepsy.

Don’t worry though, speak to his doctor and he’ll be able to confirm whether your best friend is suffering from either disorder and can, and will prescribe the right medication to help you, and him, control his condition.

But, if your dog is anything like me, and he’s sleeping with either one or both eyes open, it’s almost certainly because he’s tired and he can’t and doesn’t want to, fight biology or evolution. He just wants to sleep.