How to Create a Nighttime Routine with Your Pet
Any pet owner can attest that having a routine can make caring for a pet much smoother and even more enjoyable. When it comes to feeding time or bathroom breaks, it’s helpful that your pet has some sort of schedule and knows roughly what to expect from one day to the next. But, what about a bedtime routine? A bedtime routine is so much more than retiring to bed at the same time every night. It’s about preparing you and your pet to fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed the next morning. So, here are some tips to help you and your furry friend relax and get ready for a good night’s rest.
Take Time to Wind Down
During the day you want to make sure you exercise and play with your pet to help expel their energy. Taking time to be active, even a small amount, can impact how well you fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Being active with your pet can be even more motivating and it’s a great time to bond with each other.
As the day ends you’ll want to shift your energy and actions to be calming. You’ll also want your pet to do the same, you’ll want them to wind down with you and relax. This means that there should be no playtime one to two hours before bed. This is a good time to put their toys away and even transition to the bedroom for your nightly rituals such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, and changing into pajamas. Using warm light, and dimming the brightness of the room can also be a signal that it’s time to calm down and prepare for bed. If you prefer the use of oils or scents that are soothing for sleep such as lavender, you may want to turn on a diffuser or light a candle. However, you should be cautious of the specific oils you use throughout your home as they are not all pet friendly. Our pets have a much stronger sense of smell than we do so it’s best to use these for short periods of time and stick with safe scents. It’s these small subtle changes that will set the tone and signal to you and your pet that it’s time to calm down for a good night’s rest.
Designate a Sleep Space for Your Pet
After you’ve completed your routine it’ll be time to crawl into bed. This could mean your pet joins you in your bed or makes their way to their own. Either way, animals are creatures of habit, and it can help them to have a designated sleep space that they know is theirs night after night.
While your pet is in training they should have their own space for sleep, whether that be through crate training or in a bed close by to your bed. Once they are fully house trained, you can ask yourself, “does it make sense for them to share the bed with me? Or is it best for them to remain in their own space?” There are a few considerations to keep in mind when deciding where you want your pet to sleep. For example, if you suffer from certain allergens or asthma it might not be ideal to share the bed with your furry friend.
No matter what you decide, keeping that space the same each night can help them get their best sleep. They will not only be able to signal to themselves that laying in their bed means it’s time to wind down for sleep, but also they have the soothing comfort of being in a space that they know is all theirs.
Address Underlying Health Conditions
If your pet is having trouble sleeping or is exceptionally restless you may want to follow up with your vet to ensure that there isn’t anything further keeping them awake at night. Your pet can suffer from some of the same sleep issues that humans deal with such as Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, and a fourth condition called REM Sleep Behavior. The first step to helping your pet is to get them on a routine and to pay attention to how they fall asleep and stay asleep. If your pet is on a routine and still struggling to sleep through the night, or exhibits severe fatigue or other concerning symptoms during the day, then you should speak to your vet about testing and treatment.
This is also a good time to ask, “does my vet take pet insurance?” Sleep is crucial to you and your pet’s health. Getting to the bottom of any sleep disorders is not only impactful for each night of sleep, but a step toward having better health in the long term. As a pet owner, one of the most stressful aspects is ensuring you have the means to give your pet the care they need. Having pet insurance can help alleviate financial stress and you can feel prepared to help your pet through potential illnesses or injuries. At the end of the day, if your pet is not sleeping well chances are you can’t either, and that’s not fair to either of you.
Offer Them Structure
Performing your routine around the same time every night is a great way to signal to the body that you are getting ready to go to sleep, and the same is true for your pets. Pets have something of an internal clock and thrive when they can follow their routine. They are aware of what time it is and what time they usually perform certain tasks like eating dinner. So, they will expect to do certain things at those times, and by sticking to this schedule you and your pet can communicate with one another. The routine may not be perfectly timed on the dot every day, but that’s why each step in the routine is helpful to them regardless of the time it is performed.
For example, a great indicator that everyone is ready to retire for the night is a final bathroom break. Most house-trained pets can take one bathroom break just before bedtime and won’t need to go again until the morning. That regularity is not only good to prevent accidents but also to let your pet know it’s time for them to prepare themselves for a full night of rest.
Consistency is Key
The most crucial part of a routine is performing it consistently. Consistency is extremely beneficial to humans and pets as it can help to reduce anxiety and stress. As pets and humans can’t communicate, consistency helps them to understand their environment and to thrive in it. A routine creates trust and that trust can lead to comfort which can lead to benefits like more restful sleep. That overall structure can boost their confidence in the day-to-day and help them to feel at ease in their surroundings, reducing their overall stress, and once again leading to more restful sleep.
Everyone is different and everyone’s nighttime routine may look different. At the end of a long day, it’s about taking the time to offer you and your pet steps along the way that signal to your body and mind that you are ready to slow down and get some rest. It’s all about setting up you and your pet for success. As they say, “the beginning of a great day starts the night before.”