Does sleeping with your dog or cat affect how well you sleep at night?
Got a pet? Curling up with a beloved pet and drifting off to dreamland is a blissful end to the day for many pet owners. Sharing your bed with your pet can create a sense of safety, security and comfort – it just feels good.
According to Dr. Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, the idea of people sleeping in bed with their dogs is nothing new. Dr. Coren notes that even Rameses the Great, the Egyptian pharaoh, had a hound name Pahates who was given the title of “Bed Companion to the Pharaoh.” Rameses is one of many famous people throughout history who have been known to sleep with their dogs in their beds.
But can cuddling with Fido every night affect how well we sleep?
Why do we sleep with our pets?
According to a 2012 Harris poll, about 70% of Americans, at least occasionally, let their pets sleep in their beds. There are many reasons why we let our pets sleep in our beds. Here are just a few:
- Contentment. Oxycotin the snuggle hormone, which is raised by touching (human or otherwise) increases our level of contentment. As you can imagine, the more content we are, the better we sleep.
Warmth. Dr. Cohen notes that dogs have a slightly higher body temperature than humans. Sleeping with dogs may have meant the difference between survival and death in more primitive times.
- Security. Some pets are meant to keep us safe. Perhaps your reason for letting your dog, cat, or rabbit into your bed is because you sleep better knowing protection is close by. There are hundreds of heroic stories of owners being awoken by their pet to let them know someone or something is unusual around the house. This natural instinct could have also helped in the survival of humans, suggests Dr. Cohen. Dogs would have been used to warn humans of an approaching dangerous animal or hostile human, which could have meant the difference between life and death.
If you’re sleeping with your pet all night but worried about them sleeping too much, don’t be. Dogs and cats sleep a lot more than humans, which is how they can snooze during the day and still sleep all night with you. Here’s a handy list of your pet’s sleep needs (based on a 24-hour period) to ease your worries:
- Dogs sleep 12-14 hours (puppies can sleep up to 18 hours)
- Cats sleep 15-20 hours per day
Does sleeping with your pet affect your sleep?
The big question and of course, there is no simple answer. According to a group of Australian researchers from Central Queensland University: yes, but not really.
In their 2014 sleep study, they found that people who slept with their pets took longer to fall asleep, were more likely to wake up tired and were more likely to be woken up by a dog barking or animal making noises. There were, however, “no significant differences found in total self-reported sleep or feelings of tiredness during the day,” The study found that, on average, people who shared a bed with their pets, took only 4 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who slept without pets.
Another study published in FastCo.com surveyed 298 patients at a family practice clinic. About 50% of respondents said they shared a bed with their pet. Nearly a third of people who shared a bed with their pet also reported being awoken by their pet at least once per night. What’s more, 63% of the same bed-sharing owners, stated that they have a “poor sleep quality” and also share a bed with their pet 4 nights a week or more.
Another aspect of sharing your bed with your pet are the ripple effects it may have on your relationship. A study cited by the Daily Mail suggests that a dog will add nearly 2,000 arguments to a couple’s relationship throughout its lifetime. Disagreements can range from who will walk the dog, yard clean up with the most common being, you guessed it, whether or not the dog can sleep in the bed. Yikes!
Concerns about pets sleeping in the bed
Let’s say you’re happy to let Fido, Felix, Thumper or Babe also share your bed. There are other concerns beyond a good night’s sleep (and your relationship) to take into consideration.
- Disease. Dogs and (especially outdoor) cats are known to get dirty. In 2011, the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) warned that allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and can spread zoonoses, pathogens that go from animals to people. These pathogens can make you ill, which can make it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep. Lucy O’Byrne, a veterinarian at the West Village Veterinary Hospital in Manhattan says, “As long as you have good flea and tick control, and keep your pet healthy the way most people do, you don’t have to worry.”
- Disturbance. Pets have long been known to disrupt sleep, whether it’s due to their barks and meows, animated dreams of chasing cars or allergic reactions they might trigger. In a recent study among pet owners who slept with their four-legged companions, 30% reported waking up because of their pets at least once a night.
- Risk of allergies. Derek Damin of Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Louisville, KY, says people who suffer from pet allergies or asthma should not sleep with their dog or cat or even allow them in the bedroom. Runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing caused by allergies can make it hard for you to fall asleep and stay asleep. “Use a HEPA filter and keep them out of the bedroom to give your nose a few hours a day to recover,” Damin says. However, if shutting the bedroom door on your pet isn’t an option, Damin recommends allergy shots to build up a tolerance to the pet dander that causes allergic reactions.
The bigger question here may be: does your pet want to sleep with you? The truth is that pets snuggle with their owners because they crave your body warmth. If you want your pet to sleep alone, consider adding a heat source to their pet beds. You can buy ones that you plug in or you can put a heating pad under their blankets. Just ensure it doesn’t get too hot. A bit of warmth is enough to help them – and you – have a sweet night of slumber.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Do I have bedbugs in my bed?
- How clean (healthy) is your bedroom?
- Heart health, sleep and how you can live longer