Does Sleeping With Your Pet Help You Relax?

February 22, 2016

sleep with pet sicoreBy Linda Cole

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our body, both physical and mentally. We have been warned by “sleep experts” for years that sharing our bed with a pet can be disruptive and lead to sleep deprivation. However, a recent study has found that snuggling with your dog or cat under the covers can have the reverse affect on many pet owners and can actually help you sleep better.

Numerous sleep studies over the years have concluded that sleeping with a pet can be a health hazard for people with allergies or asthma, and this is an obvious concern. On average, most people need around eight hours of sleep a night to be alert the next day. A lack of sleep affects the body and mind, so losing precious sleeping hours for any reason does matter. Being deprived of sleep can affect your mood, slow down reaction times and affect decision making, which can lead to accidents, especially when operating any kind of vehicle. It’s unhealthy if you wake up tired all the time.

It’s estimated that at least half of dog owners and 62% of cat owners in the U.S. allow their pets to sleep in the bed with them. A past study conducted by the Mayo Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center found that over half of the people who sought help at the Mayo sleep clinic were pet owners who weren’t getting a good night’s sleep, thanks to their Dog-Animated-no-offerfurry friends. However, the Mayo Clinic did another study of pet owners in 2015 and came up with some surprising results. Sleeping with your pet, at least for some pet owners, doesn’t disrupt sleep despite what we’ve been told for years.

Researchers surveyed 150 patients who went to the center for sleep related issues; they asked them questions about their sleeping habits, what kind of pet they had, how many pets lived in the home, where their pets slept and what their behavior was like. They also wanted to know how sleeping with a pet affected their sleep. Of the 150 patients, 56% shared their bed with a pet or at least had the pet in the bedroom with them. While 20% said their pet made it more difficult to sleep, 41% reported they actually felt that sleeping with their dog or cat helped them sleep better and more soundly. It seems, for many pet owners, sleeping with a pet provides a sense of companionship and security, and helps them relax. People who slept by themselves were more likely to say that sleeping with their pet helped them get a good night’s sleep.

Of course, getting the right amount of shuteye does depend on how your pet behaves at night. Cats are more likely to wander around at night because they are nocturnal. Dogs have a tendency to chill out and fall asleep once the lights go out – at least until they hear a noise that gets their attention. Also, if your pet snores in your ear, whines or kicks you as they dream, that might be a bit disruptive. People who have more than one cat may find themselves getting up during the night to settle a fight. In fact, the Mayo Clinic’s questionnaire reported that the pet owners who complained the most about not getting enough sleep had multiple pets.

sleep with pets simonWhether or not to allow a pet to sleep in your bed is a personal choice. For most pet owners, their dog or cat is a member of the family and their comfort matters. Maintaining a regular bedtime schedule can help reduce sleep deprivation caused by an anxious dog needing to go outside. A night prowling feline may be harder to control, though. You can try leaving some CANIDAE kibble out for your kitty to snack on, which may help to curb her early morning demands for food.

For me, one of the simple pleasures of having pets is snuggling next to them at night. The comfort and peace of mind you get from knowing a pet is safely tucked in bed can help you relax and get the sleep you need. Unless of course, your pet is a Great Dane who takes up most of the bed. But then, isn’t that why a king-size bed was created?

Top photo by Stephanie Sicore/Flickr
Bottom photo by Laurence Simon/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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