One of the best parts about having a furry friend is the cuddles. Close to half of pet owners sleep next to their furry friends, according to a review of research published in Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. And, in a Mayo Clinic questionnaire, 41% of pet owners said they do not believe that their pets disturb their sleep.
But there is a chance you could be compromising your sleep quality. Whether it’s your rescue pup’s adorable snores or a cat who turns your body into a literal catwalk at midnight, animals have a way of disrupting slumber.
That said, you don’t have to banish them to the living room — there are actual, tangible benefits to having a pet in your bed. It’s just a matter of setting the right parameters and cleaning schedule to keep it comfortable and healthy for everyone.
“There's just a lot of comfort and security in sleeping with a dog. They radiate out the best energy, and a lot of people right now are feeling really isolated,” says Sarah Wooten, a retired veterinarian based in Colorado. “If there aren't any health or behavioral issues, go for it.”
If you are wondering what these health and behavioral issues might me, keep reading. We’ve listed the pros and cons of sharing a bed with your pets, and how to safely sleep with your pet.
The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Dog or Cat
For many, there are benefits to sleeping with a dog or cat in the bed that outweigh the cons. The studies below mostly refer to sleeping with dogs, but this doesn't invalidate the benefits you might have with a cat. Pets don't always follow their stereotyped personas.
1. They Provide Feelings of Security and Comfort
“There are a lot of studies out there that show people have lower stress and feel more secure when they sleep with their pets,” says Wooten. One 2018 study shows that, compared to a sharing the bed with a human or a cat, dogs were perceived by women to be less disruptive and more secure and comfortable.
“Having that extra comfort of another body near you, even if it's furry, can really go a long way in boosting mental and emotional well-being,” says Wooten.
2. They Can Help Reduce Physical Stress
A review of 69 studies found that sleeping with a pet can decrease your blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Unless they’re active at night, their movements shouldn't cause much sleep stress: A small sample of 12 adult women in a 2020 study reported rarely feeling disturbed by their dogs’ movements.
3. Their Presence May Also Help with Chronic Pain
A 2018 study concluded that pet dogs helped people with chronic pain maintain a consistent sleep schedule. If you and Fido understand each other’s bedtimes, removing your dog from your room might cause more sleep issues than it solves.
4. They May Help Reduce Allergies at a Young Age
At least in cases with dogs. A 2004 study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that pet exposure to children in their first year is associated with reduced allergen sensitization and atopic dermatitis, or red and itchy skin.
So, sleeping with your dog in the room could theoretically boost allergen exposure and desensitization — but don’t force it. This isn't the best way to deal with allergies.
The Risks of Sleeping with Your Dog or Cat
Or perhaps, especially your cat. In the 2018 study mentioned above, women reported sleeping less soundly with cats and human bed partners than dogs. However, the cons of sleeping with your pet also depends on your pet.
1. Their Movements May Wake You Up
Just like people, all pets are different, and some are sounder sleepers than others. While studies show that a pet’s movement can disrupt your sleep efficiency and wake you up, the chance of sleeping well with your pet depends on how well your pet sleeps overnight.
A puppy who frequently whimpers or flinches in its sleep might not make the best bed companion, but could mature into a quality co-sleeper. Pets that sleep polyphastically, or in short bouts throughout the day, may be more active at night; kittens, for example, are often extremely active at dawn and can be playful overnight, especially under the covers.
2. They May Bring More Allergens into Your Bed
If you’re sensitive to dander or pollen, or you have asthma, sleeping with a pet may exacerbate your symptoms, especially if it’s an outdoor pet. Allowing them on or near your pillow could cause or worsen watery eyes, coughing, congestion, and runny nose.
3. They Might Spread Germs or Stall Recovery
This is especially true for anyone recovering from an illness or surgery.
“You shouldn’t be sleeping with a pet if you have a compromised immune system or if you’re recovering from an illness or surgery or have open wounds,” says Wooten. If your pet moves around a lot, they may also disrupt the rest you need for healing.
For those in good health, be sure that your pets are, too. “Some skin pests, like the ringworm fungus or fleas, can live in and on bed sheets, which can cause repeated problems,” adds Wooten.
4. Sharing a Bed May Increase Separation Anxiety in Your Pet
If you travel often, or if you foresee life changes that alter your pet’s ability to share a bed, sharing a bed only temporarily could create anxiety for the animal once the overnight rules change. A puppy that sleeps with you every night may not understand a vacation is temporary.
The Healthiest Ways to Share Your Bed with a Pet
If you opt to allow your pet into bed, there are ways to help make it restful and healthy for everyone. Wooten offers the following tips to keep both your physical and sleep health in shape:
- Stay up to date on your pet’s preventative medications. Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention can help mitigate unwanted crawlers in your bed.
- Have your pet sleep above the covers. This will reduce how much dander stays trapped in your sheets.
- Train your pet to be invited into bed. According to Wooten, this reinforces the idea that the bed is your domain. And on nights you truly need restful sleep, they won’t be on the bed to disturb you.
- Wash your sheets once a week. Keep your sheets clean and use a mattress protector that encases your bed to minimize dander accumulation and the potential to attract dust mites and bacteria.
- If you can, make sure your mattress is large enough to comfortably accommodate you and your pet. Maybe, just maybe, your cat will decide to sleep in their own corner instead of on your head.
- Consider a ramp for your pet. While this is great for dogs with mobility issues, it also lessens the impact of 10+ pounds landing on the bed while you’re asleep.
- Train your dog to sleep on a pillow or designated area of your bed. This decreases the chances of your being disturbed you during your sleep.
How to Make Your Bedroom Safe for Your Pet
As important as it is for your bed to be a safe sleep space for you, it’s also important to be sure it’s safe for your pet. Make sure your nightstand is clear of anything your pet might try to eat. This may include prescription drugs or painkillers.
Pets are also notorious for eating retainers and night guards, so be sure to stash those in their containers or in medicine cabinets. And be sure to only have pet-safe house plants.
The Right Way to Move Your Pet Out of Your Bed
If you want to reclaim your sleep space, it’s possible. The key is making gradual changes. Whether you want them in their designated pet bed or in a kennel, positive reinforcement is the best way to get train your pet to sleep elsewhere. Give the transition time — and use treats to reward the incremental steps.
If you have a pet who responds well to verbal commands, reinforce a standard command, such as “Go to bed.” This works as a trick, provided you’re not also sending mixed signals about your own bed with similar cues. Your vet, trainer, dog walker, or pet sitter may have additional tips.
And if, at the end of the day, you find yourself wishing your pet was with you — but really don’t want to let them back in bed — consider sleeping with a stuffed animal. It may sound childish but there’s a lot of comfort in feeling like a kid too. Want something more like your large dog? Consider getting a weighted blanket.
Treat Your Pets to Their Own Pet Bed
These days, pet beds are much more than just a pile of fluff on the floor. Depending on your pet's needs and preferences, you can get a dog bed with memory foam filling or a cat bed scented with appealing catnip.
The spacious Brentwood Home Griffith Pet Bed comes in four sizes to suit most any size of cat or dog. The cover is machine-washable, and the interior is made with high-quality gel memory foam to help ease common issues in older pets, including joint pain, arthritis and hip dysplasia.
If you're tight on space, get your cat a scratcher that's also a cat bed with the PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge. The sleek cardboard lounge has a dip in the center to create a nook ideal for chin rests and built-in back scratches, and the accompanying catnip should entice any reluctant feline.
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