According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Americans are smitten with dogs, as evidenced by the fact that over sixty million U.S. households own at least one canine friend, if not more. It is not uncommon to see adoring pet owners create social media accounts for their four-legged friends, and spend significant sums out of pocket on gifts, toys, Halloween costumes and treats. People take their dogs to more places than ever before – restaurants, workplaces, gyms, grocery stores, etc.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic were curious to know if co-sleeping with a pet could have an impact on the sleep quality of the owner and the pet. So they conducted a study involving 40 adult pet owners and their canine sleeping companions. After monitoring the sleep of both humans and dogs for seven days, the researchers found that both groups slept fine. They also found that the size of the dog was not a factor when it came to affecting the sleep quality of humans. However, humans slept better when their furry buddies were on the bedroom floor, rather than on the bed.
For many pet owners, sleeping with their pet dogs engenders a feeling of safety and comfort at a physical and emotional level. No matter how dark the night, a pet nearby makes you feel less lonely and insecure. Anthropologists believe that sharing a bed with a dog may be an ancient practice dating back centuries that may have originated from a need for warmth that a dog is able to provide generously on account of its higher body temperature. Cuddling with a pet also releases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone that reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and creates a feeling of closeness. The rhythmic breathing of a pet’s body can act as a soothing influence, lulling a person to sleep. Pets can act as a reassuring presence during the night, helping us sleep deeper.
Before you snuggle with your pet dog under the covers, be aware of a few factors.
- If you are prone to allergies, co-sleeping with your pet may cause a trigger for health problems, as most dogs carry allergens. In such cases, you are better off not allowing your dog into your bedroom because pet hair can stick to other objects in the room and cause an allergic reaction even when your furry friend isn’t in the room.
- Dogs also dream, snore and move in their sleep, so you may experience light to moderate disturbance in the night that could interrupt your sleep cycle and affect sleep quality.
- Co-sleeping with a pet can be disruptive to your sex life, so be sure that your partner is okay with having your pet in the room and/or your bed through the night.
- Smaller or older dogs may actually have a hard time getting in and out of the bed at night, so take your animal’s safety into consideration as you bring it up to sleep with you.
The final benefit of sleeping with your dog is far less selfish than the other reasons: your dog will probably enjoy sleeping in bed with you. Dogs rely on their sense of smell to interpret the world, so an object that smells like “their human” is comforting and pleasing to canines (this explains why distressed dogs often chew up their owners’ shoes, underwear, etc).
Do you let your dog sleep in bed with you?