A study by the Center for Sleep Medicine – Mayo Clinic suggests that sleeping with your pet may be a good thing. Sleeping with your furry friend gives some people a sense of security and safety, allowing them to sleep more soundly and deeply throughout the night.
“I’m not sure that there’s a hard and fast rule about pets [in bed]. My community of colleagues do think that it is just always a risk,” says Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona, and one of the paper’s authors.
More than half of American households have at least one pet, and half of those pets sleep in the bed or in the bedroom with their owners.
According to the study, 20% of people claimed that their pet was a disturbance in bed, while 41% claimed have a pet in the room actually improved their sleep.
“[Some people] find that sleeping with their animal actually helps them feel cozy. One woman said her two small dogs kind of warmed her bed. Another person felt her cat who was touching her during the night was comforting and soothing. I think from a sleep standpoint, multiple pets increase the risk [of bad sleep]. If the owner is quiet, the dog is quiet. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if dogs follow their humans, and cats do what they want” says Dr. Krahn.
There are many sleep experts that claim you should never sleep with pets, others claim it depends on the person and pet.
“I don’t have a problem sleeping with your dog until you complain that sleeping with your dog is problematic,” says W. Christopher Winter, a sleep medicine expert at Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine in Virginia.
If your pet is a bad bedmate, Winter suggests having the animal sleep in a crate or a pet bed in the room with your — just not on the bed. That could still boost the emotional connection without all the tossing and turning.
Dr. Charles Bae, a sleep medicine expert at Cleveland Clinic, agrees that people need to evaluate whether sleeping with pets makes sense for them.
“Pet owners can do a personal inventory,” Bae says. If they sleep better without their pets, for example, then it might be time to boot the pets from bed. But if sleep quality seems the same no matter who is in bed, he sees sleeping with pets as having real advantages.
“Pets can help people with anxiety and help people relax,” he says. “I can imagine some human bed partners that are more disruptive than smaller pets.”
The takeaway from this study is that while not right for everyone, having an animal in your bedroom can help you sleep better by putting your mind at ease by providing a sense of security and safety.