Should You Let Your Pet Sleep With You? We Dug Up the Answer
Pets belong on the bed. At our house anyway, and at many of yours, I bet. In fact, surveys on the topic show that around half of pet owners let them sleep on the bed.
As for us, our little guy Truffle starts out wedged between my pillows and my husband’s, but at some point in the night moves to curl up to my back, a solid, warm little brick that’s surprisingly immovable for 16 pounds. Our big guy Cassius Thunderpaws sprawls his 90 pounds and full length diagonally across the foot of the bed. Between the two of them I’m in sort of a dog sandwich, left clinging to my sliver of the king sized bed. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But I understand this is not for everyone. And some experts actually say it’s not a good idea. Curious for a definitive answer – I mean who doesn’t want a better night’s sleep? – I dug around a bit, and here’s what I found.
The Mayo Clinic studied a group of people and dogs (not puppies because ain’t nobody sleeping when there’s a puppy in the bedroom) to see how having a dog in the room affected sleep. Researchers went into the study suspecting the mere presence of a dog in the room could disrupt our shut-eye.
That makes sense I guess, especially if your dog likes to walk around in the night, claws ticking on the floor or tags jingling. But after looking at sleep time and activity, researchers found the pet owners maintained the same sleep efficiency even with a dog in the room – unless, that is, the pup was on the bed. In that case, they said, “Human sleep efficiency was lower if the dog was on the bed as opposed to simply in the room.” (The dogs, by the way, slept better than their people did in this study!) So, according to these experts, that’s a thumbs down to Rex on the bed with you if your goal is a solid night’s sleep.
Pet writer Amy Tokick lays out some pretty valid reasons over on The Honest Kitchen for why it may not be the best idea to bring your doggo into bed beyond just interrupting your sleep.
For one, their furry bodies are vehicles for allergens so when they nestle under the covers with you they’re basically bombarding you with things to make you go achoo! (Not to mention the dirt and mud and even less desirable things they may get into in the course of a day.) Then of course there are accidents. It hasn’t happened often, but there have been a few times we’ve had to get up in the night, strip the bed, throw everything in the wash and either find somewhere else to sleep or make up the bed again. Another good point she makes is that this isn’t something you can just do when you feel like it. There’s no explaining to your pup one night that guess what, you have to sleep on the floor tonight. Once you commit, that’s it.
There are also some good reasons to make bedtime a family affair, says dog trainer Stephanie Gibeault in an article that interprets an academic paper “A Multispecies Approach to Co-Sleeping.”
“For a well-adjusted, well-behaved dog, it’s quite unlikely that sleeping in your bed or bedroom will do anything except delight your dog, comfort you, and enhance the dog-owner bond,” Gibeault says.
We’ve all heard about the many benefits of owning a pet, and “co-sleeping increases the amount of time spent with that pet, potentially increasing those benefits,” she says. “Co-sleeping with your dog can also ease anxiety and provide a feeling of safety and security. Your light-sleeping canine will alert you to anything out of the ordinary, so you can rest easy through the night. Dogs are also perfect bed warmers, keeping you toasty on a cold night. And finally, there is no substitute for waking up to a tail-wagging dog.” I’ll second that.
The Best Medicine
Animals can even improve sleep for some, say the the authors – a psychologist and two physicians – of this article in a journal for sleep specialists. In particular, “patients with obstructive sleep apnea, nightmares, narcolepsy, parasomnias, and other sleep disorders” may benefit from co-sleeping with service animals or emotional support animals, they say.
“Though the most common reaction of sleep professionals is to advise our patients against co-sleeping with pets, we fail to recognize that for many this is experienced the same as if they were told to stop sleeping with their spouse,” the article says. “Additionally, we automatically assume sleep disruption from co-sleeping with pets. However, this is not an evidence-based recommendation. Pets and/or [service animals] may truly be beneficial in the treatment of sleep disorders.”
I’m a troubled sleeper myself, prone to nightmares, and it’s hard to imagine anything more comforting than cuddling up to one of my pups. I’ve soothed myself back to sleep many times by petting one of them, and can’t imagine waking up and not seeing all three faces I love.
So is it right for everyone? Maybe not. But if it makes you and your pup happy, I say you should totally go for it.