In the quest for better sleep, people often ask if they should share their bed with a pet. Before we get to that, let’s take a moment to ponder the flip side:
Is sleeping with you good for your pet?
“I love that we’re reversing the question,” said Dr. Dana Varble, the chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community. “In general, it is a very good thing for animals to sleep with their people.”
Pets who share their human’s bed tend to have a “higher trust level and a tighter bond with the humans that are in their lives. It’s a big display of trust on their part,” Varble said.
“Dogs and cats who are more closely bonded with their humans get additional health benefits, including increases in beneficial neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones,” she added.
Is it just dogs and cats who benefit from human bed partners? Yes, Varble said, with a “very, very few exceptions.”
“I have one owner who has a meticulously groomed pot-bellied pig who sleeps at the foot of their bed,” she said. “It’s an indoor pig named Norbert — pot-bellied pigs are almost like dogs because they’re very social.” (Norbert even has his own Instagram account.)
Pros and cons for humans
With that important matter out of the way, let’s turn to you — is it good for you to sleep with a pet? Experts have traditionally said no because you might not get quality shut-eye.
“Animals may move, bark and disrupt sleep. Sleep in dogs (and cats) is not continuous and they will inevitably get up and walk on the bed, stepping on people. All of that activity will lead to sleep fragmentation,” said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, director of sleep research and a professor in the department of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
These “microawakenings,” which can happen without your awareness, “are disruptive because they pull you out of deep sleep,” said Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “They have been associated with the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can make sleep even worse.”
That may be true for many of us, but recent studies have shown that pets in the bedroom could be beneficial for some of us.
“People with depression or anxiety may benefit from having their pet in the bed because the pet is a big pillow, a big blanket, and they may feel that snuggly, cuddly, furry creature decreases their anxiety,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
About 20% however, did believe their furry friends made their slumber worse.
Another 2017 study put sleep trackers on dogs and their humans to measure the quality of repose for both. People who had their dogs in their bedroom got a decent night’s rest (and so did the dogs), the research team found.
However, sleep quality declined when people moved their dog from the floor to the bed.
Children may benefit from sleeping with a pet as well. A 2021 study asked adolescents ages 13 to 17 to wear sleep trackers for two weeks and then undergo a state-of-the-art sleep test. About a third of the kids slept with a pet, the study noted, which didn’t appear to affect the quality of their rest.</…….