Sleeping With Pets: Good or Bad for Owners?

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,” 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,” she said.

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“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.

However, with all those benefits for the pets, it could make sleeping for their owners a challenge. 

“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.

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Other experts are on the contrary, saying sleeping with pets could be very beneficial. 

“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.

Data gathered in 2017 from the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine in Phoenix found over half of pet owners seen in the clinic allowed their pet to sleep in the bedroom — and the majority found their pet “unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep.”

About 20% however, did believe their furry friends made their slumber worse.

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Another 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.

“There can be significant psychological comfort in having your pet close by, which can help both initiate and maintain sleep,” said Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist in the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

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“All of this suggests that having pets in the bed or bedroom is not necessarily bad,” he continued, yet warned: “However, if patients are reporting that movement or other activities of the pet are disruptive to their sleep we then counsel them to try to look at alternate arrangements for the pet at night and see if that helps with their sleep.”

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