Is Sleeping With Your Dog Good for You?
All pet owners are familiar with the dilemma of whether or not to allow their beloved family pet to sleep in their bed. So, is sleeping with your dog good for you or is having a pet in bed a bad idea? Research findings published by the Mayo Clinic suggests that pet owners can experience many benefits of sleeping with pets including:
- feeling safe
- companionship and feeling less lonely
- a decrease in insomnia
- distracting from chronic pain
- relieving tension and stress
- bonding with pets
Let’s take a look at these benefits in more detail.
Feel Safer in Bed
Dogs, in particular, help their owners feel safer. Sleeping is such a vulnerable state of being that having a “guard dog”, so to speak, has helped many pet owners feel protected.
After all, dogs have better hearing and quicker instincts than humans do. They can react to threats long before we even notice them.
One study that focused on the effects of bed sharing on sleep quality in women found that respondents reported feeling more secure with their dogs in bed.
Feel Less Lonely
Companionship and combating loneliness is one of the biggest reasons pet owners will allow their pets to sleep in bed with them.
Around 56% of respondents from the Mayo Clinic study said they enjoyed the social comfort of having their pets in bed.
Those without a partner or who typically sleep solo may stand to benefit the most from including pets in their bedtime routine.
The rhythmic breathing of pets can have a soothing and calming effect on their owners. A cat’s purr or a dog’s steady snoring can often act as a source of white noise.
Though many pet owners with insomnia report finding it much easier to fall asleep when their pets are nearby, others may find the noise distracting or intrusive.
A Distraction from Chronic Pain
For those who experience chronic pain, sleep can be elusive. Pain, and the stress and anxiety it causes, can delay or even prevent the onset of sleep.
If you’ve ever struggled with chronic pain, you’ll know lying awake for hours is often the norm.
A Canadian study that set out to determine the effects of dogs on those with chronic pain found that pets offered a positive distraction from the pain, allowing their owners to fall asleep more easily.
Caring for an animal, including petting it, cuddling with it, and even tending to its needs like feeding it and going for daily walks, allows owners to focus on their pet as opposed to their own pain.
Sleeping with dogs, in particular, can offer stress relief and improve symptoms of depression.
Researchers have found a positive link between snuggling with dogs and increases in the release of dopamine, which is related to the output of positive emotions. Reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, has also been tied to interacting with dogs.
The increase of dopamine and the reduction of cortisol have a net positive effect and make it easier to relax and fall asleep.
Bonding With Your Pets
In addition to having supportive effects on your mental health, allowing your pet to sleep next you can help you build a stronger relationship with them.
Like humans, dogs and other pets experience positive effects from sleeping near their humans. Some of these effects include: feeling protected, reduced anxiety and depression, and overall comfort.
Downsides to Sleeping with Pets
While many people can benefit from the positive influence of sleeping with their pets in bed, others may experience more negative effects.
Light sleepers may find their sleep is easily disrupted by pets who moved around in the night. Noises like whining, meowing or barking may also become an issue.
Another downside is pets may experience separation anxiety when their owners are on vacation or sleeping away from home. For frequent travelers, allowing pets to sleep on the bed may be detrimental to their pet’s mental health.
Can I Let My Dog Sleep on the Bed?
According to the scientific community, the consensus seems to be, “Yes, you can!” The positive mental health effects alone are worth it.
While some pets may be too energetic or excitable to allow it, pets who are calm and quiet in temperament are best suited to this type of arrangement.
For anyone who feels comforted or soothed by the presence of their pet, allowing them to sleep on the bed is perfectly safe and even beneficial.
And for light sleepers who still want to benefit from sleeping by their pets but don’t want to be woken up by a restless pet, opting for a foam mattress that dampens motion disturbance is the way to go.
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