Unsure how your protective pooch or favorite feline is affecting your precious sleep time? You’re not alone. It’s an age-old debate: Some folks swear their beloved pets help them snooze while others ban their four-legged companions from the bedroom altogether.
The truth is, having pets in our beds isn’t always a problem. But sometimes it is. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of snuggling up with our furry companions.
It seems dogs and cats are equally popular bed partners. Most studies pertaining to sleep and pets, however, tend to focus on canines.
Earlier this year, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study to determine if dogs disrupt their owners during sleep. Researchers selected 40 healthy adults, who—along with their dogs—wore activity tracking devices over a 7-night period.
Sleep medicine specialist Dr. Lois Krahn, who coauthored the study, found that “many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.” The study, however, focused primarily on pets in the bedroom, but not necessarily on the bed.
Dr. Krahn went on to explain that most pet owners are gone for the majority of the day, so it’s understandable that they want to squeeze in lots of time with their animals during their limited time at home. “Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that,” Krahn noted after completing the study. “And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”
While the study’s outcome may result in a happy tail wag or two, not mentioning the downfalls of co-sleeping with your pet could lead to sleepless nights for you—the human.
If you or anyone in your home suffer with asthma or allergies, it’s best to banish all pets from the room. Derek Damin of Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Louisville, Kentucky, encourages pet owners with allergies to use a HEPA filter and not to allow animals in the bedroom in order to give the nose a chance to recover each night. For those who prefer to sleep with their pets anyway, Damin recommends regular allergy shots.
Not all cats and dogs hunker down for the night and stay in the same position. Constant rolling, or jumping on and off the bed, can negatively impact sleep for pet owners. One Mayo Clinic study found that more than half of cat and dog owners are disturbed by their pets nightly. In these cases, pets should be kept in a separate room.
Drawing the line
Even if you have a well-behaved pup or cat that doesn’t disturb your sleep, keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different. If your pet bothers your partner, it’s probably best to banish the animal from the bedroom rather than your human bedmate. Pets tend to be much more forgiving when we order them to sleep on the couch.
Pesky pet? Here’s what to do
It probably seems impossible to kick your devoted dog or cat out of bed, but there are a few steps you can take to make the transition easier.
Breaking the co-sleeping habit with Fido may be a blow to the ego. In an interview with webMD, professional dog trainer Victoria Stilwell noted that dogs view co-sleeping as a compliment from their owners. She suggests making a game of getting your canine off the bed, and only paying attention to him when he’s on the floor. “You’re going to have a few sleepless nights, but you’ve got to stick with it,” she added.
Veterinary technician Ingrid Johnson of Marietta, Georgia, says it’s “all or nothing” with cats… If you don’t want your furry feline to sleep with you, don’t allow her into your bedroom at all. Johnson urges cat owners to give kitties kibble before bed and/or place a cat condo by a window and turn the porch light on. She explains, “All the moths and bugs flying around the light right outside that window is like reality TV for cats.”
One size doesn’t fit all
If your pet isn’t disturbing your sleep, there’s really no reason to part ways at bedtime. Multiple pets—or larger pets—may cause more of a racket, but whether pets should share our beds is a case of individual preference. For some, snuggling up to a cuddly cat or dog is worth the occasional nighttime disturbance. For others, a good night’s sleep means snoozing in separate rooms.