There is an old saying, “If you lie down with dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas.” Maybe that’s why there’s such controversy over whether or not dogs should be allowed to sleep in bed with you. Is co-sleeping with pets really a good idea? Is it better for your dog if they sleep in bed with you? Or is it better for them to sleep in their own bed? According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic, sleeping with your dog is actually more beneficial to your health than previously thought.
Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona, said in her study that in spite of what experts have claimed for a long time, people who sleep with their dogs actually get a higher rate of peaceful sleep than those who don’t.
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“Since commonly people with pets dismiss placing their pet outside of their bedroom at night, the question of whether having the pet on the floor, on the bed or curled up next to them becomes important in realizing the goal of helping them to sleep as well as possible with their pet,” Krahn said.
In the experimental study conducted by Krahn and her team, 150 participants filled out a questionnaire. Included were details about the type and number of animals they had in their home, and what everyone’s sleeping habits were. Only 20 percent of the participants reported sleep problems because of their pets – about 40 percent believed having their dog in the bedroom helped them get a better night’s sleep.
When discussing the results of the study, Krahn indicated one married woman described her two small dogs as ‘bed warmers’. Another 50-year-old woman didn’t mind at all when her cat slept on her chest, and yet another described her cat as ‘soothing.’
Krahn also added, “Patients volunteered that they deliberately acquired a dog or cat to help them relax. People sleeping alone, not always single but sometimes with a partner who travels or works some nights, more often spoke of the beneficial companionship stemming from a pet in the bedroom or on the bed.”
Of course, all pets are different and might not all be the best bed companions. Dogs tend to cuddle more in bed and also keep still, while cats can often move around a bit more and cause disruption. But even if the dog doesn’t do well in bed, having the dog sleep in a crate or pet bed in the room can still be helpful.
Krahn’s findings supported the idea that dogs can help people with anxiety and help many relax.
To put it simply, dogs are good bed partners for most because:
- Dogs tend to help calm anxiety
- Dogs have been known to help relieve depression
- Dogs love sleeping with us. When dogs are happy, humans are happy
- Dogs can often provide a feeling for safety for us during the night
Krahn did point out that there are just as many cons for letting a dog sleep with you that are worth mentioning and taking into consideration.
These cons include:
- Dogs can steal the covers and snore (but so can spouses)
- If you are a person with allergies or asthma, having your dog sleep with you can increase allergic reactions
- Dogs could spread the disease during sleep if they are sick or are carrying anything
- Ticks, fleas, and mites can jump from dogs to sheets, and from sheets to humans
Regardless, some doctors say deciding if you want to chance to have your dog sleep with you needs to be well-thought out and researched. However, other experts disagree. If it feels good and comfortable, do it. At the end of the day, it is up to you (and your dog, of course). Sometimes, a dog will start out in bed with you, and end up elsewhere before the morning. Don’t take it personally, they’re just trying to get comfortable too. Just like dogs, people can generate a lot of heat! Plus, we tend to snore and hog the pillow.
The Science Behind the Cuddle
The study, “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment” evaluated 40 people without any kind of sleep disorder. For seven nights, participants and their dogs wore an accelerometer, a device that measures the vibration or acceleration of motion — in this case, while sleeping. They were examining the sleep efficiency of both humans and canines.
Contrary to original thinking, scientists found that having one dog in the bedroom didn’t interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. However, the findings were not the same if the dog was actually on the bed. This resulted in a lower quality of sleep.
Psychologist Stanley Coren, the author of many books about dogs, says a large number of people find sleeping with dogs psychologically comfortable. He points out that some anthropologists suggest that sleeping with our dogs may be genetically hardwired into our DNA. The practice of sleeping with dogs can be traced back to ancient history. Long ago, dogs not only kept their people warm in the days before central heating, but they also protected them from predators and other dangers.
As most pet parents know, sleeping with the dog may mean you both wake each other up with nighttime gas, snoring, and tossing and turning, but you can certainly fall back to sleep much easier when you’re close to the ones you love. Plus, a midnight cuddle session is worth skipping a few minutes of sleep any day – and it might be more restorative to your soul.
To Sleep With Or Not To Sleep With
Personally, I’m a light sleeper, so I already know I’m going to be awake a dozen times every night. Being able to glance over and see my dog all cozy in her bed, cuddling her cat BFF and her favorite stuffed toys helps me get back to sleep with sweet dreams on my mind.
In your dog’s world, sleeping together is normal pack behavior. It means you’re family. Have you ever watched a litter of puppies? They love to snuggle! In your dog’s world, snuggles equal love, warmth, and devotion.
You can make the personal choice to allow your dog to sleep in your bedroom in their own bed, or in bed with you. Giving your dog the freedom to choose both options is ideal. My dog prefers to sleep in her own bed nearby. She’s a husky, and cuddling two humans and a few cats at night can get hot for her. She also sometimes chooses to sleep with one of my children, especially if one is sick or feeling down. But it gives me immense pleasure to know that most often, she chooses to rest her head where she can feel my presence. We comfort each other. We protect each other. We love each other. And that’s what it’s all about.
If you’re not sure about co-sleeping with your dog, remember, from your dog’s standpoint, sleeping together is just a normal part of pack life. Dogs often “cuddle” or lie near each other for warmth and comfort. Therefore, cuddling with you is just another way for them to say “I love you.”
The choice is ultimately up to you. Do what works best for you and your dog. Your dog doesn’t judge you, and neither will we.