Categories: Wellness

Both you and your pet benefit from sleeping in bed together

Is there anything better than cuddling up with a cat or dog to catch some z’s?

According to CNN, both you and your pet are benefitting from this shared sleep routine. “In general, it is a very good thing for animals to sleep with their people,” Dr Dana Varble, the chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community, says. The reason? Those pets typically 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.” Plus, “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.

On the flip side, some pet owners have been advised not to sleep in bed with pets because of “microawakenings,” which could cause people to wake up. “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. This can cause a problem as these mini sleep interruptions “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.”

Benefits of sleeping in bed together with your pet

Credit: Rafal Jedrzejek/Unsplash

However, pets actually do help some people fall asleep, and that’s true in both adults and children. “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. A 2021 study also showed that kids who slept next to a pet had similar sleep patterns to those who didn’t sleep alongside their beloved cat or dog. “All of this suggests that having pets in the bed or bedroom is not necessarily bad,” said Dr Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist in the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “There can be significant psychological comfort in having your pet close by, which can help both initiate and maintain sleep.”

Michael Breus, clinical psychologist, sleep specialist, and the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, says to try out sleeping with your pet in bed for just a couple of nights at first to ensure that they don’t get conditioned from the start. Then you can assess if this sleep style would work. “Dogs are usually good for an entire night but cats can be very nocturnal,” Breus said, also noting that how “much you both move, as a movement by the animal can wake the human and vice versa.”

There are some factors that health experts note to keep in mind before trying out this sleep method. Those who experience insomnia should avoid sleeping alongside a pet, as Dr Polotsky said it “will not necessarily predispose or precipitate insomnia, but it might perpetuate it.” Plus, Dr Dasgupta says that people living with asthma should reconsider, even if their pet doesn’t shed. “I tell them, ‘Yes, but remember, allergens are in saliva, they are in the dog’s skin. So you’re gonna be exposed to allergens for eight hours at night and suffer watery eyes and a stuffy nose. That, along with the animal’s movement, could well prevent you from getting some good sleep,'” he noted. Otherwise, “young puppies or dogs that are working through behaviour issues — it might not be good for them to sleep with you,” Dr Varble said. “If you have a dog with anxiety, we teach that kennels are a safe space.” And you’ll want to provide safe spaces for other pets, too. “I work with exotic pets, and a lot of them have very specific health and safety requirements, including being in an enclosure,” Dr Varble added. “So while I know people who are very close to their ferrets and their guinea pigs, they need to be in their enclosure for their health at night. Those are not animals that we would want to have in bed with us.”

This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Tony Garcia / Getty Images)

© 2021 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Licensed from MarthaStewart.com and published with permission of Meredith Corporation. Reproduction in any manner in any language in whole or in part without prior written permission is prohibited.

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