Is Sleeping With Pets Bad?
Co-sleeping with pets isn’t an altogether ‘unpopular’ concept among pet owners. According to surveys, nearly half of all dogs sleep in their owner’s beds, and more than 60 percent of cats do the same. 13 percent of cats even sleep with children!
But is all of this animal co-sleeping a bad thing?
As it turns out, there are good points and bad points. A lot of people do it, and it makes them very happy. But it can also pose a few health concerns that may be important to be aware of.
Here’s a look at the key issues.
Pet Allergies: Do You Have Them?
This is the first question that you should ask yourself before you allow your furry friend to sleep in the same bed as you.
According to doctors, people who suffer from pet allergies or asthma should probably not allow their pets into their bed. In fact, it is actually recommended that people with animal allergies don’t allow their pets into their bedrooms at all.
Of course, for people who simply don’t see this as an option, there are also ways to help overcome the dangers. You can use an air filter to keep pet dander out of the air, and you can even get allergy shots to help you build up a tolerance to it.
What About The Benefits Of Sleeping With Pets?
On the other side of the coin, there are also a lot of really good reasons to let your pets sleep with you. In fact, the US National Institutes of Health actually released a statement that said ‘people who share their beds with pets experience more benefits than drawbacks from the practice.’
And some of these benefits are quite surprising!
For example, sleeping with a dog is good for your heart. The sounds a dog makes while sleeping help to lower stress and promote relaxation in humans. Dogs also help to keep you warm, and definitely create happiness for their owners. In fact, petting a dog literally causes your brain to release serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin. These are all ‘love hormones,’ and they actually contribute to a better night’s rest!
What About All Of That ‘Moving Around?’
Yes, pets also love to move around while cuddling in bed—and some experts are citing this as yet another reason not to let them sleep with you.
Dogs take up space… especially big dogs. And if they move around, jump, snuggle aggressively, or take up too much room, you can end up suffering from insomnia and/or fragmented sleep as a result.
And this effect can be increased when you sleep with more than one pet at the same time.
Dogs can also suffer from sleep loss while co-sleeping with humans. The biggest difference between you and your dog, however, is that it is a lot easier for your dog to catch up on lost sleep than you.
But dogs are not the only animals that can hurt your sleep routine. Cats are notorious for sleeping all day, and letting out all of their pent-up energy at night. Cats may jump, race around, meow, prod, snore, and scratch to get your attention while you are trying to sleep… which can leave you tired and exhausted the next day. One study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic, found that more than 20 percent of patients who sleep with their pets report that their sleep is disturbed in the process.
What About Just Having Your Pet In The Room?
One interesting study showed that people who kept their dogs in their bedroom experienced better quality sleep than those who didn’t. But this also only went to a certain point… because the same study showed that people who snuggled with their pet in bed actually suffered from a lower quality of sleep.
The study was conducted by attaching devices to participants to measure their sleep quality.
The lead researcher explained this outcome by saying that ‘most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption. We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets. Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home.’ As it turns out, it is official… science says that having pets in your room while you sleep can actually make you sleep better!
Is Sleeping With Dogs An Evolutionary Comfort Mechanism?
It is not so surprising that humans would desire the company of a dog (or some other pet) while sleeping. If you think about it, humans are not the ‘strongest’ creatures while they are sleeping.
We have excellent day vision, but very poor night-vision. This puts us at a disadvantage during the night. Plus, our natural biological clocks cause us to naturally want to sleep during the night instead of during the day.
It is not really surprising at all that our ancient ancestors domesticated dogs. Some say that it is even possible that dogs are responsible for helping humans to make it to the ‘top of the food chain’ on our planet, due to the fact that they complement us so well with senses that are much more ‘at home’ in the dark. Without domesticated dogs, humans would have been a lot more vulnerable to predators like bears, lions, wolves, and other large carnivores.
So if you rest a bit easier at night with your dog in the room (or in your bed), you may be able to thank your evolutionary descendants (as well as those of your dog). Dogs used to sleep with humans to protect them and keep them safe through the night.
It is little wonder, then, that we feel so much more at ease when our pets lie with us as we rest. All of this just goes to show that humans certainly feel safer while sleeping with their dogs… and this is a positive that can’t be totally ignored.
So, What Is The Best Course Of Action? Should You Let Your Pet Sleep With You?
Is it a bad decision to sleep with pets?
This is a question that goes both ways, depending on what you’re looking for. Of course, we can see that there are both upsides and downsides to it… so maybe the real question that we should be asking is this.
Is it better for me to sleep with my pets, or to kick them out and sleep alone?
Some people may benefit more from having their pets with them. The benefits may outweigh the negatives so much that the answer, for them, is really a no-brainer.
But on the other side of the coin, there are people who actually suffer when they let their pets sleep in their bed (animal allergies and fragmented sleep/disturbed sleep being the biggest culprits).
There are also a few other things to consider, such as cleanliness. If your cat uses the litter box and then climbs into bed with you, you may get some litter-box matter in your sheets.
But… you will also benefit from the soothing sounds of your cat purring as you drift off to sleep.
In the end, this is a question that every pet owner must answer for themselves. Do you get enough sleep when your pet is in the bed? Do you feel comfortable? Do you wake up often, or find yourself tossing, turning, snoring, or wheezing?
If your animals disturb your rest more than they help it, then you may want to let them out before turning in.
But if you don’t see any immediate negative results… you may actually be benefiting more than suffering.