To sleep with your dog…or not sleep with your dog – that is the question.
If you survey dog owners, you’ll get varying responses. Some sleep with their dog in their room while others prefer their dog snuggled up in bed with them. And others still do not allow their dog to sleep in their room at all. So who is right? And are there down or upsides to sleeping with your dog?
To decide for yourself if there are enough benefits to sleeping with your dog to make it a habit for you, let’s see what a recent study on this topic showed.
The Mayo Clinic Results
The Mayo Clinic conducted a small study where participants slept with a dog either in their room or in their bed. Both the participants and dogs wore motion tracking devices for seven nights. Afterwards, the participants answered questions about the quality of their sleep and where their dogs spent the night. The good news is that having a dog sleep in the bedroom didn’t seem to worsen the quality of sleep. On average, those with a dog in their bedroom had a sleep efficiency of 83%, where 80% is considered adequate.
Those with a dog in their bed, however, had a lower sleep efficiency – 80%. And while considered satisfactory, these participants noted waking up more often than those with a dog elsewhere in the room. Sleeping with a human partner didn’t have the same impact – presumably because humans learn to accommodate the needs of their bed partner in a way that dogs do not.
So depending on the way you look at this, you may consider sleeping with your dog detrimental to good sleep. But not so fast….are there benefits that many have experienced from sleeping with a dog? You bet.
The Upside of Sleeping With a Dog
Another study came to the conclusion that most people who slept with a dog (or cat) experienced more benefits than drawbacks. As long as people could tolerate potential smell and hair in the bed and were not woken up by noise or movement, co-sleeping worked.
Potential benefits include:
Comfort and relaxation
Owners have shared that snuggling with their dog after a long or hard day gives them great comfort. Many even find the gentle snores of their dog soothing, especially if they are home alone. Can the rhythmic breathing of your dog help relax enough to fall asleep? Many dog owners think so. If curling up with your dog can help you avoid insomnia or having to rely on a sleeping pill, it might be worth a shot. A UK study showed that one of the best ways to calm down is by being with a dog.
Dogs can provide a natural heater – their body temps are typically three to six degrees higher than our own. Particularly if you live in a colder climate, having your dog sleep in bed with you can help you to keep warm through the night. They will warm up your bed quickly and stay at a constant, cozy temperature.
Sharing your bed with a dog provides extra reassurance that no matter how deeply you sleep, the dog’s super sensitive hearing will pick up concerning noises the night. And if you feel less fearful when you lay down to sleep, you will likely rest easier.
Pain relief and stress
The University of Missouri-Columbia found that sleeping with your dog also causes a drop in cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and stimulates oxytocin, a chemical associated with pain relief. Oxytocin lessons the symptoms of pain and discomfort.
Aside from everything already mentioned that helps people on their way to sleep, there is also evidence that sleeping with a dog also boosts a chemical a body needs for sleep. The study from the University of Missouri-Columbia mentioned above has shown that getting close with your dog releases of a number of “feel good” hormones, including serotonin. Seratonin is a chemical essential to regulating sleep. So simply sleeping with your dog gives you more of what your body needs for producing sleep.
The Drawbacks to Sleeping With A Dog
You’ve heard the positives, but there are some negatives with co-sleeping with your dog. Many of these are dependent on the specific person and dog – so not all people will experience each of them. And some may experience none of the drawbacks.
Potential drawbacks include:
Dogs don’t always lay down for the night and stay still. You may find your dog sleeps for 30 minutes, then walks around the bed before settling to sleep again. When surveyed, pet owners have shared that their sleep is disrupted in some way on a regular basis. Unless you can train your dog to lay still and quiet all night, this is a likely risk.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you suffer from breathing difficulties or allergies you should make your bedroom a pet-free zone. Even having a HEPA air filter is not enough – physicians recommend keeping your dog out of your bed if you have allergies or asthma, regardless of the severity. As well, dogs can bring in dirt and bacteria from outdoors and introduce it to your bed. Unless you’re planning to bathe your dog every day, some of it will end up on your sheets.
You’ve likely heard this one before: sleeping with a dog in the bed can impact your love life. If your partner prefers the dog sleep elsewhere, your insistence that the dog stay could lead to arguments (which in itself could cause sleeping problems!). Elizabeth and Charles Schmitz, authors of “Golden Anniversaries: The Seven Secrets of Successful Marriage,” caution that pets should not be permitted to physically come between a couple at night.
Dominance and aggression issues
If your dog already displays aggression or is highly protective of you, having him/her sleep with you may not be a good idea. A dog needs to know its position in the pack and should be told where to sleep in the bed and when it can get on the bed. This will discourage territorialism and aggressive behavior.
Conclusion…are you convinced either way?
As mentioned above, sleeping with a dog is good for your mental health so if the root cause of your insomnia is worries or anxiety you can beat these symptoms by just having your furry friend crawl under the blankets with you.
At the end of the day, this is really is a personal choice. For many of you, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. For some of you, there are dealbreakers, such as a spouse that feels differently or asthma that isn’t going away anytime soon. If you enjoy sleeping with your dog and sleep well, there’s no reason to stop sharing your bed – especially if you sleep better, feel safer and are more relaxed.
If you’ve got experiences with co-sleeping with pets, we’d love to hear what you think – please comment below.