If you read our recent post about sleep divorce, you know co-sleeping with a (human) partner does not always lead to high-quality sleep. But where do your furry friends fit into the mix? If you’re one of the nearly 85 million households in the U.S. (a whopping 67% of homes) who have at least one pet, chances are this topic has come up at some point. So we’ve broken down the risks, benefits and some helpful tips about sharing your bed with pets. Read on so you can decide if letting your fur baby cuddle up with you at night is a sweet dream or more of a nightmare.
One disadvantage of co-sleeping with your pet pertains to sleep quality. A 2020 study which looked specifically at women who shared the bed with their dogs found that having a dog in the bed was directly correlated with an increase in human movement—and potential sleep disturbances and awakenings—during sleep periods. Although some of the participants noted not being fully awakened in the night by their pups, their quality of sleep was diminished due to the increased movement. Similarly, since cats are nocturnal, they’re less likely to settle down on the bed for the entire night. Their coming and going could have the same effect as the movement in the study mentioned above. Many people also suffer from pet allergies, and having the dander from their skin and fur in such close proximity to you at bedtime could aggravate any existing allergies, disrupting your ability to fall or stay asleep. Another concern pertains to the potential for injury. Whether your four legged-friends mean to or not, their elevated position on the bed could pose a risk to you or small children. Acting possessive over the space or being startled while sleeping may cause them to nip or scratch. Lastly, there is a low risk of pets bringing diseases or infections (mainly fleas, ticks, ringworm and some other bacteria) into bed to pass on to their owners. Pets should receive routine shots and treatments as recommended by your veterinarian to help prevent any such occurrence. Luckily, it seems that the benefits of sleeping with your cat and/or do outweigh the risks.
The emotional benefits of letting pets cozy up at night may be enough to sway you. There is evidence to show that having a close bond with your dog increases your oxytocin levels, which can lead to better REM sleep. (We can assume if you have a close bond with your cat, the same would apply). Individuals suffering from PTSD or other disorders that affect sleep also showed a decrease in nightmares when they slept with their pets, adding to their overall comfort and actually improving their sleep quality. Other mental and physical benefits include lowered blood pressure from being around (and sleeping with) your pets, an increased sense of security with their presence, companionship to combat loneliness (likely for both you and your pet) and of course added warmth on a cool night.
Still haven’t decided if designating space on the bed for your cat or dog is the right call for you? Hopefully the takeaways below will help:
● Keep up-to-date with all flea, tick and worm treatments
● Make sure to take dogs out for a walk before bedtime to discourage any unwanted wake-ups
● Leave the bedroom door open so cats and dogs can come and go without having to scratch at the door
● Avoid co-sleeping if you have severe allergies or are immune-compromised
● Change and clean your sheets regularly