Sleeping with pets isn’t unusual in this country. According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, nearly half of dogs sleep in their owner’s beds. The survey found that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners.
The survey also found that 62% of cats sleep with their adult owners, and another 13% of cats sleep with children.
Scientists recently examined an age-old question: Is it OK to let your pets sleep in your room?
They looked specifically at the question of "whether a pet in the bedroom or bed disturbs sleep." The researchers studied 40 pet owners who did not have a sleep disorder.
The results indicate that "sleeping with pets helps some people sleep better ─ no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane," Mayo Clinic News Network reports.
But there's a catch: "Don’t let your pets crawl under the covers with you. The sleep benefit extends only to having pets in your bedroom ─ not in your bed. According to the study, adults who snuggled up to their pets in bed sacrificed quality sleep."
“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” said Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study. “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. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”
Is It Healthy to Sleep with Pets?
So is it healthy to have your dog sleeping in your bed? Derek Damin of Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Louisville, Ky., says people who suffer from pet allergies or asthma should not sleep with their dog or cat or even allow them in the bedroom.
Snoring, Kicking, Cover-Hogging Pets
Which brings up another problem with sharing the bed with a pet -- they can disturb your sleep. A study released by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that about half the patients in the study had a dog or cat, and 53% of those pet owners said their pets disturbed their sleep in some way nightly.
"I’ve had patients that I’ve spent visit after visit going over their insomnia problems, trying to figure out what’s happening, then I find out they have a dog that’s scratching all night," says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine, a sleep center outside Chicago,
Shives recommends that people who have difficulty sleeping consider keeping pets out of the bedroom.
Can Pets Help Sleep?
But for people with no problem falling or staying asleep, Shives says it’s fine to allow a dog or cat in the bed.
"There are all kinds of medical benefits to having a pet," says Shives, who sleeps with her 45-pound dog. "And some people might feel safer or calmer with a dog in their bed."
So snuggle up and sweet dreams.