Is Sleeping with a Pet Beneficial to Your Health?
A recent study by the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona reported some people may benefit from sharing a bed with a pet. The study looked at 74 pet owners – 56 percent of whom allow their pets in the bedroom with them. Of those, 41 percent believe sleeping with their pet is beneficial to sleep.
A good night's sleep does more than leave you feeling well-rested. It plays an important role in overall immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and more.
Strengthen Your Bond by Sharing Your Bed
Dr. Ken Tudor, former Veterinary Medical Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture, believes the benefits of sharing a bed with a dog stem from our evolutionary partnership. Domestication of the wild dog undoubtedly included the animals joining "man at the campfire and later snuggling closely with him for mutual warmth."
In addition to reporting better sleep, respondents also noted a greater sense of security. This could be from the simple reassuring presence of another warm body or because pets often double as protectors who will alert their owners to intruders. Dr. Tudor emphasizes that being in consistent proximity with an animal fosters bonding and a more intimate relationship.
"Some people find that sleeping with their animal helps them feel cozy," said Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the center. "One woman said her two small dogs warmed her bed. Another person felt her cat who was touching her during the night was comforting and soothing."
Results May Vary
Although the majority of pet-owning respondents reported sharing their bedroom with their pets, another 20 percent admitted that bed-hogging, snoring, or moving around can be disruptive.
Interrupted sleep has been linked to preventing slow-wave sleep and a worse mood than non-interrupted sleepers upon waking. The Mayo Clinic advises patients who have sleep concerns to inquire about whether or not their sleep environment should be shared with a companion animal.
"I think from a sleep standpoint, multiple pets increase the risk of bad sleep," said Krahn.