It can be tempting to snuggle up with your pet each night, but is sleeping with pets healthy? Are there any real risks to you or your pet? How can co-sleeping with a dog or cat affect your relationship with your significant other, if you have one?
Experts agree that there are pros and cons to sleeping with pets. Read on to learn more.
Health Benefits of Sleeping with Pets
If you are in the habit of sleeping with pets, you’re not alone. According to a survey from the American Kennel Club, 45% of dog owners allow their dogs to share their beds. Cats are even more likely to sleep with their human companions: A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association showed that 13% of cats preferred to sleep with their families’ children, and 62% of felines opted to snooze alongside adult members of the household.
Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Chicago’s Northshore Sleep Medicine, says that there are “all kinds of medical benefits to having a pet.” While she recommends that those who have difficulty sleeping may want to keep pets out of their bedrooms, others may find that sharing a bed with a dog brings feelings of calm. This is great news for those who suffer from anxiety or stress since touching and cuddling with pets increases oxytocin levels in the brain and encourages positive emotions.
Cats and dogs help keep us warm; in fact, the term “three dog night” comes from the chilliest reaches of Canada, where before central heating was common, people routinely took dogs to bed with them as a way to stay warm during long, cold winters. If you’re using your pet as a natural “electric blanket,” consider lowering your thermostat slightly to make up for the added heat and increase your ability to enjoy a deep sleep.
Sleeping with pets or just having your dog in your room can help you feel safe and secure. Since even small dogs are experts at sensing danger, we automatically feel safer when they’re around. That sense of enhanced security can lead to deeper, more restful sleep so long as your dog isn’t disturbing you.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Sleep with your Pet
While sleeping with pets is perfectly healthy for most people, there are some very good reasons why certain individuals should keep pets out of their beds, or even out of their bedrooms altogether — and there are certain pets that shouldn’t share beds with their guardians.
- Infants and very young children are at a greater risk of illness than adults are, and sleeping with pets can pose a smothering risk just like soft pillows and stuffed animals can. Since a blocked airway can lead to tragic consequences, it’s important to wait until the kids are older to allow them to sleep with their favorite pets.
- People with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting illnesses from pet-borne pathogens, so sleeping with pets is not advised if you are sick or if you have a weaker immune system.
- Certain types of pets are at risk of being smothered or crushed if you try to have them sleep with you.
According to Derek Damin of Louisville, Kentucky’s Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, those who suffer from asthma or pet allergies shouldn’t sleep with their pets, or even allow them in their bedrooms. He goes on to say that allergy shots are an alternative to kicking pets out of the bedroom, so long as your pet doesn’t disturb your sleep. He himself sleeps alongside a miniature dachshund.
There are other good reasons not to allow your pet to sleep with you: Pets can be terrible bed hogs, they have a tendency to snore, and they can be very disruptive. Pets that interrupt your sleep aren’t doing you any favors and if you feel resentment toward them, the bond between you will suffer.
If you sleep with a partner and one of you dislikes co-sleeping with a pet, then the pet needs to sleep somewhere else. Additionally, dogs and cats are notorious for interfering with romantic interludes. It’s a good idea to send them away when it’s time for intimacy, even if they’re normally allowed to sleep with you.
What to Do When Sleeping with your Pet Isn’t an Option
If you have a condition such as sleep apnea or if you share your life with a pet that interrupts your rest, it’s very important to find an alternative. For dogs, especially big ones, the next-best thing to your bed is a comfortable and cozy dog crate, perhaps in the bedroom or in a common area that’s warm and familiar. Crates satisfy a dog’s natural denning instinct and when crate training is properly undertaken, many canine companions come to view their crates as a preferred napping spot, even during the day.
Cats enjoy sleeping in a warm, draft-free locations off the ground. Close your bedroom door to keep them from accompanying you to bed and if they’re disruptively meowing or scratching outside, settle them in a separate room with access to food, foraging toys, a good view out the window, and litter until they’ve become accustomed to sleeping without you. However, if you are choosing not to let your kitty stay in the bed with you because they are a heavy breather, this may be a result of underlying issues, so it’s worth bringing it up with your veterinarian.
Tips for Sleeping with Pets
If you decide to enjoy the many benefits of sleeping with pets, then the two of you are likely to build a stronger emotional bond, particularly if you spend most of the day apart.
- Create firm boundaries so that your pet doesn’t take up more space than you’d like them to have, and so they don’t wake you up looking for treats or extra playtime. If sleeping with a pet is making you feel uncomfortable or if it’s causing you to miss out on the deep, restful sleep you need, then it’s time to come up with an alternative to sharing the bed.
- Additionally, protect your health by ensuring that your pet is parasite-free. Even though it’s rare for pets to transmit diseases to their human family members, it’s important to take precautions like ensuring that vaccines and worming are performed on schedule. Be sure to use appropriate flea products too, since fleas will happily bite you if you’re sleeping alongside an infested pet.
- Pick a mattress with good motion isolation so that your pet’s movements won’t be as likely to disturb you during the night, and be sure that it’s large enough to accommodate everyone including adults, pets, and any kids that might seek comfort during the night.
- Last but not least, set the stage for restful sleep by creating a daytime routine that includes adequate play and plenty of exercise so that your pet will be ready to spend the night sleeping peacefully alongside you.