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Can Sleeping with Your Pets Be Bad for Your Health?

by BetterSleep
May 30 • 4 min read

Sleeping with pets can be a controversial topic. While some people wouldn’t dream of kicking their furry babies out of the bedroom—or the bed—others can’t imagine sleeping well with a dog or cat. For some it doesn’t even seem sanitary. Well science does have some answers for us, and the good news is that for most people, sleeping with their pets is just fine.

Why we sleep with pets?

There are plenty of good reasons to let your dog or cat share the bed or at least bedroom with you. They can provide a sense of security, warmth, comfort, and relief from stress or anxiety. Studies show that time spent with dogs lowers a person’s heart rate and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Many pet owners spend a lot of time outside of the house. So being able to maximize quality time spent with your dog or cat when you are home is another valid reason you may want them in bed with you at night.

Dogs, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality

A recent study has (mostly) good news for animal lovers who want to keep their furry friends in the bedroom. Reported by the Mayo Clinic, the study used the criteria of ‘’sleep efficiency’’ to determine any impact dogs have on the quality of their owners’ sleep. Sleep efficiency is the amount of time a person is actually asleep when in bed. A rating between 85 and 90 percent is optimal, but any score above 80 is considered to be good.

The researchers followed the sleep and movement patterns of 40 healthy participants and their dogs. They found that having a dog in the bedroom, but not in the bed, did not significantly impact sleep efficiency. When dogs actually slept in the bed efficiency dropped, but only to 80 percent which is still well within the boundaries of good sleep.

While this seems to answer the question once and for all, there is more to the story. The researchers also found that a dog in the bed causes people to wake up more often in the night. Even if overall sleep efficiency isn’t much changed, this choppy sleep pattern can be detrimental to overall sleep quality.

Five potted plants and cactus with flowers

Who shouldn’t sleep with pets

Whether or not sleeping with pets is harmful to sleep quality and duration is an individual matter. Some people sleep better than others. Generally, if you don’t sleep well with your dog or cat, it’s probably time to transition them to their own bed on the floor.

In addition to sleep quality and efficiency, pet owners may worry about their health with a pet in such close proximity. One study found that there are some people at a greater risk of getting sick from their pets sleeping in the bed. Some of the reported diseases transmitted to humans from their pets include Staphylococcus and other bacterial infections, parasites like hookworm and Chagas disease. Anyone with a compromised immune system, such as young children, the elderly, and adults with HIV, should not have animals in the bed with them.

Sleeping better with pets

If you do struggle to sleep with your pet in the bed but want to keep him there, try some bedtime routines. You may have little control over your cat’s routine, but with a dog you can integrate him into your pre-sleep activities. For instance, try using a bedtime reminder such as the one on the BetterSleep app to signal when it’s time to go to bed.

A steady bedtime routine is good for your sleep patterns, but it can also help your pet get on the same schedule. Dogs especially respond well to routines, so try making him a part of it and see if you both get a better night’s sleep.

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