Does your best friend have fur? If so, like millions of other Americans you know the joys and drawbacks of pet ownership. According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 67% (84.9 million) of U.S. households have a pet. Most pet owners are familiar with the ways their pets affect their lives while they’re awake, but far less attention is paid to how pets impact sleep. Almost 50% of dogs and 62% of cats sleep in their owner’s beds, and these pet owners need to be aware of how that may be impacting their own sleep. Your pet can enhance your sleep quality through promoting regular exercise and combatting depression and stress. However, sharing a bed tends to cause more sleep disturbances, especially if your pet tends to snore or move around at night.
Simply owning a pet can help out with mental health and sleep. Pet owners are better at handling stress and tend to experience fewer feelings of depression and anxiety than people without pets. This has two positive consequences for sleep:
- Stress is associated with high levels of cortisol in the brain. Being stressed can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep and hurt sleep quality. Conversely, lower stress levels correlate to better sleep.
- Depression affects the mechanisms in the brain that regulate sleep. Combatting depression promotes better sleep, and spending time with pets can help prevent or reduce symptoms of depression.
Exercise can have a similar significant impact on sleep wellness. It promotes deep sleep and mental relaxation, although the exact relationship between exercise and sleep is still being researched. Pets help their owners get more exercise, especially dog owners who do 200 minutes more of activity per week than average.
We love our pets, but our bodies might not be loving us for sleeping with them! Depending on your personal lifestyle habits and pet’s behavior, sleeping with your pet can be hit or miss for sleep quality. A recent Mayo Clinic study reflects that sleeping with a pet is harmless as long as the owner and pet are both healthy and sound sleepers. However, the study also revealed that dog owners were achieving less-than-ideal (81%) sleep efficiency with their pets in the bed. In sum, your pet can enhance your sleep by lowering stress when in the bedroom, but sharing a bed can increase sleep disruption.
There are several groups of people who should not be sleeping with their pets. First and most obviously, if you have health issues or allergies brought on or made worse by your pet, you should not sleep in the same room as them. Parents should make sure their children are healthy and can handle the responsibility before allowing them to sleep with pets. That means the child exhibits safe and appropriate behaviors around the pet so they can be trusted alone with it. Also, if you are struggling with sleep or have a sleep disorder, it is recommended to keep your pets out of your bedroom. Any potential disruption from a pet can make treatment and management of sleep problems that much harder.
Pet owners know how great having an animal companion is with a routine that works for both pet and owner. Whether you have a new pet getting settled into your household or a long-time furry friend who disrupts your sleep, it’s never too late to make behavioral adjustments if need be. Your bed is yours, and you can reclaim it at any time for you and/or your partner in the name of sleep. No matter who you’re slumbering next to, Somnology wants to help get you the best night’s sleep possible!