Pet owners are a passionate bunch – there’s not too much they won’t do for their furry companions. They buy them birthday gifts, dress them up in costumes and take portraits of them with Santa. Many fur parents also allow their pets to sleep in the bed with them.
A survey by the American Pet Products Association, nearly 50% of dog owners share their space with a canine. And it’s clear size matters – 62% of small dogs sleep with their masters, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large ones. For felines, 62% sleep with adult owners and 13% opt to curl up next to children.
While many Americans see their pets as part of their families, there’s a legitimate concern that dogs and cats are disruptive to sleep. About a third of pet owners said that their pets woke them up at least once per night. More than 60% of respondents in one study reported poor sleep quality when they share their bed with pets for more than four nights a week.
Sleeping with a pet is concerning because of the long list of health repercussions due to a lack of sleep, from higher rates of heart disease and depression to poor decision making and irritability. And there’s also a risk of becoming ill because of our pets – fleas, parasites, bacteria or viral infections and roundworm, to name a few. But it’s rare and uncommon for humans to catch something from their pets. Most healthy people may be able to manage with such exposure, but anyone with allergies or a compromised immune system should ban their animal companions from their beds.
“Many of my sleep clients love snuggling with their pets but report that they are often woken up by their pets in the middle of the night,” Elika Kormeili, a California-based psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and depression. “These disruptions can be wandering around, snoring, barking, whimpering, or needing to be taken out to relive themselves. This may be an underlying factor to a client’s insomnia.”
Part of the problem is that some animals are naturally nocturnal. They can be playful by day and still active at night. “Their sleep habits are different than ours, so for a better night sleep, keep your lovable pets out of your bedroom,” suggests Kormeili. “Likely your pet won’t like the change but you will be healthier, more rested and more productive in the long run.”
For some animal owners, a bit of lost sleep pales in comparison given the benefits of having a pet snoozing nearby. It’s comforting, provides company and a sense of security for many people. The Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic in Arizona, did their own research and found that 41% of pet parents said that their dog or cat were unobtrusive or beneficial to their sleep.
If you’re going to cuddle up with your dog or cat no matter what experts might say about sleep disruption or potential for illness, just your pet is healthy. Take them for regular checkups to the vet, keep their vaccinations up to date, and pay attention to their dental health. You’d also be wise not to allow sloppy, wet kisses with your animals and wash your hands vigorously with soap under running water after changing a cat’s litter box or cleaning up after your dog does his business.
Clearly, it’s a personal choice. You may be willing to sacrifice sleep for companionship. Or you may value sleep above all else. But pet owners may want to consider a middle ground and allow animals to sleep in their own beds in your bedroom. A soft and cozy pet bed nearby will appeal to your dog or cat. Add some favorite toys to make it extra inviting.
Pets snuggle up to their owners, not out of love. They crave your body warmth. Consider adding a heat source to their pet beds. You can buy ones that you plug in or you can put a heating pad under their blankets. Just ensure it doesn’t get too hot. A bit of warmth is enough to help them – and you – have a sweet night of slumber.
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