Do you snuggle up at night with your beloved pet? Is your bed a nightly tangle of two and four-legged creatures jostling for space and just the right amount of blanket? If so, you’re in plenty of company (and not just in that crowded bed). Estimates suggest at least half or more of dog and cat owners sleep with their pets at least some of the time.
Pets provide warm and wonderful companionship and comfort, and there’s not much question about their cuddling capabilities. But how do pets affect our sleep? As much as you might enjoy drifting off with your loyal mutt by your side, is it a good thing for your nightly rest?
Recent research suggests that many pet owners’ sleep suffers when they share their beds with their animals. Among pet owners who shared their beds or bedrooms with animals more than four nights a week, more than half—63 percent—experienced poor sleep quality. Five percent of these frequent pet co-sleepers said that after having their sleep interrupted by their pets, they always, or nearly always, had trouble falling back to sleep. Other recent research found that pet co-sleepers took longer to fall asleep, and were more likely to feel tired upon waking.
But what about the calming effect that animals have for many people? The soothing presence of a beloved pet sleeping nearby may enhance some people’s sleep, helping them relax and drift off more easily. Many sleep experts acknowledge these possible benefits. But this same attachment can also make it tougher to separate from a co-sleeping arrangement that isn’t working. The toughest challenge for pet owners who enjoy the experience of with their animals may be in admitting what effects their pets’ presence has on their sleep.
A few things to keep in mind:
If you’re allergic, have your pet sleep elsewhere. Even a mild allergy may disrupt the soundness of your sleep when your dog or cat is in the room. For pet owners with allergies, pet-free nights are probably a good idea, and a necessary break from the allergen, however cute that furry family member may be.
Make sure you and your partner agree. As devoted as you may be to the animals in your family, your sleep and your partner’s sleep come first. If one of you is even a little unsure about pets in the bedroom, experts suggest you agree to keep your shared sleeping space pet free.
Be honest with yourself. Do you wake, even briefly, during the night in response to noise or movement from your pets? Does having your pet sleep the night in your bedroom contribute to waking early? These are signals to take seriously, ones that suggest your sleep could benefit from sleeping without your pet in the room.
If you’re really torn, try sleeping for one week without your pets in bed or in the bedroom. If you notice improvements to how well you sleep through the night, or how you feel during the day, it may be time to say goodnight to your pets at the bedroom door.