Sharing Your Bed with Pets: Good or Bad for Your Health?
Many of us share our sleep haven with our pets, but is co-sleeping with furry family members beneficial to our health? And how does sharing a sleeping space with a cat or dog affect our level of happiness?
According to the CDC, more than 60% of Americans have pets, and roughly half of those pet owners share their bed with their furry buddies, while around 20% of them provide a crate for their four-legged friends, and a little over 10% offer their pets a special bed of their own.
Now that we’ve covered how trendy it seems to be to share your bed with a pet, let’s take a look at the facts of pet co-sleeping, including the benefits and risks, as well as some tips for setting boundaries for successful bedroom cohabitation with furry friends.
How Much Sleep Does Your Pet Need?
You most likely already know that you should be getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep at night to stay happy and healthy, but what about your furry friends? Before we get into the pros and cons of co-sleeping with your pets, let’s talk about just how much rest your furry buddy needs each night.
Much like us, the sleep needs of pets can be unique, but there are some good indicators of how much sleep your pet requires, based upon their species and size, health and habits, and their specific environment.
Dogs typically sleep around 14 hours per day, with bigger breeds sleeping more than their smaller counterparts, and puppies (much like human babies) needing even more sleep to support their growth and development.
Our canine companions also experience stages of sleep, just like we do, and even have dreams during their deepest stage of sleep. They can also suffer from a lack of sleep with a variety of symptoms, just like humans do, but they tend to need much less deep sleep than we do to feel tip-top.
Cats tend to sleep much more frequently than dogs do, and they average right around 15 to 20 hours of snooze time a day. Kittens and elderly cats need even more sleep than that, but all cats are nocturnal critters, meaning they are most active later in the evening. Ah, to live the life of a spoiled feline friend!
Healthy Reasons to Co-Sleep with Pets
Although some people have found it can take longer to fall asleep when sharing their bed with furry family members, there seem to be even more beneficial reasons to open your sleep haven up to pets. Check out the healthiest benefits of co-sleeping with pets.
1. You’ll Build a Better Bond
If you just got a new pet or you’re looking to increase the bond between you and your pet, allowing them to share your bed is a great way to make the two of you feel closer in a hurry. Remember that your pet is happiest when close to you, and if you work a traditional schedule, your pup or kitty most likely spends the day on their lonesome, meaning that they’ll feel more as if they’re part of the pack when they get to sleep with you at night.
2. You’ll Feel Less Stressed
Pets promote a feeling of calming relief, so it should come as no real surprise that many pet owners report feeling less anxious or depressed when sleeping with a pet. Simply petting a cat or dog has been shown to increase levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin in the brain and a pet’s reassuring presence can help to ward off insomnia.
3. You’ll Get Added Warmth and Comfort
A pet’s body heat and rhythmic breathing can give you an extra sense of comfort and warmth when you allow them to share your bed, and this can go a long way to help lull you to sleep. Think of your pet as an all-natural electric blanket! Just be sure to lower the thermostat to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid becoming overheated at night.
4. You’ll Feel More Secure
Sharing your bed with a four-legged family member can help you to feel safer at night, especially if you’re sleeping with a pooch. Many people have reported that co-sleeping with their dog makes them feel more secure, and can even make for a great substitute bed partner for single folks or when a significant other is out of town.
Possible Pet Co-Sleeping Concerns
We’ve talked about how popular sleeping with pets is amongst many Americans and how sharing your bed with a furry friend can actually be good for your health. But what about the flip side of the coin? Let’s take a look at some possible sleep disturbances that can be caused by sleeping with pets.
1. Added Aggravation to Asthma or Allergies
If you’re one of the many Americans suffering from asthma or seasonal allergies, you might want to think twice about sharing your bed with a pet, even if you’re not specifically allergic to dogs or cats.
This is because pet dander can stick to clothing or bedding, causing a flare up in the symptoms of asthma or allergies, and result in some serious nighttime breathing discomfort.
2. Risk of Parasites or Disease
Although this is a small concern for pet owners that vaccinate their furry friends and keep up with their health and cleanliness, it still deserves a mention, given the fact that animals are a top transmitter of human pathogens, meaning your pets can be bringing illness into your bed with them from their time spent outdoors. You should also make sure not to invite parasites into your sleep haven by keeping your pets up-to-date on heartworm, flea, and tick preventative.
3. Sleep Cycle Interruptions
Even heavy sleepers can be disturbed by a pet in the bed, especially if your furry sleeping partner is a large dog, and if you’re not sleeping on a mattress that provides motion isolation (a common problem with traditional innerspring mattresses).
Dogs and cats dream just like we do, which means you might be subjected to kicks or noises while they sleep. Pets also scratch themselves at night, creating another disturbance in the bedroom.
If you find your sleep being interrupted by furry family members, you might want to consider creating a sleep haven of their own with a crate or comfy pet bed. This will give you the benefit of knowing your pet is still nearby but make it less likely that they will keep you awake at night.
4. Increased Chance of Aggression
Sharing your bed with your pet can also create some dominance issues in both dogs and cats, due to them being granted access to territory that they see as belonging to the alpha household member.
Animals tend to see areas that are above their eye level as being reserved for the pack leader. This can cause them to see being allowed access to your bed as the right to assert their dominance in more aggressive ways, like biting, scratching, or growling.
You can avoid this by giving your pet their own sleeping space that’s down on their level or by assigning them a specific area of the bed that belongs only to them (usually at your feet) and where they are required to stay.
5. Could Interfere with Relationships
If you’re already sharing your bed with a significant other, opening it up to your pet can end up causing some problems in your romantic life. Being able to maintain physical closeness is import to relationships and having a pet wedged between you and your partner might throw a bit of a monkey (or in this case, puppy) wrench into things.
Relationship experts recommend not allowing a pet to sleep in the middle of a couple, as it not only creates distance between the two of you, it can also allow animals to feel more in control of their humans.
Your best bet when wanting to share your bed with your partner and your pet is to make sure your furry friend sleeps at the bottom of the mattress or off to the side of one person, in order to avoid creating a literal void between you and your mate.
Quick Tips for Peaceful Nights with Pets
Ready to try sleeping with your furry friend? Take a look at the following quick tricks for successful co-sleeping with your pet for peaceful nights and sweet dreams.
- Send a clear message from the beginning to avoid territorial behavior down the road.
- Help to establish a bedtime routine by going to bed at the same time each night.
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise during the day in preparation of bedtime.
- Ignore your pet if he wakes in the night (don’t reward him with treats or affection).
- Invest in a supportive mattress that’s large enough for both humans and pets to share.
Successful Co-Sleeping with Dogs
If you have a pup and want to share your bed with your furry buddy, you might want to take a look at the following top tips for how you can both get a peaceful night’s rest.
- Take your pooch out for a final potty break before bed to avoid accidents in the night.
- Encourage your dog to sleep in a designated area of the bed to avoid aggression.
- Use praises and treats to train your pup to lie down in the spot you’ve chosen for them.
- Order your pet off the bed if it’s not time to turn in or if he’s in your area of the bed.
- For the best results, be sure to send a consistent message and stick with it!
Successful Co-Sleeping with Cats
Sharing a sleep haven with a cat? You might want to take a look at the following top tips for the best ways to ensure peaceful nights with those furry friends of the feline persuasion.
- Cats are territorial and it’s best to choose if yours will sleep with you and stick with it.
- If sleeping with you, stay consistent by closing the door to keep Kitty in the bedroom.
- Discourage destruction and noise by giving your cat access to look out a window.
- Avoid territorial behavior by providing your cat with a “kitty condo” if not co-sleeping.
Even More Info on Co-Sleeping with Pets
Still not sure whether sharing your bed with Fluffy or Fido is right for you? Take a look at the following related articles for even more helpful hints on co-sleeping with pets to find out if it’s a go or a no for your household.