“I love that we’re flipping the question,” said Dr. Dana Varble, Veterinarian in Chief for the North American Veterinary Community. “In general, it’s a very good thing for animals to sleep with their people.”
Animals who share their human’s bed tend to have “a higher level of trust and a closer bond with the humans in their lives. It’s a big show of trust on their part,” Varble said. .
“Dogs and cats that bond more closely with their humans gain additional health benefits, including an increase in beneficial neurotransmitters such as feel-good hormones oxytocin and dopamine,” she said. added.
Do only dogs and cats benefit from human bed partners? Yes, Varble said, with “very, very few exceptions.”
Advantages and disadvantages for humans
With that important question out of the way, let’s turn to you – is it good for you sleep with a pet? Experts have traditionally said no because you might not get quality sleep.
“Animals can move, bark and disrupt sleep. Dogs (and cats) sleep is not continuous and they will inevitably get up and walk on the bed, stepping on people. All of this activity will lead to sleep fragmentation “said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, director of sleep research and professor in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
These “micro-awakenings,” which can happen without your knowledge, “are disruptive because they wake you out of deep sleep,” said Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at the University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern. “They’ve been linked to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can make sleep even worse.”
This may be true for many of us, but recent studies have shown that having pets in the bedroom could be beneficial for some of us.
“People with depression or anxiety may benefit from having their pet in the bed because the pet is a big pillow, a big blanket, and they can feel this snuggly, cuddly, furry creature shrink. their anxiety,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta. , assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
However, around 20% thought their furry friends made their sleep worse.
However, sleep quality decreased when people moved their dog from the floor to bed.
“In fact, frequent co-sleepers showed similar sleep profiles to those who never slept with pets,” the authors wrote.
“All of this suggests that having pets in the bed or bedroom isn’t necessarily bad,” said Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“There can be significant psychological comfort in having your pet around, which can help both initiate and maintain sleep,” Kolla said.
“However, if patients report that the animal’s movements or other activities are disturbing their sleep, then we advise them to try to consider alternative arrangements for the animal at night and see if that helps. sleep,” he added.
A setup for success
“Dogs are usually good all night, but cats can be very nocturnal,” Breus said, adding that another factor is how much “the two of you move because the movement of the animal can wake you up. humans and vice versa.
If you’re planning on taking your fur baby to bed, Breus suggested you try it for just a few nights, so you don’t condition your pet to expect it before deciding if it’s right for you.
Some of us should abstain
Despite the new science, many of us still have to think twice about bringing our indoor dogs, cats or pigs into our beds.
“It is particularly harmful in people with insomnia or in patients with other sleep disorders – patients with a delayed sleep phase (night owls) or even in people with sleep apnea, who wake up after they stop breathing and then are unable to go back to sleep,” Polotsky said.
“Insomniacs are most susceptible,” Polotsky said. “Sleeping with pets won’t necessarily predispose or precipitate insomnia, but it could perpetuate it.”
Whenever your sleep cycles are interrupted, you disrupt the brain’s ability to repair itself at the cellular level, consolidate memories, store new information, and prime the body for peak performance.
The “sweet spot” for a good rest is when you can fall asleep continuously through all four stages of sleep four to six times a night. Since each cycle lasts about 90 minutes, most people need seven to eight hours of relatively uninterrupted sleep to achieve this goal.
There’s another reason why snuggling up with animals all night may not be good for your health. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from asthma, allergies or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleeping with a hairball could become a nightmare.
“My asthmatics, my COPD patients, they always say, ‘Hey Doc, don’t worry, my dog isn’t shedding,’” said Dasgupta, who is also a pulmonologist.
“And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but remember, the allergens are in the saliva, they’re in the dog’s skin. So you’re going to be exposed to allergens for eight hours at night and have watery eyes and a stuffy nose. with the movement of the animal, may well prevent you from sleeping well,” he said.
Some animals should not join the family bed
Back to what’s best for your pet: when isn’t it a good idea to have a four-legged friend sleeping with you?
“Obviously young puppies or dogs that have behavioral issues — it might not be good for them to sleep with you,” Varble said. “If you have an anxious dog, we teach that kennels are a safe space.
“Kens that have three sides make them feel like they only have to ‘protect’ themselves from one angle. We want to teach them that there is a safe place in your home,” a- she declared.
And there are pets, Varble said, you should never invite them to bed for a spoon.
“I work with exotic animals, and many of them have very specific health and safety requirements, including being in an enclosure,” Varble said. “So although I know people who are very close to their ferrets and guinea pigs, they need to be in their enclosure for their health at night. They are not animals that we would want to have at bed with us.”