As many pets owners can attest to, our pets have a way of burrowing their way into our hearts and becoming a treasured part of our daily lives. A 2015 Harris poll revealed that 95% of pet owners consider their pet to be a full-fledged member of the family (which is more than what some people can say about their relatives!).
And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets offer many benefits to their owners such as providing comfort, security, an emotional bond and stress relief. What’s more is that pets have also been proven to be good for mental and physical health. Pet owners can benefit from lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower triglyceride levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, more opportunities to exercise outdoors, and more chances to socialize. It’s the kind of health advantages that make you want to run out and adopt a pet right now!
With all of these positive benefits, it may be no wonder that many people allow their pets to sleep on the bed with them each night. In fact, nearly half of all dog owners and 62% of cat owners co-sleep with their pet(s). But there are discussions surrounding the question if co-sleeping with a pet is good or bad for your health — and a recent study from Mayo Clinic may have the answer.
Is Co-Sleeping a Detriment to Sleep Quality?
The Mayo Clinic recently published a study to assess whether co-sleeping (allowing a pet to sleep on your bed) affected overall sleep quality. The research group studied 40 healthy, dog-owning adults. Both humans and dogs were fitted with motion-tracking technology for seven nights, and owners answered questions about how well they slept and where the dog spent the night. Sleep efficiency, or the total time spent asleep (not just in bed) was measured.
The conclusion was that people with dogs in their rooms (not on their beds) displayed an average of 83 percent sleep efficiency, while people who slept with dogs on their beds maintained a slightly lower sleep efficiency at 80 percent. 80 percent is considered a satisfactory sleep efficiency by most experts, but it’s important to note that owners that allowed their dog on the bed did wake up more throughout the night than their counterparts.
What We Learned
This study is good news for pet owners! Keeping a dog in your bedroom or on your bed does not produce unsatisfactory sleep efficiency.
Those with a dog on the bed did have a slightly lower sleep efficiency, which is worth noting as repeatedly experiencing small awakenings throughout the night can make your rest less effective. But the study concluded that a dog’s presence in the bedroom may not be inherently disruptive to human sleep — and may even provide some benefits to owners in the form of comfort and security.
One limitation of the study is that the Mayo Clinic only studied owners with a single dog. Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, cautions against having multiple pets in the bedroom or on the bed at night, as this multiplies the possibility for disruption.
For light sleepers and those with health issues or allergies, it may be best to keep your pet at least out of the bed to lessen disruptions, but ultimately it’s up to owners to assess their own individual sleep patterns to determine if co-sleeping is actually affecting the quality of their rest.
Tracking Your Sleep
This study also emphasized the importance of tracking your rest to assess the disturbance a pet (or any other habit) may be causing. Sleep applications such as Sleep Cycle are great for tracking your sleep hygiene and how certain habits (such as working out late at night, eating a big meal before bed, or having a pet in your bed!) may be affecting how well you sleep. Keep in mind that these types of apps are great for tracking general sleep hygiene and making adjustments to lifestyle habits but aren’t accurate for assessing the presence of a serious sleep disorder.
If you sleep with a pet in your bed and experience multiple awakenings throughout the night, part of those disturbances may be from your animal – but if awakenings occur multiple times an hour, and your sleep efficiency is very low, it could be indicative of a larger problem. If that’s the case, sleep experts such as Dr. Jeff Rodgers can help you determine what is causing your persistent sleep troubles and provide the treatment that will help. If you have any concerns or want your rest assessed for potential sleep disorders, schedule a free consultation with us today.