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Man’s Bestfriend—and Cuddle Buddy? The Impact of Pets on Our Sleep

July 20, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — sleepdunwoodyteam @ 11:41 am
person with sleep apnea in Dunwoody sleeping with dog

Pets are a treasured part of many individual’s lives. Not only do they provide comforting companionship, but a Harris poll revealed that 95% of pet owners consider their pet to be a true member of their family.

After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets have been proven to enhance the lives of their owners. These benefits include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower triglyceride levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, more opportunities to exercise outdoors, and more chances to socialize.

With all of these positive benefits, it may be no wonder that many people co-sleep (or allow their pets to sleep on their bed). In fact, nearly half of all dog owners and 62% of cat owners co-sleep with their furry friend. But there are discussions surrounding questions about whether or not co-sleeping with a pet is good or bad for your health. Let’s break it down.

Is Co-Sleeping a Detriment to Sleep Quality?

In 2017, the Mayo Clinic published a study assessing whether co-sleeping 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% sleep efficiency, while people who slept with dogs on their beds maintained a slightly lower sleep efficiency at 80% . 80% 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.

This study is good news for pet owners! Keeping a dog in your bedroom or on your bed does not produce unsatisfactory sleep efficiency—and can even improve the sleep quality of children.

One limitation of the 2017 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.

New Research

But the conversation doesn’t end there. In 2021, the Healthy Heart Project published a study further debunking the myth that pets are a detriment to sleep, at least anecdotally:

  • Women dog owners report earlier and more consistent sleep and wake times—they also report increased comfort, security, and fewer disruptions than when sleeping next to a human partner.
  • 80% of adults with chronic pain have a positive view on sleeping with their pet and believe the pet reduces pre-sleep stress, anxiety, and loneliness. 
  • One out of three of children share a bed with their pet.

Children who sleep with their pets don’t report abnormal sleep disruptions. In fact, it was found that children who sleep with their pets experienced an increase in sleep quality. The study’s hypothesis is that the reason children sleep well with pets is because pets are seen as friends/companions who provide comfort.

The Final Verdict

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. As we’ve seen in the research, many owners find pet co-sleeping comforting and even helpful for regulating their sleep cycle. But, if you find yourself waking up frequently due to a disturbance from your cuddly friend and have a hard time going back to sleep, it might be time to reconsider where your pet rests for the night.

If awakenings occur multiple times an hour with or without a pet co-sleeping with you, it could be indicative of a larger problem. If that’s the case, you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea in Dunwoody. Let sleep expert Dr. Jeff Rodgers assess your sleep to see how he can help by scheduling a FREE consultation at Sleep Better Georgia today. 

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