Should We Sleep With Our Pets?Oct 30, 2020
Are you one of the 50% of pet owners who sleeps with your pets? Pets are wonderful companions, but they can keep you up at night! Let’s dig into some solutions to help both you and your pet get a better night’s sleep!
Should our time with our pets include sleeping with them?
We love to have our pets around. But should we sleep with our pets? Sleep is vital to your health. Your sleep affects your energy, your brain health, your metabolism, your appetite, and even your immune system. So what should you do when your beloved dog or cat wakes you up at night, disrupting the vitality of your sleep?
According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, almost half of pet owners sleep with their pets.1 Having a pet in the bed can be comforting. A pet can soothe loneliness. And listening to their steady breathing can certainly create a calming effect. The problems arise when they disrupt your sleep.
Research presented at SLEEP 2014, the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, shed some light on how pets affect sleep. Thirty percent of pet owners let their pet sleep with them. And 63% of pet owners who slept with a pet reported poor sleep quality.2
According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, having a pet in your bed (or even in your bedroom) can reduce your sleep efficiency. Sleep efficiency is the ratio of the time you are sleeping and the time you are in bed. Normal sleep efficiency is 85% - 90%. Sleep efficiency is reduced with a dog in the room, and even more so with a dog in the bed. With a dog in the room, sleep efficiency drops to 83%. And with a dog in the bed it drops to 80%. 3
One British study of over 1000 pet owners reported that over 50% of them lost 90 minutes of sleep each night to their pets.4
Does your dog keep waking you up at night?
Pets can wake us up. Your dog may decide to share your pillow or hop on your head. Your cat jumps on your twitching foot. And after they wake up from their noisy dream, they inevitably need to go outside or get a drink of water in the middle of the night.
And the choppy sleep that comes from a pet waking you throughout the night can cause you to feel groggy and unfocused the next day. Seven or eight hours in bed can feel more like four. 5
Animals have different sleep rhythms than humans. They sleep throughout the day and are not wired to sleep for 7 - 8 solid hours overnight.6 So your dog may keep waking you up at night by moving around or jumping on and off the bed.
Pets aren’t always much for personal space. A dog or cat in the bed may sleep close enough to keep you uncomfortable or unable to move around. And some animals will claw their owners, trying to get closer. A dog may “nest”, where they dig around in the sheets or blankets to try to arrange the perfect bed for themselves.7
Dogs dream just like people do. And when they enter the REM stage their bodies can become active. And they may vocalize with whining or even barking.8
Should we sleep with our pets?
This question, like many others, comes down to individual experience. If sleeping with your pets is disrupting your sleep, then it might be time to make a change.
There are certain circumstances and conditions that may make it necessary to move your pets to another room at night. You may want to make this choice if you:
- Are a light sleeper
- Have allergies that are worsened by your pets
- Have health issues
- Have a dog that isn’t house trained
- Want to improve the quality of your sleep
You may want to hold off on sleeping with a pet if it’s new to your family. A pet needs time to adjust and may do better if they don’t sleep with you right off the bat.9 If you have a new mixed-breed puppy, you may not want to allow them in your bed until you can tell how large they will be. Size in a mixed-breed dog can be unpredictable. Sleeping with your puppy when it’s full-grown may be impractical.10
How can you keep your pet happy outside of your bedroom?
If you are transitioning your pet out of your room at night, there are steps you can take to keep them happy. Make the transition gradually. During the day, start going in your room and closing the door for a few minutes at a time. Increase the amount of time incrementally to help them get used to the separation. Then give them lots of love and attention so they know you are there for them.11 Establish a nighttime routine for your pet. Routines can create security. You can give them a treat and then a good back-scratch or tummy-rub in their pet bed. Some dogs like a cuddly toy in their bed. There are even essential oil blends that can soothe your pets in the evening. 12 Make sure your dog has a good-quality dog bed. And consider adding a snuggly blanket. Dogs also find comfort from low noises like a ticking clock or white noise from a radio or fan.
What if you decide to sleep with your pets?
You may decide that you just can’t bear to have your beloved pet sleep in another room. If you decide to sleep with your pets, there are some steps you can take to ensure a better night’s sleep.
Consider keeping them out of the bed
Studies have shown that having a pet in bed is more disruptive to sleep than having one in the room with their own sleeping space.
If your pets are used to sleeping in the bed, it will take some time and effort to teach them to stay off. You can train a dog to stay off of your bed. It may take some time, but it is possible. Use treats and rewards. And make sure they get no attention when they get up on the bed.
Establish a good schedule for your pet
Help your pet get in a rhythm where they are less likely to wake you up during the night. Make sure dogs go outside right before bedtime so they don’t wake you during the night to go out. And time their feedings so that they don’t wake up hungry at night.
Make sure that your dog gets lots of exercise during the day. A dog who is worn out from daytime activity will be less likely to wake up at night wanting to play.
Set Boundaries for your pet
Make sure your pet knows where they can and can’t go in your home, and even within your bedroom. And keep these boundaries consistent so your pet doesn't become confused.
If your dog shows any signs of aggression, it’s better to keep them out of the bedroom at night. Be aware of aggressive behaviors such as growling, barking, biting, or lunging.
Are you trying to figure out how to keep the cat off your bed? This one can be tricky. Cats are very territorial. And once they claim a spot, they can get destructive if it’s taken away. Your best bet to keep the cat off your bed is probably to keep them out of your bedroom. Try setting up a cat condo or cat tree for your cat to climb on in another room by a window. Turn on the outside light and treat your cat to an all-night marathon of watching the bugs.13
Are you looking for more ways to get better sleep?
How much and how well we sleep is vital to our health, well-being, and day-to-day energy. Making a decision about whether or not to sleep with your pets is just one thing you can do to improve your sleep and overall health.
The Simple Sleep Program will take all of the guesswork out of improving your sleep. This program walks you through the step-by-step process of getting your best sleep.
With the Simple Sleep Program, you will learn how to:
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep oasis
- Create your ideal sleep routine
- Figure out the best sleep positions
- Find the right mattress and pillows for you
- Incorporate movement and stretching to improve your sleep
- Manage physical and emotional stress
- Hack your sleep cycle to fit sleep into your schedule
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