If you have a dog or cat that loves to snuggle, you may be tempted to let it sleep with you, too. There are some real upsides to this: Pets are great bed-warmers, sleeping together promotes bonding, and having an alert animal nearby may provide a sense of security throughout the night. But before you begin a habit that might be hard to break later, consider these four ways your furry bedmate might impact your sleep health:
1. Dogs and cats sleep on different cycles than you do.
Pets do not spend eight straight hours asleep. A study of dogs found that they have about three sleep/wake cycles every hour, with brief periods of sleep followed by wakefulness. They are also much more sensitive to sounds. While a dog may be happy to spend eight hours in bed with you, it will be awake frequently throughout the night, potentially disturbing your sleep.
Cats are great sleepers, averaging around 15 hours every day but, unfortunately, they are nocturnal. In the wild, they are most active at dawn and dusk, when the hunting is best. This means a cat likely won’t spend the whole night in bed with you—and might be more interested in pouncing or pestering you for food than letting you get the rest you need.
2. Pets in the bed can increase your exposure to allergens.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pet allergies are common, affecting about 30 percent of people who have allergies or asthma. If you do have a pet allergy, it’s especially important to keep them out of your bedroom. But even if you’re not normally allergic, the prolonged exposure of sleeping together can aggravate allergies and cause breathing difficulties. Pets also come into contact with pollen and many microorganisms outdoors that can aggravate your asthma or allergies.
3. More bodies in bed mean more sleep disruption.
Just like human sleep partners, animals in the bed move around, snore, steal the covers and have noisy dreams. (And, unlike most human bed partners, they might scratch you in your sleep.) This means some sleep interruptions are inevitable, and the more bodies that are sharing the same bed, the more interruptions there are likely to be. Interestingly, though, one study showed that dogs were perceived as less likely to disturb sleep than human partners, and cats were about as disruptive as human partners.
4. Pets can bring pests, dirt and microorganisms into the bed.
If your pet is healthy and without fleas or ticks, veterinarians say there is very little health risk to sleeping with your pet. But if you are immunocompromised in any way, it’s a good idea to be cautious. Pets regularly get mud and other debris on their paws, bringing potentially harmful microorganisms under the covers with them. Animal-to-human disease transmission is pretty rare, though it does happen, so at the very least make sure your pet has clean paws before bed.
Only you can decide if the risk of allowing your pet in bed with you is worth it—and that depends on whether or not you suffer from allergies and/or feel that your sleep is being disrupted by a pet. Ultimately, a rested, healthy pet owner will be a happier pet owner.
Can a clean bedroom also help you sleep better? Read the SoClean blog.