Who’s sleeping in the dog house tonight? Chances are, it’s not Fido. As a matter of fact, in a survey of adult women in the United States, 55% said they share their beds with their dogs. But is it OK to sleep with your pup?
People today debate over the value of co-sleeping with a canine, but there are promising studies about the potential benefits. For example, sensing your furbaby’s heartbeat and feeling his warmth and protection can help you feel more calm and secure.
If you’re concerned that a pooch’s presence will disrupt your sleeping patterns, there’s no need to fret. Below, we’ll examine 16 reasons why sleeping with your dog can be beneficial. But first, let’s look at some information about co-sleeping with a pet.
How Common Is Co-Sleeping With Dogs?
According to a 2019-2020 survey by the American Pet Products Association(APPA), 67% of households have a pet, and almost ⅔ of those homes have at least one dog. Another pet owner’s survey revealed that dog ownership grew by about 22 million between 2000 and 2017.
So, of all these dogs, how many get to sleep with their masters? A recent survey by the APPA reveals that almost half of dog owners co-sleep with their pooch. Naturally, it’s more common with small breeds. However, many medium and large dogs get the privilege as well. The numbers break down like this: 62% for small, 41% for medium, and 32% for large pups.
Among dogs that don’t sleep in bed with their owners, a survey from the American Kennel Club reveals that 20% doze in a crate, 17% rest on a dog bed, 4% bed down outside, and the rest get their zzz’s in random places indoors.
What makes dogs such good bed buddies? Part of it is their sleep cycles. In a 2018 study about women’s sleep quality as it relates to sharing a bed with their pets, the researchers reported that dogs made better sleep partners than cats or another person. Christy L. Hoffman, PhD explains that “dogs’ sleep patterns more closely coincide with sleep patterns in humans than do the sleep patterns of cats,” and for that reason, canines are less likely to disturb their masters in bed.
A Comparison Of Canine And Human Sleep Cycles
The sleep cycles of dogs and people are similar but not identical. So, what’s the difference?
The Human Sleep Cycle Has Two Major Stages:
- NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) – NREM has a group of three sub-stages that rotate between light, moderate, and deep sleep. Phases of NREM are important to restore the body.
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement) – During REM, our brains process the day’s events and organize information. This is also when we dream.
Usually, one sleep cycle lasts 90-120 minutes. So in a full night’s sleep, we tend to go through 4-5 cycles.
For Dogs, The Cycles Are Similar But Shorter:
- SWS (Short-Wave Sleep) – SWS starts when dogs fall asleep and is comparable to NREM. The body relaxes and heart rate slows down during this phase.
- REM Sleep – Like us, dogs have a dream stage where they process information. Their brain activity tends to be more pronounced than ours, and you may observe muscle twitching and whimpering.
Depending on your furbaby’s age and breed, his sleep cycle may last around 20-30 minutes. So, in the course of a day, your pal may go through 20 or more cycles.
In her study on women’s sleep patterns, Hoffman also noted that participants “associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security,” with sharing their bed with a dog. But wait, there are other benefits as well.
A Look At Some Benefits Of Sleeping With Your Dog
Helps Fight Against Depression
According to a review by Michael E. Thase, MD, “the regulation of sleep is intricately linked to the same mechanisms that are implicated in the pathophysiology of depression.” But, can your dog help ease depression? Yes! A 1996 study involving nursing home residents demonstrated that interacting with a pooch resulted in lower levels of depression.
The question, then, is: does sleeping with your pup help if you’re fighting a depressive state? According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute(HABRI), positive interactions with your dog influence a number of physiological parameters including levels of hormones that give a sense of well-being like cortisol, oxytocin, b-endorphins, and dopamine. So, sharing your bed with your pooch can help boost your mood and stave off depression.
Increases Oxytocin Levels
Let’s take a closer look at the feel-good hormone, oxytocin. A 2018 sleep-deprivation study demonstrated that disturbed rest patterns were linked to levels of oxytocin in the blood. With elevated amounts of the hormone, people tend to experience improved sleep and better pain management. What does that have to do with our pups? In 2017, scientists published findings in Frontiers in Psychology that demonstrated a positive feedback loop involving oxytocin when humans and dogs share positive interactions that include cuddling.
Another way that the human-dog bond shows up is by synchronization of heartbeats. A joint study demonstrated that when canines and their owners reunited after a period of separation, their hearts would slow down and beat in sync within about a minute. The research shows that when pups are with their masters, their hearts sync-up. This evidence further supports the calming effects that our four-footed friends have on our brains. So, just think about how you share the same heart rate when you’re sleeping next to your pal and in deep, rejuvenating sleep patterns.
Built-In Bed Warmer
Gone are the days of hot water bottles when you co-sleep with Fido. That’s because the normal body temperature for canines is about 101-102.5F as compared to our normal temp of 97.6-99.6F. So naturally, your pooch can help you stay warm in the dead of winter. Since most of us like to feel toasty when we’re sleeping, cuddling with your pup can make you feel more comfortable. The great thing is that your body also reflects some heat back on your furbaby so that he’s warmer too.
Companionship And Comfort
We’ve already seen that studies show there are several mental and physical health benefits associated with owning a dog. Since co-sleeping with your furbaby increases your interaction time, it may also mean a greater advantage. For one, sharing a bed with your pooch improves your sense of companionship and comfort. Think about it, snuggling up to your pup, stroking his fur, and hearing his breathing can be comforting. When you cuddle at bedtime, you may be able to sleep better and improve your close bond with your furbaby.
Increased Sense Of Security
Did you know that a major cause of insomnia is anxiety? Good news, if your nerves ramp up around bedtime, your furbaby may help you relax and sleep better for several reasons.
First, the increase of oxytocin in the blood can help to mitigate your stress. Studies demonstrate that this hormone aids in the fight against stress and anxiety. So, keeping Fido close by may be useful to reduce anxious feelings and make you feel more secure. And that feeling of security also triggers a release of serotonin, melatonin, and other chemicals that support a night of deep, restorative sleep.
Another way that your pooch elevates your sense of well-being is by feeling his body warmth and hearing his steady breathing. In 2014, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study among pet owners about the sleeping behaviors of their animals. 41% of respondents indicated that letting their companion share their bed helped them sleep. Some of the participants shared that keeping their pet in the bedroom made them feel secure and relaxed.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to invite Fido up on the bed to reap some of these benefits. You can provide him with a comfy dog mattress at the foot of your berth.
Of course, co-sleeping with your pooch also fosters a sense of security because you have built-in protection. You expect your light-sleeping furbaby will alert you to any unusual sounds or circumstances during the night. If your pup has a hair-trigger response to every little thing, they may hinder your sleep more than help it. In this case, you may want to give them their own bed or crate them in your room overnight.
Eases Chronic Pain
Therapy animals can be an important part of many treatment regimens. Having a pooch to pet and take care of helps patients ease loneliness and may have antidepressant effects.
But there’s evidence that sleeping with your furbaby can also ease chronic pain symptoms. Scientists at the University of Alberta unveiled several benefits for chronic pain patients if they co-sleep with their dog:
- Lower stress and anxiety levels
- Ability to fall asleep faster
- Increased relaxation
- Ability to sleep longer
- Reduced feelings of anxiety and loneliness
- Mild to moderate pain relief
According to researchers, the results could be due to an endorphin surge that occurs when you cuddle with or stroke your pooch. Of course, caring for your furbaby includes playtime and exercise, and the activity helps tire you out before bedtime.
Strengthens Your Bond And Builds Loyalty
Dogs have a reputation for being loyal. To Fido, you’re his most important person. So, if work or other responsibilities keep you away for extended periods of time, your pal may suffer from separation anxiety or depression. One way to help him cope is by co-sleeping. It can build a stronger bond between the two of you and help him feel more loved. In the long run, sharing a bed may improve your relationship with Fido.
If you think that letting your pup on your bed will spoil him and cause him to think he’s your equal, it’s possible. Fortunately, it’s not usually the case unless your pooch has pre-existing behavior issues. If you have any concerns about your furbaby, talk to your vet or to a dog behavior specialist before letting him sleep with you.
Helps Ease Insomnia
We mentioned above that dogs may be able to help deal with anxiety-induced insomnia. Mary Rose, PsyD, CBSM described the potential role that canines can play in treating sleep disorders. Co-sleeping with a pooch can reduce anxiety levels and positively impact hyper-arousal and hyper-vigilance. As a result, patients may feel more relaxed and able to sleep.
However, the benefit varies from dog to dog. Some pups may be disruptive to sleep. For example, overweight pups are prone to snoring. The extra fat around the neck can put pressure on the throat area much like sleep apnea in humans. If your pal is overweight, check with your veterinarian about a weight reduction program.
There’s ample evidence that stress contributes to insomnia. For example, a 2004 study found that employees who reported no previous trouble with sleeping experienced disruptions in their sleep patterns when under stress at work.
A 2019 report from the American Psychological Association reveals that stress is on the rise in America. It’s no surprise then, that about 30% of the US population complains they’re not getting enough sleep.
Fortunately for dog owners, studies tell us that interacting with your pooch helps to relieve stress:
- Researchers at Washington State University found that petting a dog for as little as 10 minutes can reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
- A 2001 study demonstrated that having a dog can help reduce stress-related blood pressure.
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) asserts that pets are helpful to reduce stress.
According to the ADAA, about 18% of adults in the United States struggle with anxiety. This condition is a mental disorder that involves increased tension and worry that may trigger a rise in blood pressure. Much like stress sleep and anxiety are closely linked, as Dr. Luc Staner describes in his 2003 review, Sleep and Anxiety Disorders. He explains that insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common in those suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Once again, it’s Fido to the rescue. Temma Ehrenfeld shares how dogs can help ease feelings of stress and anxiety. “Your relationship with a dog can be more soothing than any other.” She explains how pups help minimize stress responses in tense situations and how children with dogs at home were less likely to show signs of anxiety. So, keeping your furbaby by you at night could ease your worry and help you turn off your racing thoughts.
If you’re living alone, it can be depressing to crawl into bed solo. That’s where co-sleeping with a canine companion comes in. Some single pet-owning patients at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine reported that sleeping with a dog provided them with a sense of companionship, relaxation, and security. So, if you don’t have a human roommate, consider getting a furbaby.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Did you know that high blood pressure can interfere with sleep? Researchers at the University of Arizona monitored the blood pressure of 300 men and women for two days. They discovered that the participants who experienced more restlessness and sleep disruptions had increased blood pressure overnight and higher systolic readings the next day.
For those suffering from high blood pressure, a dog could help keep levels under control. Studies demonstrate that petting your pup for just 15 minutes can result in a 10% drop in blood pressure. In other research, scientists found that people placed under mental stress had lower blood pressure if their pooch was in the room with them. So, sleeping with your furbaby could help keep your readings in check and pave the way for a restful night.
Boosts Heart Health
According to the Center for Disease Control, getting enough sleep is crucial to heart health. Adults who average less than 7 hours of quality sleep each night are more likely to suffer from conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity all of which can contribute to heart disease. Fortunately, according to Harvard Medical School, owning a dog, “can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.” They report that studies show people who have canine companions have lower blood pressure and may have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. So, cuddle up with your furbaby to support a healthy heart.
Reduces Risk Of Children Developing Allergies
One argument against letting Fido on your bed is that it introduces allergens into the room. While that may be a concern for adults with active allergies, the opposite may apply for children. Studies demonstrate that infants who slept with a pet were less likely to develop an allergy when they got older. It appears that exposing children to Fido early on may provide a protective effect. This can significantly reduce the risk of developing eczema and possibly other allergic reactions. So, you may want to seriously consider letting your four-footed-pal sleep in the baby’s room.
Women Sleep Better With Fido
In a study about how pets impact sleep quality, researchers surveyed 962 adult women. They found that those respondents who slept with their dogs reported fewer sleep disturbances and greater feelings of security and comfort than those who shared their bed with a cat or human partner. That’s good news for the ladies. Co-sleeping with your pooch can have rewarding results.
Bring Your Dog To Bed For The Health Of It
There are several ways that you can improve your health by sleeping with your furbaby. With results like lower blood pressure, increased levels of comfort, and reduced stress and anxiety, it’s evident that sharing your bed with your pooch can benefit both of you.
Before you head to bed, make sure your furbaby is flea-free and clean. Make sure Fido is up-to-date on vaccinations. Trimming his nails can prevent unwanted scratches. For your pal’s comfort, avoid covering him with blankets that limit airflow. It’s also helpful to check the water supply before turning in. And of course, make sure there’s enough room in the bed for the two of you.
Do you have any questions or health benefits that we missed? Leave a comment below, and we’ll update our information.