Sleeping with a partner can be challenging enough, but adding a pet to the mix? Between nighttime potty breaks, space-hogging-four-legged-stretching sessions, and the fact that your pet may have literally been lying in a puddle of urine on the street earlier in the day, there is strong research showing that co-sleeping with your pet isn’t all dirt and dander.
A recent study of 150 patients seeking assistance at the Center for Sleep Medicine asserts that sleeping with your pet can have an immensely positive impact on your sleep and wellbeing. In the study, almost half of the participants reported being pet owners while another half reported co-sleeping regularly with their pet. But, what was the most important element of the study was the fact that a staggering 41% reported their pets as “unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep.”
Despite some obvious sleep disruptions (such as routinely waking up with only a few inches of low-rent mattress real estate), most people prefer to sleep with their pets, and even believe co-sleeping helps them to sleep better! Similar to sleeping with a human partner, the perceived benefits of cosleeping seem to line up with the reality of improved sleep as long as both parties believe it to be so. Participants in the study reported feeling cozier, warmer, and more comforted when sleeping with their furry friends.
The New York Times reports that the reasons for co-sleeping with a pet are well documented:
- Whether it’s human or animal touch, physical contact raises levels of oxytocin in the body which contributes to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability.
- By providing unconditional love and comfort, cosleeping with your pet can be an “emotional balm, especially for the depressed, lonely or anxious.”
However, other sources such as this study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warn that allowing pets to sleep in the bed can be dangerous and increase the risk of spreading pathogens called zoonoses. Some of the risks–while rare–include bubonic plague, cat scratch fever, meningitis, Pasteurella pneumonia, and other infections. In a podcast discussing the study and also presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, experts assert that “pets pose less of a risk to their owners if they receive routine veterinary care, are kept free from fleas and ticks, and are routinely dewormed.”
However, two situations where sleeping with pets is particularly dangerous is with young children and people with weakened immune systems. Because they may be unable to fight off germs carried by pets, special care should be given to avoid co-sleeping from the start.
So, should you keep your dog, cat, or other furry friend in your bed? While we can help you to become more informed, the choice is yours!
Will you continue co-sleeping with your pet? Let us know in the comments.