Should You Sleep With Your Pets?
by Robin Andrews
Photo credit: Cats and dogs can help you sleep, according to this new study. Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock
Having difficulty getting to sleep? Whether you have a few sleepless nights behind you or you’ve got full-blown insomnia, millions around the world wake up bleary-eyed, more often than not wondering how they could nod off slightly faster. According to a survey carried out by the Center of Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, you might be able to get all of your 40 winks if you have a pet beside you as you snooze. The study has been published in Mayor Clinic Proceedings.
The clinic questioned 150 study participants – 49 percent of which had pets. It revealed that 41 percent of pet owners said that having an animal in bed helped them sleep better, or at the very least made no difference. Of those that claimed it was beneficial, they said that they felt safer and more relaxed with their furry companion.
Only 20 percent said that their pet dog or cat disturbed their sleep, citing the fact that their pets moved too much, snored, whimpered or in some cases had seizures, which kept them awake. A single 51-year-old woman complained that her parrot woke her up early every day by squawking loudly at 6 a.m. In fact, several previous studies by the same clinic have shown that pets are more likely to hinder sleep than help it.
With the fairly limited sample size, though, it’s probably too early to draw any major conclusions.
Those sleeping alone, not always single but perhaps often with a partner who isn’t always present as they sleep, more often than not spoke of the companionship they felt when their pet slept in the same bed, or were at least in the same room at night. Many pet owners view their cats and dogs as family members that “they wish to incorporate into as many aspects of their life as possible,” according to the authors of the study.
The new results are part of a comprehensive sleep questionnaire, which also inquired as to the types of pets owners had, and what sleeping habits both owners and pets typically had. At the extreme end of the ownership scale, one married 43-year-old woman owned two dogs and five cats; another married 35-year-old man had five dogs and one cat.
Pet dogs are the most commonly owned household animal in the U.S., and the study suggests they may be the most useful for those with sleep deficiencies: they can adopt a consistent sleep pattern, and they are more dependent on humans. They can make quite a bit of noise in the night, particularly if they think there’s an intruder infringing on their territory – but the study appears to suggest that, if they are well-behaved, they are a boon to those needing to catch up on their sleep.
Despite the fact that your cat has the personality of a tiny lion and essentially does not need you – and may even see you as a malfunctioning, lazy kitten – having one next to you as you fall into that inky pool of dreams may in fact do you a world of good. Although more unpredictable than dogs, especially as they wake and wander often during the night, they still seem to bring clear benefits to pet owners.
So if you’re dog tired, get a dog, essentially.