Should Your Pet Sleep in Your Bed?
There’s no doubt that we love our pets like family, so it makes sense that 62% of cat and small dog owners sleep with their pets. But is sharing a bed with your dog or cat actually good for you? The short answer is, it depends.
Sleeping with a dog or cat can actually be good for you. A pet’s presence has been found to decrease blood pressure and stress hormones in their human companions, and sleeping with one may help ease some pet parents’ insomnia or anxiety. In fact, a study by the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine found 41% of participants believed a pet in the bedroom actually improved their sleep. This is one of the reasons emotional therapy animals are so great; their steady, rhythmic breathing and soft fur often have a calming effect on people.
Aside from emotional benefits for humans, co-sleeping can be an integral way to bond with your pet. “Dogs only sleep with people or dogs they trust,” says Victoria Stilwell of TV show It’s Me or the Dog. By allowing your dog to be close to you in a vulnerable state—i.e. sleeping—your pup is showing love.
Unfortunately, allowing your pet to sleep in your bed can cause interruptions to your sleep pattern; snoring, hogging the covers, whining, and/or moving around are just some of the reasons pet parents get woken up by their pets. While that’s a compromise some people are willing to make, it’s always wise to ask your human bedmates before inviting pets to share their space. It may seem silly, but your four-legged third wheel can cause resentment or jealously over time.
The most obvious downside of sharing the bed is hairy sheets: hitting the hay with your pet is obviously a no-go if you have allergies to pet hair or dander (even if you can manage daytime symptoms, it’s best to give your immune system a break at night). For those of us who aren’t allergic, microbiologist Kelly Reynolds, MSPH, PhD recommends washing sheets twice per week in hot water if dirty paws are involved, as well as the high heat or “sanitize” setting on your dryer. Fleas and ticks can also hitch a ride into your bed via pets, so use bleach on bed linens if possible.
If sleeping with your pet simply isn’t an option, considering buying them a comfy bed of their own and placing it near or within eyeline of yours. Try crate training for puppies and older dogs, who may come to enjoy the comfort of a den-like setting at night.