Co-sleeping with your pet: The good, the bad, the hairy

As an animal lover, you likely want to spend as much time with your pet as possible, including while you sleep — and it may be beneficial to both of you. In a 2017 sleep study, the human participants averaged a sleep efficiency of 81 percent (above the “satisfactory” 80 percent threshold), while the dogs slept even better, with an average sleep efficiency of 85 percent.

Whether you’ve been co-sleeping with your pet for a while or you’re considering sharing your bed with a new pet, take a look at the pros and cons below to make the right decision for you. 

The Pros

Cuddling up with an animal during bedtime can help ease anxiety and provide feelings of safety, comfort and security. Sleep professionals are increasingly considering the use of service animals and family pets to help treat sleep disorders, improve sleep therapies (such as CPAP use), and provide relief from parasomnias, including nightmares and sleepwalking. 

Pet co-sleeping research shows positive results. In a number of studies, pet owners reported higher levels of motivation and a stronger adherence to daily schedules. (A consistent wake and bedtime is especially important for quality zzz’s.) A Mayo Clinic study found 41 percent of their Center for Sleep Medicine patients perceived their pets as unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep. 

The Cons

However, in the same Mayo Clinic study, 20 percent of patients said their pets interrupted their slumber.

Humans and dogs have different sleep-wake cycles. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers and average three sleep-wake cycles per nighttime hour; humans are monophasic sleepers and have one period of sleep over a 24-hour cycle. If you already struggle to sleep or are a light sleeper, your pet’s movement, snores and barks may keep you from getting a good night’s rest. 

Co-sleeping with an animal can also trigger allergic reactions and introduce fleas and ticks to your bed. Though rare, pet co-sleeping can even make you sick. (A number of infections can spread from pet to person.) If your dog is not yet housetrained, they may have accidents in the bed as well. 

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