According to a survey conducted in 2015 by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), roughly 79.7 million households nationwide own at least one pet ― up more than 50 percent from two decades earlier. Another recent APPA poll found that the majority of pet owners allow their furry little friends to sleep with them at night. Of those surveyed, 45 percent of all dog owners, 56 percent of ‘small dog’ owners and 62 percent of cat owners admitted to sharing a bed with their animal(s).
There are several benefits to sleeping in the same bed as your dog and/or cat. Pets provide warmth and bedroom security. The presence of pets in bed can also have a soothing effect that helps induce sleep ― which can be a big plus for people with insomnia and other sleep issues. A 2016 Mayo Clinic survey of pet-owning sleep patients found that 41 percent believed that sharing a bed with their pet was beneficial; by comparison, only 20 percent found pets in bed disruptive.
The flipside to his: anxious, needy pets can interfere with your sleep routine. There are other potential drawbacks, as well, including hygiene and sleep health issues that adults and parents should know. Dogs and cats spread certain infectious diseases to humans, and they may also bring unwanted germs and bacteria into the bed. Many pets ― cats in particular ― can trigger allergies, which can also disrupt sleep. Fleas and worms are yet another concern. However, the general consensus among pet experts is that healthy, properly medicated pets in the bed will present little to no health risk as long as you don’t suffer from pet-related allergies.
Bottom line: whether you decide to let your pooch and/or kitty share your bed should depend on several factors, including the animal’s personality and your sleep preferences. Here are a few quick guidelines:
Be consistent: Once you’ve allowed a dog or cat to sleep with you, the habit can be tough to break. This is especially true of cats; felines often exhibit destructive behavior after being unexpectedly booted from the bed. If you don’t want to share a bed with your pet, the best practice is to establish boundaries from day one. If this is no longer possible, then try weaning your pet off the bed by creating a warm sleep space at the foot of your bed. Blankets and a comfy pillow usually do the trick.
Dominance is key with dogs: If you have a puppy or an older dog with dominance issues, then allowing the animal to share your bed may upset the owner-pet dynamic. You can keep them in check by creating rules for the bed and enforcing them. In an interview with Everyday Health, certified dog trainer Steve Brooks suggests commanding your dog to remain on the floor for as long as 10 minutes after you get in bed, and then “[inviting] the dog up on your terms”. You should also clearly define which area of the bed is yours, and which area is the dog’s; this will prevent the animal from trying to invade your space during the night.
Cats may not ‘get it’: Cats are nocturnal, which means they feel alert and mentally stimulated when the sun goes down. Most cat owners can attest to manic nighttime behaviors, such as constant meowing, blanket scratching and loud cleaning sessions. If One way to relax your cats before bedtime is to play with them; laser pointers and other ‘chase’ toys can be quite effective at tuckering them out. Leaving these toys out when you go to bed also provides an activity for your cat in another area of your house or apartment while you’re asleep. If these measures don’t seem to work, then it might be in your best interest to banish the cat from your bedroom ― not just your bed.
Consider your mattress: Are you a light sleeper who is easily awoken? If so, an innerspring mattress might not be suitable for sharing with a pet. These mattresses are bouncy and responsive to compression. As a result, movement in one area of the mattress tends to generate motion across the entire sleep surface; this is known as motion transfer. Other mattresses, such as latex and memory foam models, are much less responsive to compression and produce little to no motion transfer. These may be your best option if your dog or cat moves around in bed. Be sure to keep your pets in mind when choosing a new mattress, as well.
Ben Murray is a writer and researcher for sleep science hub Tuck.com. He can usually be found running, hiking, biking or kayaking around the Pacific Northwest ― though he enjoys a good nap as much as the next person.