Sleeping with your pet? How it may affect you (and your pet)

(CNN) In search of better sleep, people often ask whether they should share their bed with a pet. Before we get there, let’s take a moment to think about the other side of the coin:

Layer with You much better for you pet?

“I like the fact that we’re turning the question around,” said Dr. Dana Varble, chief veterinarian of the North American Veterinary Community. “In general, it’s a very good thing for animals to sleep with humans.”

Pets who bed-share with their humans tend to have “higher levels of trust and a closer bond with the humans in their lives.” It’s a big show of confidence on their part,” Varble said.

“Dogs and cats who are more closely bonded to their humans enjoy additional health benefits, including an increase in beneficial neurotransmitters such as the feel-good hormones oxytocin and dopamine,” she said. she adds.

Do only dogs and cats benefit from human bed partners? Yes, Varble said, with “very, very few exceptions.”

“I have a landlord who has a meticulously cared for pot-bellied pig that sleeps at the foot of his bed,” she said. “He’s an indoor pig named Norbert. Pot-bellied pigs are almost like dogs because they’re very social.” (Norbert even his own Instagram account.)

“Hello, my name is Norbert. I’m almost 2 years old. I’m a pot-bellied pig, but I think I’m a person, so I sleep on the bed with the other humans. I have my own Instagram, too !”

Advantages and disadvantages for humans

This important question having been settled, let us turn to you: is it good for You sleep with a pet? Experts have traditionally said no because you might not get quality sleep.

“Animals can move, bark and disrupt sleep. Dogs’ (and cats’) sleep is not continuous and they will inevitably get up and walk on the bed, stepping on people. All this activity will lead to sleep fragmentation ” said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, director of sleep research and professor in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

These “micro-awakenings,” which may occur without your knowledge, “are disruptive because they pull you out of deep sleep,” said Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. . “They have been linked to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can make sleep even worse.”

That may be true for many of us, but recent studies have shown that pets in the bedroom could be beneficial for some of us.

“People suffering from depression or anxiety may benefit from having their pet in the bed, because the animal is a big pillow, a big blanket, and they may feel like this cozy, furry creature cuddling reduces their anxiety,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta. , assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Data collected in 2017 from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Phoenix found that more than half of pet owners seen at the clinic allowed their pet to sleep in the room – and the majority found their pet “discreet or even beneficial for sleeping.”

However, around 20% think their four-legged friends make their sleep worse.

Another 2017 study Put sleep trackers on dogs and their humans to measure the quality of rest of both. People who had their dogs in their bedrooms got a good night’s sleep (and so did the dogs), the research team found.

However, sleep quality decreased when people moved their dog from the floor to the bed.

Children can also benefit from sleeping with a pet. A Study 2021 asked teenagers aged 13 to 17 to wear sleep trackers for two weeks and then take a peak sleep test. About a third of children slept with a pet, the study noted, which did not appear to affect the quality of their rest.

“My human calls me the comfort queen because I head to her bed every time we finish a walk.” — Delilah, a 10-year-old Siberian husky.

“In fact, frequent co-sleepers had similar sleep profiles to those who never slept with pets,” the authors wrote.

“All of this suggests that having pets in the bed or in the bedroom is not necessarily bad,” said Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Having your pet nearby can provide considerable psychological comfort, which can help both initiate and maintain sleep,” Kolla said.

“However, if patients report that the animal’s movements or other activities are disrupting their sleep, we advise them to try to consider alternative arrangements for the animal at night and see if that helps them to sleep,” he added.

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A setup for success

The success of co-sleeping with your pet depends largely on how deeply you and your pet are sleeping, says clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus, author of “Good night: the 4-week program from the Sleep Doctor for better sleep and better health“.

“Dogs are generally good for a full night, but cats can be very nocturnal,” Breus said, adding that another factor is “how you both move, because the animal’s movement can wake you up.” humans and vice versa.

“Hello, my name is Lynx (center and right), a 2 year old Siberian. I have to sleep with one of my humans, so I can walk or sit on him or try to smell his breath. I also like drape my A 2-foot-long body around their neck around 3 a.m. My sister Luna (left) likes to sit on their feet and bite them during the night.”

Pets, like humans, can also snoring and disrupting sleep, so make sure you take that into account, Breus said. Small dogs and cats often like to snuggle under the blankets with others, but this can increase your body temperature and disrupt your sleep. (The best temperature for sleeping is a little cool, at 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celsius.)

If you’re considering taking your fur baby to bed, Breus suggests trying it for just a few nights, so you don’t condition your pet to expect it before deciding if it’s right for you.

Some of us should refrain

Despite new scientific knowledge, many of us still have to think twice before bringing our indoor dogs, cats or pigs into our beds.

“It is particularly harmful in people with insomnia or in patients with other sleep disorders – patients with a delayed sleep phase (night owls) or even in people with sleep apnea, who wake up after respiratory arrest and are then unable to go back to sleep,” Polotsky said.

Up to 30% of the American public suffers from insomnia and at least 25 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“Insomniacs are the most sensitive,” Polotsky said. “Sleeping with pets will not necessarily predispose or precipitate insomnia, but it could perpetuate it.”

Every time your sleep cycles are interrupted, you disrupt the brain’s ability to repair itself at a cellular level, consolidate memories, store new information, and prepare the body for peak performance.

The “sweet spot” for good rest is when you can sleep continuously through all four stages of sleep four to six times per night. Since each cycle lasts about 90 minutes, most people need seven to eight hours of relatively uninterrupted sleep to achieve this goal.

A chronic lack of solid rest, therefore, it impacts your ability to pay attention, learn new things, be creative, solve problems, and make decisions.

It gets even darker: Studies reveal that people who experience frequent nighttime awakenings are at high risk of developing dementia or die prematurely, from any cause, as they age.

Breathing problems

There’s another reason why snuggling with animals all night isn’t good for your health. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from asthma, allergies or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleeping with a hairball could be a nightmare.

“My asthmatic patients, my COPD patients always say, ‘Hey Doc, don’t worry, my dog ​​doesn’t shed,’” said Dasgupta, who is also a pulmonologist.

“And I tell them, ‘Yes, but remember, the allergens are in the saliva, they’re in the dog’s skin. So you’re going to be exposed to allergens for eight hours at night and suffer from watery eyes and noses. mouth.’ with the movement of the animal, could well prevent you from sleeping well,” he said.

Some animals should not join the family bed

Back to what’s best for your pet: When is it not a good idea to have a four-legged friend sleep with you?

“Obviously, young puppies or dogs that have behavioral issues — it might not be good for them to sleep with you,” Varble said. “If you have an anxious dog, we teach you that kennels are a safe space.

“Kennels that have three sides make them feel like they only have to ‘protect’ from one angle. We want to teach them that there is a safe place in your home,” she said .

And there are some pets, Varble said, that you should never spoon into bed.

“I work with exotic animals, and many of them have very specific health and safety requirements, including being in an enclosure,” Varble said. “So even though I know people who are very close to their ferrets and guinea pigs, they need to be in their enclosure for their health at night. These are not animals we would want to have in bed with us. “


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