In 2018, an academic journal called Anthrozoös published a study on U.S. adults who share their beds with their pets. The data demonstrated that more than half of the individuals in the study allowed their dogs to join them in bed — no doubt this number has only increased throughout the isolation and stress that the pandemic created.
There are conflicting schools of thought about whether sleeping with your dog has benefits or disadvantages, and there’s evidence to support either opinion.
You may wonder if dogs make the best nap partners. Or do people sleep better when they sleep with dogs?
Anyone who has snuggled beside a cuddly pooch knows how comforting it can be, but does this habit negatively affect you or your fuzzy sleeping partner?
Sleeping with your dog benefits
Improves mental health
When you interact with your dog or cat, you feel less stressed, and your brain releases more oxytocin — a hormone that makes us feel better.
Furthermore, sleeping next to your pet improves your overall sleep quality and sense of security.
Some sleep specialists suggest that sleeping beside a beloved pet could help lessen adverse side effects from severe sleep disorders, including narcolepsy, insomnia, sleep apnea, post-traumatic stress disorder, and nightmares.
So, if you’ve had a particularly stressful day or need some serious shuteye, scoot over and make room for your furry friend.
Reduces blood pressure
Scientists call this the “pet effect.”
Essentially, interacting with your dog can help lower your blood pressure even more significantly than interacting with another person.
As mentioned previously, sleeping beside your pet helps reduce stress and improve sleep efficiency, so it makes sense that this behavior would also have positive physiological effects.
Decreases the heating bill
This might seem silly, but anyone who sleeps beside a dog knows how warm and snuggly it can be.
For individuals who live in areas that experience severe cold temperatures or just for people who struggle to pay their heating bills, it makes perfect sense to include your pup in your bedtime routine.
Evidence shows that some indigenous cultures in cold Northern climates relied on their canine pals for survival, especially on chilly winter nights.
Strengthens your bond
Like sleeping beside your human partner, sharing a bed with your dog helps strengthen your relationship.
From a dog’s perspective, an invitation into your bed solidifies its role within the “pack.”
Furthermore, sleeping next to one another demonstrates vulnerability and builds trust, improving the bond between you and your pet.
Forging a stronger relationship with your dog will also improve its behavior and training.
For small children, sleeping next to a pet can help reduce their risk of developing pet allergies later.
Some scientists believe that exposing young children, particularly newborns, to pets early in life helps their immune systems better adapt to those potential allergens.
Reasons against sleeping with your dog
Pets can be disruptive
A Mayo Clinic study from 2017 found that about 20% of the dog owners interviewed believed that sleeping beside their pets interrupted their healthy sleep cycle.
Dogs may snore, bark, and move around throughout the night; some pets get bored or hungry and may even try to wake you so you will give them some attention.
Some dogs have sleep disorders and may frequently wake up throughout the night.
Others experience dreams that make them whimper or growl.
Your dog may not fully wake you up when it makes noises or moves, but these actions could disrupt sleep and make you feel less rested in the morning.
Dogs can aggravate breathing issues
If you suffer from breathing issues such as asthma or severe allergies, you should abstain from going to bed with your pet.
Dogs have allergens in their fur, skin, and even saliva, which can seriously aggravate your eyes and sinuses.
Even people who don’t regularly experience allergic reactions to their dogs during the day may suffer from these symptoms while sleeping next to them at night.
And make your bed smell
Pet owners know their furry friends don’t always smell the best, even with frequent baths and dental checks.
This is something to consider before inviting your dog into bed with you at night.
Once or twice is no big deal, but once it becomes a pattern, you might notice that your sheets begin to smell funky.
To help with this, invest in a good mattress protector. Wash your sheets and pillowcases often.
Brush your dog’s teeth frequently, keep its claws short, and always remember to stay on top of flea treatments.
Plus, some pets need more structure
If you have a new puppy or a dog with anxiety, it might not be a good idea to go to bed with your pet.
For these situations, it’s best to help your dog create a safe space in the house, ideally a crate or a kennel.
Don’t use this space as punishment, but as a place for your dog to relax and reset.
Add a nice cozy dog bed (especially for cold nights or older dogs with achy bones). It’s okay for a dog to sleep in a crate or kennel, but it should never be for more than 6 to 8 hours (even less for young puppies).
If your sleep or allergies are affected by your dog sleeping beside you, you might bring your pup’s dog bed into your room.
That way, you still experience the comfort of being nearby without suffering negative consequences.
Final thoughts on sleeping with your dog
Ultimately, whether you sleep with your pet is up to you.
Some experts believe that sleeping next to a beloved dog has many benefits, but it depends on your health, sleep patterns, and behavior.
Before making it a habit to sleep beside your dog, consider talking through the pros and cons with your veterinarian and even your primary care provider.