Nearly half of Americans sleep with their dogs. And although many people debate whether cuddling with their pup results in a good night sleep for both dog and owner, science says sleep with your dog.
A study by the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix shows that sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better. Snuggling next to their dogs makes some people feel more secure.
Mayo Clinic researchers studied 40 dogs – no puppies – who slept with their owners. None of the owners had sleep disorders. Both humans and dogs wore activity trackers and the humans also kept sleep diaries.
The study determined humans had a sleep efficiency of 81 percent, while dogs had a sleep efficiency of 85 percent. Anything over 80 is good, the New York Times reported.
It also showed the size of the dog made no difference in how well their owners slept.
According to an American Pet Products Association survey, 62 percent of small dogs, 41 percent of medium-sized dogs and 32 percent of large dogs sleep with their owners.
Assorted sleep studies also have shown sleeping with dogs boosts serotonin and oxytocin levels, reduces stress and blood pressure levels and improves heart health. Here are nine reasons science says sleep with your dog:
Science says: Get a better night’s sleep
Science says sleeping with your dog boosts your body’s production of serotonin, a key chemical you need to get a good night’s sleep.
A study from the University of Missouri-Columbia reviewed groups of dog owners and non-dog owners who sat in a quiet room for 15 to 39 minutes with their dogs, a friendly but strange dog or a robotic dog. During the sessions, the people calmly stroked or pet the dogs.
Researchers found not only that the participants’ blood pressure dropped, but also that their serotonin levels increased when they interacted with their breathing, slobbering, wagging dogs. Their serotonin levels stayed the same when they petted the unfamiliar dogs, but dropped when they petted the robotic dog.
Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, compared the body’s response to dog petting to eating chocolate. In both cases, your body’s response causes you to relax and feel happy, NBC News reported.
Science says: Be in a better mood
Just looking at your dog releases oxytocin, the chemical that contributes to feeling happy.
A lab at Azabu University in Japan studies oxytocin, the hormone that plays a role in maternal bonding, trust, and altruism, Science magazine reported. When a mom stares into her baby’s eyes, the baby’s oxytocin levels rise, which causes the infant to stare back. That makes the mother release more oxytocin, and the positive feedback loop creates a strong emotional bond between the pair, the magazine reported.
Takefumi Kikusui, an animal behaviorist at the lab, wanted to see if the same was true for dogs and their humans.
The lab studied more than 30 dog owners and their pets by taking urine samples from both before asking the owners to interact with their dogs for 30 minutes. Owners typically talked to their dogs and petted them. The dogs and owners gazed into each other’s eyes – sometimes for minutes, sometimes for just a few seconds, the magazine reported. When the time was up, the scientists took more urine samples.
In the pairs that spent the most time looking into each other’s eyes, both male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels. And both male and female owners experienced a 300 percent increase. The magazine reported that owners and dogs who spent little time gazing at each other saw no oxytocin increase.
Science says: Ease pain
Boosting oxytocin levels also reduces pain and discomfort. This is especially true for older adults who may start experiencing aches and pains from arthritis or other joint issues.
When your dog snuggles with you, he also puts off body heat that can soothe pain and make you feel more comfortable.
Being a responsible dog owner also encourages people to stay more active while they care for their pets, which in turn promotes improved mobility.
Science says: Reduce stress
Petting your dog also reduces stress, which is a major cause of insomnia.
Dog food makers Winalot polled 1,000 of the United Kingdom’s 7 million dog owners about their emotional health, The Daily Mail reported.
The results showed 55 percent felt more relaxed after spending time dogs, 44 percent were more optimistic, and 44 percent worried less about everyday problems like job security and having enough money.
Science says: Improves emotional health
Dogs make their owners more nurturing.
Many single people enjoy the companionship of their dogs. Young adults often get a dog before they decide to have a baby. And having a dog in the home also helps many couples survive the dreaded empty nest syndrome.
Having a dog also makes people more social.
Studies show that by walking around the neighborhood with their dogs, people are more likely to strike up conversations with their neighbors. Dog owners are more likely to engage with newcomers and make them feel more welcome. And people are more likely to start a conversation with someone who has a dog because animals create natural icebreakers.
Science says: Improve heart health
Having a dog makes your heart healthier.
A Swedish study shows because dog owners are less likely to suffer from a cardiovascular disease they live longer.
The study at Uppsala University in Sweden analyzed 12 years of health records for the 3.4 million people in that country. Scientific Reports published the results.
Science says: Reduce blood pressure
A National Institute of Health study shows that petting and talking to your dog lowers your blood pressure more than having a conversation with another person.
The study found the subjects’ blood pressure rates were lowest when petting their dogs. Blood pressure slightly increased while talking to their dogs and rose even more when talking to a human.
Touch, therefore, seems much more important than conversation, which may be why it’s soothing for people when their dogs sleep between their legs or sleep behind their knees.
Dogs often touch their owners, either by laying against them by putting a paw on their owner while sleeping. That touch soothes the dog, too.
Science says: Feel safe
Because dogs are pack animals, they naturally like to sleep touching their family members.
Touching their dogs also makes owners feel more secure and sleep more soundly.
Depending on your dog, your pup might sleep in a ball curled against your side. Other dogs may put their back against you and rest facing away so that they can be more alert to any potential dangers. Even the smallest dog thinks he’s a powerful watchdog who’s responsible for keeping you safe.
Confident dogs will sleep on their backs with their legs in the air, exposing their bellies. Dogs who sleep outside would never put themselves in such a vulnerable position.
Ever wonder why your dog wants to sleep on your side of the bed? That one’s easy. Your spot smells like you.
Science says: Breath easy
Although pet dander can worsen asthma symptoms for both children and adults, new research suggests exposing children to pet dander and other allergens before age three may keep them from developing asthma, Medical News Today reported.
So, scoot over and make room in your bed. If science says sleep with your dog, who are you to argue? Just make sure that sleeping with you isn’t preventing your dog from getting a good night’s sleep.
Science says: Dogs need lots of sleep
Most dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours per day. Puppies and older dogs need up to 20 hours.
Unlike humans, dogs to sleep in bursts throughout the day. They typically experience sleep-wake cycles of 16 minutes asleep, 5 minutes awake.
Although dogs are flexible sleepers who adjust to their owners’ schedules and seem to be able to fall asleep nearly instantly, like humans they have trouble sleeping if they are stressed, The Mother Nature Network reported.
Hungarian researchers studied various breeds, including vizslas, retrievers, and mixed breeds. The dogs had either positive or negative experiences before researchers monitored their sleep.
Some dogs spent a few minutes playing fetch or were petted by their owners. Other owners ignored their dogs or researchers threateningly approached the dogs by making direct eye contact without speaking.
The dogs then slept for up to three hours wearing EEG sensors while researchers monitored their brain waves. The dogs who had a negative experience fell asleep twice as fast, which researchers believe was an attempt to escape stress. But although they fell asleep more quickly, their sleep wasn’t as restful. The study showed the stressed dog got 40 to 50 minutes of deep REM sleep — the happy dogs who got an hour or more.
To make sure your dog gets enough sleep, consider whether sleeping with you is restful for him. Your dog might be happier sleeping in his bed if you snore or are a restless sleeper.
If your dog sleeps in your bed, take precautions to make sure you won’t roll over on him or accidentally tug on his fur.
Sleeping with your dog is a personal choice. But before you decide, remember science says sleep with your dog. If you do, you’ll both be happier and better rested. And know even if your dog sleeps in his bed, having him in the same room offers many of the same benefits as having him sleep in your bed.
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She decided to create her dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Sydney, an Australian Shepherd-Corgi mix.
You can reach Sara @ email@example.com.