Sleeping With Your Pets: Awesome or Not so Much?
If you’re reading this, you likely have had a furry family member who has tried to catch some Z’s on your bed. You’re not alone. According to a study by the American Pet Products Association last year, nearly half of pet owners in the United States share their bed with their dog.
We often think we’re doing our dogs or other fur babies a favor by allowing it – they sure do like snuggling up close, don’t they? But, there is science to back up the benefits you are receiving just by sleeping with your pet.
At Happsy, we advocate doing whatever helps you get the best night's sleep. So if that means keeping your bed fur free, that’s totally fine. With that said, if you’re open to your dog or cat sleeping in bed with you, here are just a few of the benefits you’re likely experiencing, as well as some answers to the question: are there downsides to sleeping with your pet?
Sleeping with pets increases your ‘feel good’ hormones
There is a reason mental health professionals have been turning to animals for years to help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research shows that the act of petting a dog has an effect on your brain’s chemistry that’s similar to the way exercise releases ‘feel good’ hormones. This is because your brain processes sensations of touch as either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. When you pet a dog or cat, your brain sees this as pleasant and releases your natural ‘feel good’ hormones, serotonin and dopamine, which simply makes you feel doggone good.
If that doesn’t have you sold, studies also show that staring into a dog's eyes releases oxytocin, which is known as the love hormone. Oxytocin is the same hormone that bonds a mother and child. No wonder pet parents are so passionate about their fur kids!
More time with pets improves heart health
Pet your dog and benefit your heart? A big yes! Pets have demonstrated their ability to improve their owner’s health by lowering blood pressure and decreasing cholesterol levels. How? Again, just by petting them!
Research shows that petting your dog or cat reduces heart rate and lowers blood pressure, which helps your cardiovascular health. So, hop into bed and get to snuggling your furry friend. Bonus – daily walking has incredible health benefits and dogs usually require daily walks. Heading out with your best friend makes your walk less lonely, benefits your health and theirs, and can improve sleep, too, when you hop into bed with your snuggle buddy at night. Win-win-win!
Sleeping with your dog or cat = safety and comfort
Obviously, we aren’t all going to bed next to Cujo (thank goodness) but there is proof that people who share their bed with their dogs feel a level of comfort and safety. Whether your dog is large or small, protective or aloof, they have an incredible sense of hearing and awareness that can help alert you when something is off.
Knowing that there is a second set of ears while you sleep (even if it’s just your sweet kitty’s) can provide a sense of security similar to a home alarm system. Another fun fact, PTSD service dogs are trained to sense when their owners are having a nightmare and wake them from it. How cool is that?!
More germs! And that’s actually a plus
We know, we know, you’re probably thinking: how is this a positive? We hear you, but let’s break it down. The moment you invite dogs or cats into your home, this significantly impacts the types of bacteria found in your home. This, in turn, impacts your immune system.
When you’re exposed to different bacteria and allergens, this benefits your immune system by building its resistance to a variety of different allergens and bacteria. On the contrary, those not exposed to a diversity of microorganisms have an increased risk of developing allergies and autoimmune disorders. As the old saying goes, a little dirt never hurt. Even in your bed.
Are there risks to sleeping with pets?
Of course, with any reward, comes some risks. Everyone’s sleep and health needs are unique, and you know your body best. But, here are some instances where you may want to skip sleeping with a pet:
- If sharing the bed with a pet makes it too crowded to sleep comfortably for you/you and your partner, opt for couch cuddle sessions before bed (or upgrade to a King or Cali King Happsy mattress!)
- If you struggle with moderate to severe allergies already, you may want to skip sharing your bed with your furry friend – it could help, but it could also make bad allergies worse.
- If your pet is a wiggle worm and keeping you up, opt for that couch cuddle sesh before bed to get the same calming benefits. Of course, if your pet is super spoiled (no judgment!), you could get a twin size mattress to stick next to your bed that is just for them (yes, we’ve seen this before and it is kind of genius.)
- Shedding! If your dog or cat sheds a ton, this can be bothersome. For some people, a bed covered in pet hair really skeeves them out and may not allow them to rest easily in their space, which is never the goal with bedtime.
So, is sleeping with your dog or cat right for you? You’ll have to weigh your pros and cons for yourself. But, the benefits are quite impressive, from reducing your anxiety and stress levels at bedtime to making you feel like you have an alarm system in place.
So, if you do opt out of sleeping with your pets, we still recommend making time to cuddle your furry best friend often to reap the amazing benefits their loyal friendship provides. Also, make sure you’re doing small things every day to help reduce your stress and incorporate the self care you need for better sleep and a healthier you.