Sleeping With Your Pet: Tips & Tricks
Sleeping With Your Pet: Tips & Tricks
Have you ever wondered if sleeping with your pet is actually ok? We’ve got the answer and more.
We love our pets! And for a good reason. According to studies, owning a pet has several health benefits, including reduced risk of depression, heart disease, and reduced blood pressure.
Snuggling with pets and giving them love and affection is a common practice for pet owners. But what about sharing a bed with them? Around 40% of dogs sleep with their owners and yet, some say it's not a good practice. When it comes down to it, there are plenty of benefits and only a few legitimate downsides. Let’s take a look.
Is it healthy to sleep with your pet?
You may have heard the claim that allowing your pet to sleep with you is unhealthy, unsanitary, or otherwise a bad practice. This is not necessarily the case. While there are some valid concerns about co-sleeping with your dogs and cats, there is nothing inherently unhygienic in the practice. There are two main valid concerns when it comes to health and sharing a bed with your pet, but how serious are they?
Indeed, having a pet in your home sleep environment can negatively affect sleep quality. Then again, for some, there is a positive effect -- especially those suffering from anxiety or sleeping disorders.
The negative impact comes from the possibility that your favorite furry friend can interrupt your sleep cycle. This is because many pets have a different sleep cycle than their human pet owners.
Dogs, for example, are polyphasic and have around three sleep cycles per hour during sleep. Humans, on the other hand, are monophasic and have one period of sleep over 24 hours.
Dogs also tend to sleep lightly and stay alert, even during sleep. This can be beneficial to alert their owners of something that may be awry, such as an emergency or intruder, but can also cause unnecessary sleep disturbances in non-threatening situations.
Improvements to sleep quality are also possible when you sleep with your pet. Those that suffer from anxiety, stress, or lifestyle-related insomnia may find their sleep improved due to the comfort and routine that comes from sharing a bed with your pet.
Some pet owners are concerned about germs or potential diseases their pets carry. While in some very rare cases, pets can transmit diseases to humans (and the other way around) having pets around can often boost immunity by exposing the system to microorganisms or other bacteria in small doses.
That isn't to say there are no health issues to consider and there are some risks to take into account.
Allergy sufferers can experience severe negative health effects from sleeping with their pets. While daily allergy medication can alleviate symptoms, those that have allergic reactions to pet and animal dander should avoid exposure in their sleeping environment.
Cat-scratch disease is a bacterial infection that is caused by cat scratches or bites that break the surface of the skin. Sleeping in close proximity to your cat can increase your chances of receiving a scratch or bite of this nature. Taking proper steps can reduce the risk of becoming infected.
Benefits of human-animal co-sleeping
Sharing a bed with your beloved pets has many benefits, including boosting mental health.
Think about how comforting it is to have your pet around during the day and how stress-relieving it can be to interact affectionately with this extended member of your family. Pet ownership can lead to a proven increase in quality of life.
During sleeping hours, these same effects can help those with anxiety, sleep disorders, or PTSD. On top of that, there are other benefits, such as an improved relationship with your pet!
Anxiety and Insomnia Relief
Our pets can provide a feeling of security and comfort. Some studies suggest that simply petting a dog or cat can help reduce symptoms of depression.
During sleeping hours, having a dog sleep next to us can help bring peace of mind and mitigate hyperarousal and hypervigilance by providing a sense of safety and solace. Additionally, since dogs tend to be light sleepers and protective by nature, they can alert us to intruders or other emergencies, helping us relax and worry about one less thing as we fall asleep.
For those that suffer from anxiety or insomnia, these benefits can mean the difference between a restful or difficult night’s sleep. Some even find a decrease in the need for sleep medicine when their furry friend is by their side during the night.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Intervention
PTSD service dogs are trained to intervene when someone experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder is having a nightmare.
While this doesn't help a sleeper get good, uninterrupted sleep, it does help with the negative, stressful, and even painful emotions that come from having these intense nightmares. Having a trained dog sleep in the same bed can be indispensable for those who experience intense dreams during sleeping hours.
Those with chronic pain may find relief by co-sleeping with their pet.
Not only do the stress-alleviating benefits of having your animal nearby help with pain management, but sleeping with your dog can help create a healthy routine that includes waking up and taking them for a walk every morning. This habit can potentially work to reduce chronic pain.
Sleepwalking and epilepsy
Similar to PTSD service dogs, those that experience sleeping walking and epilepsy may find sleeping with a service animal incredibly beneficial. Service dogs can be trained to wake up their owners during a sleepwalking episode or epilepsy attack, preventing potential harmful or life-threatening situations.
Increases pet-human bonding
Snuggling up with your pet at night can help the two of you bond. Having a good friendship with your pet is not overrated. Some even compare their relationship with their pet to that of having children!
Sharing a sleeping space can be incredibly beneficial to your relationship with your pet.
Tips for co-sleeping with pets
Whether you decide to sleep with your pet or not is a personal choice. If you do like sharing the bed with your pet, there are some tips to make the experience better for both owner and pet.
Invest in the right sleeping environment
If you’re sharing a bed with your pet, make sure that your mattress is sufficiently sized to accommodate you, your pet or pets, and another human if you have one.
Even the best house-trained pets can get sick and have accidents. Protect your mattress with a mattress pad that can easily be removed and washed.
Opt for sheets that are machine washable, durable, and preferably stain-resistant. Microfiber bed sheets tend to be a great option for pet owners exactly for this reason.
Keep your sheets clean. We recommend washing sheets every two weeks or less. If you struggle with mild allergies but still choose to co-sleep with your pet, wash your sheets even more often.
Keep up with your pet’s health and hygiene
Your pet’s health is important, period. That said, if you are sharing your sleeping space with your dog or cat, it’s extra important that they receive a full bill of health and are kept up to date on vet visits and vaccines.
Keeping your sleeping space clean is important for your health and good hygiene, so make sure that having your pet in this space will not disrupt the cleanliness of your bedding.
Regularly take your pet to the groomers to ensure they are not carrying dirt, mud, dust, or extra pet hair into your sleeping space. If you don’t use a regular groomer, ensure to bathe your animal yourself regularly.
Walk your dog before bed
Your dog may be potty trained enough that accidents are an incredibly rare occurrence. Even in this case, well-trained dogs will tell you when they need to go.
If this is in the middle of the night, it could disrupt your sleep and negatively affect sleep quality. Dog owners should make a habit of taking their dogs out for a walk as close to bedtime as possible.
Create a bedtime routine
As well as walking your dog before bed, create a routine that could also include brushing your pet, watching tv, or snuggling up while reading. Routine helps both you and your pet maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
Set boundaries with your pet
Anyone with a pet has probably experienced the rude awakening of being licked in the face at 6 AM.
It’s important to set boundaries with your pet, including where on the bed they should sleep and keeping their mouths away from your face.
When you shouldn’t sleep with your pet
There are a few scenarios when inviting your pet to share your bed is firmly a bad idea. At the end of the day, the choice is still yours, but in some cases, co-sleeping can exacerbate certain behavioral problems or health problems -- for both you and your pet.
Pet behavioral problems
If your pet is having behavioral problems, it’s best to consult a trainer. A trainer can help you to better manage your pet on a day-by-day basis and may be able to offer advice so that you can transition to sharing your bed with a pet that was once problematic.
Resource guarding in dogs
Dog owners may already be familiar with the well-known behavioral issue known as resource guarding. If your dog struggles with this behavioral issue, they may also become protective over the bed.
While a dog's protective nature can be a benefit for sussing out intruders, if a dog becomes overly protective of their owner's bed, it could lead to serious problems around bedtime.
Aggression in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including pain, possessiveness, dominance, or frustration.
It's not necessarily true that by allowing pet dogs to sleep in your bed, you are relinquishing dominance to them. That said, if you have an aggressive dog that is overprotective or over dominant, especially around bedtime, it might be a sign that you should not be sleeping with your dog and that they should have their bed.
Severe allergies to pets
If you suffer from severe allergies, it may be best to keep your pet from entering the bedroom at all.
Allergies can make sleeping incredibly difficult. Taking medicine every day can help alleviate symptoms, but usually is not a healthy solution or long-term solution to the problem.
You or your pet have health problems
While disease transmission from humans to pets and vice-versa is rare, it’s not unheard of. Protect yourself and your pet.
If you or your pet have health problems, reduce the risk of transmission by keeping your distance from your pet, especially during crucial sleeping hours.
You’re a light sleeper
Sleeping with your dog or cat can disrupt good sleep. Pet sleep cycles and human sleep cycles are not the same. Additionally, most pets stay alert even during sleep, which causes them to wake up easily to react to any perceived threat.
If you are a light sleeper, any movement by your pet is likely to disrupt your sleep, meaning that you wake up less rested regularly.
The pet is small or still a puppy or kitten
Most people do not sleep with small pets such as rabbits, hamsters, snakes, or birds. Not only can these animals pose a greater health risk, but they are small and can be easily crushed during sleep.
Small puppies or kittens could suffer the same fate or be knocked off the bed by a restless sleeper. Wait to sleep with your pet until they are grown and strong enough to withstand potential tossing and turning during sleep.
Pets and young children
Young children should not sleep with a pet. Toddlers and infants are already at a higher risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and suffocation during sleep.
Pets, particularly cats, can increase this risk by sleeping on a child's face, obstructing their breathing.
Wait until your child is old enough and strong enough to defend against potential airway obstructions by unsuspecting pets.
The bottom line
Allowing pets to sleep with you has several benefits. While there are a few cases where it may not be suitable to sleep with your pet, there shouldn’t be a stigma around the practice.
Our pets are like our family. A high percentage of pet owners enjoy the many physical and mental health benefits of their furry friends sleeping with them at night. If it works for you, there's no reason you can't do the same!
At Mellanni, we love both bedding and pets. Check out some of our best pet-friendly products.
Prefer going organic? Our 100% Organic Cotton Sheet Set is luxurious, durable, and easy to care for. Perfect for you and your pet!
Choose wrinkle-resistant, fade-resistant, and stain-resistant microfiber sheets with Mellanni’s Hotel Luxury 1800 Bedding.
Our 100% Cotton Jersey Knit Sheet Set is one of our most stretchy and comfortable sheet sets, great for making your pet-friendly bed that much more comfortable.
A mattress cover is a must for any pet owner that sleeps with their pet. Mellanni’s Waterproof Mattress Pad is the top choice for those looking to protect their mattress from any accidents -- pet-related or otherwise.
You and your pet or pets deserve the best night’s sleep. Happy snoozing!