There are few greater joys in life than the love we feel from our pets.
Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, or just an all around animal lover, chances are you’re eager to spend every waking—and sleeping—moment with your pet by your side.
However, when you’re investing money into something as important as a new mattress, you may be wondering: “should I let my pets get on the bed with me?”
There are a few different angles to look at when considering this question, as sleeping with your pets does have both its positive and its negative sides. Let’s take a look at what some sleep studies have to say on the matter, as well as what additional considerations might be pertinent, before making the decision to let your fur children up on the bed with you.
Benefits of Sleeping With Your Pet
When considering the benefits, the easiest argument to make in favor of pets on the bed is that it will help you and your pet develop a much deeper, stronger bond.
When you and your pet are sleeping, you are both at your most vulnerable, and sleeping next to each other can help you develop the type of bond and trust that is vital to a healthy pet-owner relationship. Your pets love being around you, and falling asleep by your side is a way of showing just how strong their trust in you can be.
Improved Quality of Life
Multiple studies—Brown et. al (2018) and Wells (2009)—have tried to answer the question of whether or not sleeping with pets provides an improvement in the quality of sleep for owners, especially for those with chronic pain or fatigue. Neither study found a significant change for patients, but both concluded that owners much prefer sleeping with their pets simply because it provides them with a better quality of life. They feel less depressed or lonely, more physically and mentally engaged, and more emotionally stable when their pets are with them.
Just as cuddling your significant other can improve your sleep, it’s easy to assume that pets provide a similar benefit. Studies have shown that cuddling in general can release the hormone oxytocin, helping your body feel more relaxed, easing stress, and helping you fall asleep. As one study from 2015 found, cuddling their dogs can have the added benefit of helping owners feel more secure and comfortable as they start to doze off.
As for cats, hearing your cat purr next to you as you start to doze off can also act as your own personal sort of white-noise generator, which has been shown to help aid in falling asleep. Whether you’re cuddling cats or dogs, either one can offer their own special benefits to your sleep cycle and overall well being.
Downsides of Sleeping With Your Pet
Unfortunately, there are also some downsides to sleeping with your pets. The most notable one is also one of the most concerning: the potential for dogs and cats to spread unknown parasites or diseases to their humans.
As the CDC notes, this is a phenomenon known as zoonotic diseases, or what they call “Zoonoses.” Having your pet sleep in the same bed as you can increase your exposure to zoonotic diseases considerably, which is why it’s so important to have regular vet visits for your pets. Historically, there have been a handful of cases that point out the potential dangers of sharing your bed with a pet that has a flea infestation or other diseases, but luckily even the CDC notes: “Zoonotic infections acquired by sleeping with a pet are uncommon.” They reiterate at the end of their report: “To reduce such risks, pet owners should seek regular veterinary care for their pets.”
Additionally, pet allergies are certainly a cause for concern. For those that have a slight allergy to their pet’s dander, sleeping with the pet in the bed could be a bad idea. You may wake up feeling stuffy and uncomfortable, which can be an uncomfortable way to start the day.
Unfortunately, as comforting as it may be to fall asleep with your cat or dog curled up in your arms, some studies have found that sleeping with your pets can actually increase the chances of sleep disturbance. Whether it’s your dog getting up to drink some water in middle of the night, animal snoring, or your cat deciding to play with your feet while you’re falling asleep, there are just more opportunities for your sleep to be disturbed.
One Australian study from 2014 noted that participants were more likely to feel tired immediately upon waking up if they slept with their pets, whereas participants that slept alone felt more alert. The study, however, ends with by supporting more of a neutral position, stating: “However, there were no significant differences found in total self-reported sleep length or feelings of tiredness during the day. The continued practice of co-sleeping with pets suggests that there may be some benefits such as social support and social interaction, and increased feelings of personal security.”
Communication is Key
Finally, if you have a partner that’s sharing the bed with you, having your animals on the bed can make bedtime very crowded. It’s important to communicate with your partner regarding what feels most comfortable for both of you, and if that means getting a new separate bed for your pup, then it could be for the best.
Things To Consider When Sleeping With Pets
Now that you understand the pros and cons of sleeping with your pets, you can make a more educated decision on whether or not you want to allow your pets on the bed with you at night. However, you should also consider the importance of protecting your investment: aka your mattress.
One of the biggest areas of concern is the potential for wear and tear that having dogs and cats can cause to your mattress. Even if your cats aren’t likely to claw up the side of the bed, there’s always a potential for accidents, muddy paws, dander, and dirt to become embedded into your mattress. Worse yet, depending on where you live in the world, you may also have to worry about hidden zoonotic pests and parasites that can sneakily transfer from your dog or cat’s fur into your sheets.
The best way to avoid mishaps is to protect your mattress from the start by getting a mattress protector. This way dirt, claws, liquids, and more are prevented from seeping into your mattress and potentially causing irreversible damage. However, if mishaps have already happened before the protector arrived, then regularly stripping your bed, washing your sheets, and cleaning your mattress can help keep it in tip-top shape for years to come. And if accidents do happen, just be sure to know the best ways to clean urine or other unwelcome materials (like blood) out of your bed.
It’s also important to consider how much sleep you and your pet both need. Overall, humans need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, but our animals can have very different sleep schedules. Just like in nature, humans and animals rely on their internal clocks, also known as our circadian rhythm. Messing up that rhythm by not getting enough sleep or only taking a few power naps every day can really throw us and our pets off. But just how much sleep do our cats and dogs need?
How Many Hours a Day Do Cats Sleep
Cats have a few key characteristics: they’re often aloof, sassy, and when they’re not eating, grooming, or bird watching, they’re often found sleeping. For an animal that only lives to be about 16 years old, on average, they spend about half their lifetime just sleeping.
Typical adult cats require about 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day.
That’s quite a lot of napping, which means when you’ve gotten a full 8 hours of sleep and are ready to take on the day, they’ve only gotten about half their normal dose of snoozes.
How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need
Dogs, on the other hand, are much more known for being active, excited, loyal, and playful. It’s expected that cats are going to sleep a lot, but how much time does your dog devote to sleeping? As it turns out, adult dogs sleep about 12 to 14 hours a day — almost as much as cats.
Of course, this also depends on the age and breed of the dog, as some high-energy breeds (like huskies and border collies) need to expend a lot more energy and are less likely to sleep the day away. Regardless, you may be surprised to find that after you’ve left the house for work, your dogs are happy to tuck themselves back into bed for a couple more hours of peaceful sleep.
Whether you decide to cuddle up with your pets at night, or to set them up with their own cozy little beds, multiple scientific studies have shown that having cats and dogs in your life can offer you comfort, security, and unconditional love.