For most of us, pets are part of the family. According to one study, more than half the global households have a pet, with around 33% keeping dogs, followed by cats at 23%.
Though the type of pets we keep is varied and tied to regional tastes (you’re far more likely to find a dog owner in the Americas than you are in Asia, for example), one thing is certain: a large percentage of us love sharing our beds with pets.
The feeling is mutual too; most domesticated pets love hopping into bed with us after a long day for warmth, attention and comfort.
Considering the pure joy and unbridled loyalty that pets provide, it may come as no surprise that 56% of dog owners choose to sleep next to their dogs.
So, with this understandable trend seemingly commonplace worldwide, just how potentially detrimental to our health is letting our four-legged friends hop into bed with us? Is it a harmless indulgence or something quietly damaging our wellbeing?
Pro - The quality of your sleep may remain unchanged
Pets may not actually impact your sleep at all, though it is worth taking into account mitigating factors like the number of people in bed, the number of pets, and the size of the bed.
The best barometer to measure this is how you feel in the morning. Fresh and energetic? You’re good to go! Exhausted and missing your bed? Then a good solution may be a pet bed somewhere else in the bedroom. Interestingly, one study found that dogs were a better sleeping buddy than both cats and humans!
Con - The quality of your sleep may decrease!
Dogs and cats are light sleepers, always on the alert to any disturbance. This level of movement can be extremely disruptive, though a study in 2020 found that the movement of dogs is less disruptive.
According to Healthline, the movement of dogs is not as much of an issue as particular breeds that snore, those that slobber, and ones that overheat. These are very much not suited to sleeping on your bed. The same goes for our feline friends: because cats are nocturnal, they are far more like to want to play or attempt to get your attention during the night rather than settling down.
Pro - A Mental Health Boost
For some of us, there’s no substitute for the companionship we get from our pets. A pet can improve our mental health, reduce anxiety, comfort us and reduce stress.
Studies have shown that pets have a beneficial effect on our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, heart rates and blood pressure. Sleeping next to our pet may increase these beneficial effects and offer further support for people with long-term mental health problems.
In smaller studies, pets have been shown to enhance empathy in their owners as well as lower aggression.
Con - Potential for sickness
Pets bringing dust and pollen (among other things) into the bedroom can exacerbate the severity of reactions for those of us with allergies or asthma. Furthermore, though the risk is relatively low for indoor pets, there is a risk that parasites and bacteria can be spread by dogs or cats touching and licking our faces or an area with a cut or scratch. Pets can also carry fleas, ticks, mites and ringworm.
The recommendation would be for anyone with a compromised immune system, anyone feeling unwell and young children to avoid sharing a bed with a pet. For everyone else, it’s a case of preference and ensuring that whatever decision you make doesn’t disrupt your sleep cycle. Why not check out your sleep quality score now?