Most surveys have found that roughly half of all dog owners share their bed or bedroom with their dogs. This bed sharing or “co-sleeping,” as it is called, is actually quite popular. We look at the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with your pooch so that you can determine whether you should do it.
Sleeping with pets is nothing new. Aboriginal Australians were often reported to sleep alongside their dogs and dingoes for warmth and protection from evil spirits. The reference to a “three dog night” – a night so cold, it takes sleeping with three dogs to stay warm – is a testament to the history of sharing beds with pets.
Your dog will provide a calm, soothing presence in your room that will provide you with many benefits. Your pet will feel safe and secure, and you will have a warm dog to snuggle with. In fact, because a dog’s body temperature is a few degrees higher than ours, they are excellent bed warmers.
Another common reason for having your pet in bed is that dogs help you relax. Anecdotal observations tell us that the rhythmic breathing of a dog can actually help you go to sleep. Furthermore, lying close to a dog increases the levels of oxytocin in your body, which is a hormone that promotes affection and happiness as well as relaxation.
Just being in the same room with your pet is important to strengthen your bond. By being together in a non-demanding situation, you provide each other with companionship and loyalty. Relaxing together tells your pet that you will always be there.
It is pertinent to mention that humans are most vulnerable when asleep, but by allowing your pets to be at your side, you not only show them that you trust them but also get protection. You could argue that a dog sleeping in his own bed will also warn you of an intruder, but a dog at your side is better prepared to deal with a home invader just by being closer to you.
Sleeping with your pet at a specific time everyday sets up a routine for both of you. You commit to getting your work done on time and your pet gets ready to snuggle so that both of you can peacefully drift asleep and relax for the next day.
A number of pet owners turn ghastly pale at the mere mention of sleeping with their pets. They talk of rolling in the filth of animals and knowingly exposing themselves to disease. However, only a few of these concerns are serious, survive scrutiny and deserve a closer look.
The biggest problem that the human-dog sleeping arrangement presents is a decrease in sleep quality and quantity. Several pet owners sleeping with their dogs have reported sleep disturbances. The issue seems to stem from the fact that dogs are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they may have several sleep/wake cycles, whereas humans are monophasic sleepers, so once we hit the sack, we are gone.
However, some researchers have found that sleeping with a single dog in the same room did not seem to affect sleep efficiency in the sample set. Even when sleeping with the dog on the bed, there was just a small decrease in sleep efficiency, which is still close to the tolerable 80% limit. However, this study cannot be trusted too much as the researchers conceded that there was no control group, the participants were self-selected, and the sample size was too small.
Health and Wellbeing
Several dog owners are quick to point out the potential health concerns related to co-sleeping with pets:
- Human allergies can be aggravated. This is especially true of allergies caused by dander. The close interaction may increase irritants on your bed like pollen.
- There is a certain risk of interspecies disease transmission. This can spell danger for a young infant or anyone with a compromised immune system sleeping in the same room, even on another bed.
People warn against sleeping with your dog, or else it will become dominant or spoiled by your attention. Problems with separation anxiety are often touted as the biggest reason to avoid sharing your bed with your pet.
To be clear, thus far, there has been no conclusive peer-reviewed research that proves these assertions to be correct. Common sense dictates that co-sleeping may be a result of behavioral problems such as excessive attachment and not the cause. Nothing can be said definitively until we know more.
If you plan on sharing a bed with your dog, you should keep these tips in mind:
- Replace your sheets: Dogs tend to shed frequently and produce dander. This, in addition to the other irritants they may drag along, aggravates allergies. A quick fix is to replace your bedding (i.e., pillowcases, sheets, etc.) more frequently.
- Size up your mattress: The biggest hurdle in co-sleeping with your pet is space. Measure your bed to see if you have enough room for both of you to stretch out. A crowded bed is an uncomfortable bed.
- Get into a bath routine: You can deal with the allergen problem by adopting a simple ritual of bathing your dog before bed. This may be cumbersome for some, but if allergies are a serious concern, this is a surefire way to get some z’s with your bud at your side.
- Remove distractions: Your bed is a place to sleep; designating it as such is important because you want your dog to know bedtime is not playtime. Getting rid of doggie snacks and toys allows you to get the rest you need. The same rule applies to you too; leave your electronics where you can find them tomorrow.
Most dog owners agree that the benefits of sleeping with their pets outweigh the disadvantages, and we agree. Co-sleeping allows you to bond with your pet and sleep comfortably. A word of advice for the wary: your dog maybe your best friend, but know that sleeping on your bed is a privilege, not a right. Enforcing and encouraging good behavior will keep your relationship healthy.