The Benefits Of Sleeping With Your Dog
A dog has always been man (and woman’s!) best friend. For most of us, adopting a dog or buying a new puppy is like having another member of the family.
Bringing this fluffy little companion into your life can completely change it forever. With a puppy, you have all the demands of a newborn – crying in the night, housetraining and behaviour training.
And even if you choose to rescue a dog from the pound, you will most likely inherit some behavioural problems and find yourself investing time into making your new pet feel settled and happy in their new home.
There are so many books and videos out there offering opinions on everything from training methods to diet and exercise.
But what are the benefits of sleeping with your dog? While he or she might have their own personalised bowls, specialist food and even cute outfits some owners are not sure about letting their pet sleep in the same bed.
We’ve put together everything you need to know about sleeping with your dog so you can make the right choice for your family.
Table of Contents
- Can Interrupt Your Love Life
- Worsens Aggression Problems
- Can Bring Dirt and Bacteria into Your Bed
- Can Trigger Allergies
- Can Disturb Your Sleep
One of the reasons a recent study found more than half (56%) of pet owners allow their pets to sleep in the same bed as them was because it made them feel comforted. Having a snuggle with your dog does make you feel better at the end of a long day and curling up to sleep with them can just prolong this feeling. 41% of the pet owners surveyed said they felt their pet either had no effect on the quality of their sleep or made them sleep better.
The study did advise any medical professionals dealing with a patient with sleep problems to ask about their pet’s sleeping arrangements as this isn’t something that will work for everyone.
But I’m sure we can all agree the sound of a dog’s gentle snores is very relaxing and for some people, especially when they are home alone, it can provide a great deal of comfort to them.
Obviously some dogs are louder sleepers than others, just watch what this man’s dog does when he films his dog snoozing and plays it back to him!
If you’ve ever switched the heating up full, filled up your hot water bottle and switched on your electric blanket only to STILL be shivering in bed then you might want to get yourself a dog.
Dogs are brilliant at keeping themselves warm and in the wild they don’t need thick blankets or the comforts of home. A dog uses more than just its fur to keep the chill off, they have layers of coats which each perform a different job to either keep heat in or reflect it back out.
So, if you live in a cold climate, or your home has lost heating, then getting your dog to sleep in bed with you can help you to keep warm through the night. They will warm up your bed quickly and stay at a constant, cosy temperature.
You should be careful with smaller breeds as they could get squashed under heavy blankets and if you are going to let your dog in to keep warm then you should also make sure they don’t overheat. A dog releases heat by panting or sweating through their paws so if you notice these symptoms then move them to a cooler place and make sure they have plenty of water.
Having a dog can lower your blood pressure which can be very helpful if you suffer from hypertension.
In a research paper, 60 male and female participants had their blood pressure measured while they either petted a dog or spoke to another person.
The results showed that people’s blood pressure was lowest while they were petting the dog and highest while talking to another person. The act of touching and stroking the dog had the biggest impact so sleeping while touching a dog can reduce your blood pressure over time and alleviate symptoms of high blood pressure.
Another study, which spanned 20 years, showed people with a cat were 60% less likely to die of heart disease and another piece of research showed 240 married couples with pets had lower blood pressure than single people with no pets.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are 78.2million dogs in America. So if everyone with those dogs sees their blood pressures go down even a tiny bit, it will help everyone live longer and healthier lives.
Just being around your dog can help put you in a better mood and feel calmer. While some dogs can be energetic, all dogs have a happy, carefree spirit which can be a joy to see if you’re going through a hard time and finding it difficult to relax.
Simply being with your dog, throwing a ball for them or playing with them can help you refocus your mind and calm down.
If you’re worrying or can’t calm down after a long day, just lay down on your bed and let your dog lay next to you. You’ll soon see them dozing and their calm attitude can rub off on you.
This might sound strange but if you’ve had a frustrating day then talk it over with your dog. They won’t answer you but you can unload the burdens of the day without having to worry about someone else’s reaction.
A UK study has shown one of the best ways to calm down is being with your dog so next time you have a bad day try a little bit of pet therapy.
If you suffer from insomnia, you may have tried lots of things to get yourself off to sleep. Many people who struggle with this sleep disorder find themselves reaching for prescription drugs, sleeping tablets or even herbal remedies to try to get themselves to sleep.
Insomnia can be a crippling problem and even lead to long term health complaints like obesity and diabetes if it isn’t treated properly.
But as we mentioned above, sleeping with a dog is good for your mental health so if the root cause of your insomnia is worries or anxiety you can beat these symptoms by just having your furry friend crawl under the blankets with you.
Some people swear by the sound of a dog’s breathing to put them to sleep and, as many people use videos of white noise or soothing sounds to help them sleep, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that a calming dog’s breath can also help you drop off.
As anyone who suffers from depression knows, it can be hard to get yourself motivated every day. When the depressive mood hits you it can be difficult to see a way to continue.
But having a pet can help you battle through this mental illness.
Just knowing you need to get up and feed, walk and look after your pet can help you have more of a purpose and give you the motivation you need.
But sleeping with a dog when you have depression can also alleviate the symptoms of loneliness you might be feeling.
Having a pet also adds structure and routine to your day. This is very important if you are struggling with your mental health as having a set plan for the day ahead can keep you focused and active when you’re fighting the urge to stay in bed.
A pet relies on you for everything so if you are feeling worthless, knowing your pet needs you to survive can make you feel better.
Not everyone wants a guard dog and it is certainly not a good idea to train your dog to show aggression towards other humans.
But just the knowledge that your dog will bark if someone tried the door or if there is a disturbance outside can help you feel safer.
If you have been a victim of burglary, it can be difficult to fall asleep again after the crime – especially if you were robbed while you were sleeping.
Sharing your bed with a dog will give you that added reassurance that no matter how deeply you sleep, the dogs super sensitive hearing will pick up someone trying the door or fiddling with the letterbox in the night.
Feeling less fearful when you go to bed means you can rest easier. Even if you only let your pup share your bed when your partner is away it can make you feel a lot more secure in your own home, if only to have a fluffy alarm clock by your side.
Sleeping with your dog can strengthen the bond between you. This is especially so in rescue dogs or new puppies that have been separated from their mother or siblings.
In the wild, dogs live in packs – hunting and sleeping together. They are sociable creatures and look up to a pack leader for support and guidance. This is why humans and dogs get on so well, through thousands of years of domestication dogs recognise us as social creatures too – and want to join our pack.
Dogs need clear leadership and without a pack leader you might find behavioural problems creeping in like anxiety and aggression. A dog that doesn’t know it is protected by you can seek to protect itself, even against things that are not harmful.
Sleeping with your dog can strengthen the bond between you and enable your dog to feel close to you.
As we mentioned above, just having a dog around can make you feel calmer and lower your blood pressure.
But dogs have actually been proven to cure anxiety and stress disorders recognised by medical officials.
Sleeping with a dog can lower symptoms of anxiety and stress. Dogs are naturally calming animals and some breeds have a very laid back temperament which is the perfect antidote to a frenetic human.
And it isn’t just adults that can benefit from a dog’s stress-relieving qualities, children can also see reduced stress and anxiety by letting a dog in the bedroom a study says.
When researchers compared children that had pets to those that didn’t, they found 12% of children were showing signs of anxiety compared to almost double, 21%, of children without a pet.
How a Dog Sleeps
Dogs actually need 12 to 14 hours sleep a day and puppies need even more – up to 18 hours! Just like a human, the amount of sleep a dog needs changes with their age. As a puppy they need lots of sleep, just like a newborn baby, and then as an adult they also need lots of rest which differs from a human which needs less.
Dogs don’t have the same sleep cycle as humans. While we go from a light sleep, to deep sleep and then into REM sleep, dogs just have the light sleep and REM phases. In the REM phase, a dog will dream and you will see them twitch, bark and sometimes even howl.
So you don’t need to worry about a dog being restless through the night, while they do usually break their sleep into little naps through the day a dog is completely able to sleep for eight hours solidly. When you wake up they will still have four to six hours of sleep to catch up on!
There is one reason you should think carefully before you allow your dog into your bed – boundaries. Dogs are simple creatures and they won’t understand that you might want them to crawl into bed on Monday night but on Tuesday you’ve changed your mind. A dog gets used to a new situation quickly and once you have let that guard down and shown them it is acceptable to sleep on the bed they will be there whether you like it or not!
You could find they scratch at the door and whine if you try to shut them out when they’ve been used to sleeping with you. This is simply separation anxiety as the dog has become used to sleeping that way and will now find it hard to settle alone. This is why you should think carefully before you allow them into the bed for the first time because they may never leave!
There are so many benefits for children to have a pet dog. Studies show that not only does a child that has a pet to look after and love grow up with more compassion and a sense of responsibility but they also have better resilience to asthma and allergies.
A pet is a loving, constant presence that can be a steady companion for a child that has had a traumatic or unstable home life. A dog can help a child feel stable and loved without the complicated emotions of human interaction.
The child can also improve their mental health by having a companion dog which eases separation anxiety when the parents are not around. Dogs “look up” to their owners and a child with low self-esteem can be helped by the devoted nature of a pet dog.
Children that are hyperactive or aggressive can also be calmed by a dog’s presence and sleeping with a dog can help that child feel more secure and less anxious.
Children with learning disabilities, especially autism, can find it hard to communicate verbally. A dog has several cues or body language that show emotion. By learning to communicate with a dog, an autistic child can develop interactions with other people.
A dog can also help children with learning disabilities calm themselves down which will help them deal with the underlying problem.
There are so many health benefits to sleeping with a dog that many have been brought into hospitals, care homes and hospices and used as therapy dogs.
For example, Pets as Therapy dogs are used to help patients with Alzheimer’s. People with this condition may react in an unpredictable or even aggressive way if they feel frightened or stressed.
The University of California did some research and found that people with dementia don’t have as many aggressive or anxious reactions if they have a dog with them.
Pets as Therapy dogs can also be used to ease loneliness in older people that are unable to have a dog of their own, ease anxiety for small children in hospital and even help people undergoing end of life care.
It’s not just dogs that like to be curled up somewhere warm and safe, cats also like to nap where they can.
Unlike dogs, cats are a little more aloof and difficult to train. You might find that unless you actually shut your bedroom door and bar entry, your cat will waltz in and sleep on the bed anyway.
It can be frustrating if you are teaching a dog to stay off furniture when your cat is sunning itself on various pieces of furniture around the house but allowing your cat to sleep on the bed with you has many of the same health benefits as sleeping with your dog.
A cat also has a calming nature and can be a warm, hot water bottle (albeit a slightly smaller one).
Cats don’t sleep like dogs and tend to be more active a night. This can be a bit of an issue if your pet decides to get up and have a play at 2am.
Whereas a dog will follow its master, cats are slightly more rebellious so trying to convince your cat to do something it doesn’t want to do will be a lot harder. The simple rule is to know your cat. If you know it will quite happily curl up in one spot and not move for hours then there is no reason why that spot can’t be on your bed.
Con: Can Interrupt Your Love Life
There’s no getting around it, letting a dog into your bed can disrupt your sex life. And if your partner would rather the dog stayed out of the room then it could lead to arguments. While someone liking dogs or not can be a deal breaker, it is important you have ground rules that suit both of you.
Make sure you discuss where your dog will sleep, how you will look after it and even its diet before you get a new puppy or rescue a dog. Owning a dog is a big commitment and you can’t just get it rehomed if you decide you don’t want it sleeping in the bed any more.
Con: Worsens Aggression Problems
If you have a dog that displays signs of aggression or guarding behaviour then letting it into your bed could be the worst decision you make. Some dogs are naturally protective and others can be turned that way by ill treatment.
A dog needs to know its position in the pack and if you are trying to train a dominant breed in the day, but then letting it call the shots on where it sleeps at night, you could be making the situation worse. There are some great tips here to deal with aggressive behaviour around furniture or guarding.
Con: Can Bring Dirt and Bacteria into Your Bed
Although there are many benefits to sleeping with your dog, there are also some cons. We can look at the pros and cons of sleeping with a dog objectively and one of those downsides is the dirt a dog can bring in your bed.
Your dog will run on pavements, through woodland and step in all manner of disgusting things in a day as well as occasionally roll in mud or other undesirable things! Unless you’re planning to bath your dog every day, some of this dirt and bacteria will end up on your linen.
A study says that homes with dog have more bacterial diversity than homes without pets. And one of the places the most bacteria are found is on pillowcases.
Whether you are bothered by this or not depends on you. Some people like their homes to be clinically clean and free from any bacteria while others may take a more relaxed approach. After all, unless you take your shoes off at the door you are tracking in just as much bacteria as your dog.
Con: Can Trigger Allergies
Sleeping with a dog isn’t for everyone and if you suffer from breathing difficulties or allergies you should make your bedroom a pet free zone.
Research by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America recommends people with allergies buy a HEPA air filter and keep their pets off the bed and out of the room. If you suffer with severe asthma, the advice is not to have pets at all as the allergens picked up on their coat as well as the dander can trigger an attack.
Having dogs in the bed isn’t just bad for people with asthma, if you suffer from hayfever you could find your dog brings in pollen from running through tall grass and it sticks to clothes, carpets and bed linen.
Even if you’re mildly allergic to grass pollen, you might find yourself suffering symptoms if you sleep with your dog because you will be exposed to the allergen for a prolonged period of time while you sleep.
Con: Can Disturb Your Sleep
Letting your dog sleep on your bed can be disruptive as well as calming.
You may actually disturb your dog’s sleep cycle if you are a restless sleeper. All that tossing and turning in your sleep, not to mention sleep talking and getting up for the bathroom, could disturb your dog. That is why it is important to know your dog and how it sleeps before you make the decision to co-sleep.
Your dog could also be the one tossing and turning. You might find your dog sleeps in 30 minute bursts then spends ten minutes twisting around and “treading down” the duvet before settling again. While this is perfectly normal behaviour, and no problem in a dog bed, if you’re trying to sleep under a dog that is digging the bed to get the right spot you could end up being awake a lot!
So, if you’re thinking about getting a dog, or you want to let your pet sleep in the same bed as you but weren’t sure, we hope this list has given you some more information.
The pros of having a pet sleep on the bed with you outweigh the cons and as long as you check it is ok with your significant other there is no reason why your dog can’t curl up on your feet at the end of the day.
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