Do you sleep with animals?
No, I don’t mean people who, you know, do wild and crazy things in bed.
I’m talking about actual animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and maybe—bear with me—Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs.
Every few years, new research shows that sleeping with humans and animals is either a) medically fraught. b) emotionally fulfilling; or c) confirmation of your mother’s fears that she will never have grandchildren, because what man in his right mind is going to share a bed with you and your Berneudel?
As someone who has always had boundary issues with my pets, it never occurred to me to keep them out of my bed. My puppy is an almost 3 year old golden retriever, and when I tell you that I sleep with her, I really mean that she is ready to sleep with me.
Most nights she starts on the hardwood floor and ends at the foot of my bed. Sometimes, in the morning, I roll over so my head is at the foot of the bed and try to spoon with it. At 80 pounds, he’s a solid and satisfying creature to wrap my arms around. She only tolerates the touch as long as I rub her belly. Otherwise, like my ex-husband, she’s not very sweet.
However, I sleep better knowing that Poppy is nearby. His barking alerts me to squirrels roaming outside and rogue tree limbs crashing against my windows in storms. If an intruder ever did break in during the night, Poppy’s enthusiastic greeting and habit of slapping him on the back to demand a belly rub would trip him up and give me a few minutes to call 911. can buy
It’s surprising how much time has been spent studying what happens when humans sleep with pets.
Two main areas attract the interest of researchers: the medical risks of bringing four-legged creatures to bed, and how the practice affects our sleep.
Medical deficiency can be substantial, if rare.
Pets can bring dust and pollen into the bed, which can aggravate allergies and asthma. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a disturbing paper, “Zonoses in the Bedroom,” by two California doctors who surveyed the medical literature. (Zoonoses are diseases that spread from animals to people.) He compiled a medical encyclopedia that lists icky pathogens that have infected people, albeit rarely.
What I learned from reading this disturbing paper is that it’s probably best not to let your pet lick your mouth or get any tears on your skin. But for the most part, at least in the US, sleeping with pets won’t make you sick as long as your pet is healthy, clean and properly treated for fleas and ticks.
As far as I can tell, no one has studied whether it’s dangerous for pets to sleep with humans. But I can tell you from experience that things didn’t go well for the little guinea pig who brought my little sister to her bed and snuggled up in her sleep when we were babies.
As for the effects on sleep quality, there is almost too much research to be done, and much of it is conflicting.
In the 2011 paper “Sleeping with Human-Animals: An Actigraphy-Based Assessment of the Effects of Dogs on Women’s Nocturnal Movement,” researchers found that when dogs move around in bed, they move people around in bed. , but those people “rarely” reported that their dogs disturbed their sleep.
In 2021, researchers at the Pediatric Public Health Psychology Lab at Concordia University in Montreal found that about one-third of children who own pets sleep with their pets, and that there is no negative effect on children’s sleep.
A variation on this theme was explored in Australia that same year, where researchers looked at the sleep quality of teenagers who slept with their pets and discovered that the pets didn’t have much of an effect because the teens were usually sleeping for the first time. Do not sleep well. the location
Last year, the Scientific Clearinghouse, which publishes the journal Human-Animal Interactions, released the results of a US study that examined whether there was a link between pet ownership, sleep quality and sleep disorders. There is a connection. Multivariable logistic regression models looked at — ahem — sleep quality problems including snoring, snoring, trouble falling or staying asleep, waking up in the middle of sleep or too early, feeling restless, and leg cramps and pain. are
“Our findings,” the researchers wrote, “indicate that owning a dog was associated with greater odds of experiencing sleep disturbances and difficulty sleeping. Owning a cat was associated with greater odds of leg tremors.” (I contacted one of the authors of this paper to get some clarification on the “leg shock” but did not hear back by deadline.)
A few years ago, when I still owned two cats, I don’t remember kicking my legs while sleeping. However, I remember Camille often standing on my chest staring at me like a hungry vulture while I slept, and Peach often curled up on my pillow and licked my hair.
Some professionals recommend only keeping pets out of the bedroom at night. Are they serious? Just try locking your dependent pet outside for the night. See how well you sleep with the adorable bundle screaming in the hallway or throwing itself at your door.