Does your pet sleep in your bedroom or with you in your bed? The subject has been controversial among medical sleep specialists and veterinarians, but a recent research study published in the esteemed Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that for many people, it is safe, and may actually improve sleep.
The researchers—sleep specialists at the Mayo Clinic—extensively interviewed 150 adults about their sleep and if they sleep with their pets. Half the individuals interviewed owned dogs or cats, and 56% of them allowed at least one of them in their bed or in their bedroom.
The results were that only 20% of these people reported that sleeping near their pet was disruptive. 41% said this did not affect their sleep or was helpful. Many people noted an increased sense of security from having their “best friend” nearby.
Some people noted that one reason they bought their pet was to help them relax at night, and this was especially true for single people, or people whose partners were often away from home. Many of the people who said their pets disturbed their sleep had more than one in the bed.
Other reports, such as one released by the American Pet Products Association, showed that about half of dog owners allowed the dog in their bed, but the percentage varied with the size of the dog. 62% of small dog owners slept in the same bed with their dog, but only 32% of large dog owners. Among cat owners, 62% allowed their cat to sleep in the same bed.
The consensus seems to be that if your animal is well-behaved and well-cared for, that it is ok to have your pet sleep in the same bed if you think it helps. Dogs that are aggressive or dominant may cause problems if allowed in the bed however, and people with pet allergies should either not allow the pet in the bedroom at all, or see an allergist for a series of desensitization shots. All animals allowed in your bed should be up to date on vaccinations, and should be free of tics and fleas, that could transmit disease to humans.
There is a small risk that a pet could transmit a disease to a human (called a “zoonose”), but this is very unlikely for people with normal immune systems. Some people have wisely noted that sleeping with other humans carries a much higher risk of catching a disease, and that sleeping with a pet is more reliable and gives more security than sleeping with another human.
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