Should canines crash in your bed?
For a growing number of people, pets are considered family members.
There are 78 million pet dogs in the United States, and 44 percent of North American households have a dog, according to data kept by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
And, according to the American Pet Products Association, total pet industry expenditures reached $60.59 billion in 2015, up from $58.04 billion in 2014.
Dogs have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which is why they are a popular choice for therapy animals. There are also specially-trained service animals that help bring independence to owners with a multitude of physical and mental health issues.
But dog ownership can come with a side of guilt – “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom is an easy way to do that.” said Dr. Lois Krahn, who along with other colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, have studied how close humans should sleep to their four-legged companions.
In the study, 40 dog-owning adults, who had not been diagnosed with sleep disorders and were healthy, were followed for 5 months between August and December 2015. All dogs were older than 6 months. For seven nights, participants – both human and canine – wore activity-tracking devices called accelerometers.
Over the course of the study, the researchers concluded that people tended to benefit from good sleep quality when their dog(s) slept in the bedroom, but those whose dog(s) actually slept in the bed with them tended to have poorer-quality sleep.
“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” said Dr. Krahn; however, she and her team “found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.” She says that as long as dogs sleep in the bedroom, but not in the bed, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.
“Having a dog sleep in your bed can dramatically increase the amount of dirt, allergens and even animal waste on your sheets,” said Dr. Tabassum Hanif, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep issues with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“Plus, they can be notorious bed hogs and often switch positions frequently during the night, which can impact sleep quality. I recommend a close but separate dog bed for those who prefer to have their pets sleep near them.”
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”