Those of you with pets—you know the situation all too well. It’s time for bed, and you’re climbing into the sheets. The pillow, quilt, comforter, they’re all ready for you to enjoy your night’s rest. Suddenly, you feel all four paws bound up into bed with you and you’re overcome with the love and adoration of your pet who also enjoys resting in your bed.
Or, you might think that people who let their pets sleep with them in bed are all wrong. However, pets sleeping on their owners’ beds is more common than you think. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association claims that 42% of all dog owners allow their dogs to sleep in their bed. Moreover, the Animal Behavior College found that nearly two-thirds of cat owners allowed their cat to sleep in their bed. (As much as you can allow a cat to do any particular thing).
If you’re the type of pet owner who lets their dogs or cats sleep in the bed with you—or considering it— there are pros and cons to doing so, including emotional, social, and hygienic consequences.
Pros of Allowing Your Pet to Sleep in Your Bed
The benefits of sleeping with your dog or cat in bed with you are emotional and social, mostly. It has been suggested that a fluffy bed buddy may reduce stress, as the interaction between pets releases oxytocin (dogs, more so than cats).1 The hormones released contribute to your attachment to your pet. Furthermore, sleeping with your pet may give diminish the effects of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and may even offer comfort for those who suffer from recurring nightmares.
The Animal Behavior College has suggested that cuddling with your pet at night may help decrease the symptoms of several conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.2 Your pet’s warm body may help warm your muscles and joints, potentially relieving aches and pains.
Beyond the physiological benefits, your pet’s presence in bed may offer emotional perks too. Sleeping with your dog or cat could promote social bonding. For as busy as we are with work, school, or family, contact with your pet throughout the night may be the longest period of time to bond with your pet. The extra time spent together may even provide further bonding for pets who have been adopted and have had a traumatic past or distrust of people; however, be careful of creating dependency with your pet. Dogs, especially, are social animals and will take every opportunity to bond with you through physical contact. Cats, on the other hand, are content to be independent—that’s not to say there aren’t the cats out there who thrive on bonding time.
Cons of Allowing Pets To Sleep In Your Bed
Allergies and Hygiene
Many people who own pets are allergic to their fluffy friends. As many as 3 in 10 people in the United States have allergies related to cats and dogs.3 As you allow your cat or dog to sleep in the bed with you, fur and dander are collected within the fibers of your sheets and blankets, which may exacerbate your symptoms related to pet allergies.
According to a recent report by the California Department of Public Health’s chief veterinarian, sleeping with your pet in your bed could risk your chance of illness. For example, if your pet spends part of its day outdoors, you may expose yourself to fleas or ticks, which could transfer illness to you. Additionally, you may expose yourself to urine or feces, if your pet is not properly house-trained. Overexposure to urine and feces could weaken your immune system or increase your risk of getting sick.
Plus, pets may track in dirt from outside into your bed, which may increase the chance of microbes and bacteria getting into your bedding.
A study done with Australian pet-owners found that those who slept with their dogs in the bed took longer to fall asleep, were more likely to wake up tired, and had a greater chance of being disturbed by dogs barking/making noises.4 However, the same study suggests that those who sleep with their dog in the bed were less likely to be disturbed during sleep than those who slept with their cat in the bed. Dogs are physically larger than cats, obviously, and will take up more space on the bed. Your canine friend, during the night, may kick or shove you, depending on what kind of dream they’re experiencing that night. And, when a dog gets in and out of bed, it’s a more prominent disturbance than a cat.
The study done with Australian pet-owners found that those who slept with cats in the bed were more likely to be disturbed in the night. Cats are nocturnal by nature—they may be more active in the hours during your recommended 8 hours of sleep. Despite sleeping for 15 to 18 hours in a given 24-hour period, your cat may walk around at night, scratch on the carpet, or meow during the night, effectively disrupting your sleep. Another facet to consider is that cats may track litter into your bed.
How to Improve Sleeping With a Pet in Your Bed
When it comes to improving your sleep while there’s a pet in your bed, there’s no right way. They’re going to lay in the most inconvenient positions—sleeping diagonally, sleeping where your feet should go, snoring, and laying on the blankets so you can’t have them.
However, if your sleep and health are affected by sleeping with your pet, then you may have to make a few adjustments to make the situation beneficial for you. Your health is more important because that means you’ll be healthy enough to enjoy your companionship with your pet for years to come.
Here are a few tips for improving your situation:
Try to establish a designated spot for your dog or cat to sleep on. Buy a dog or cat bed that can fit on the bed and encourage your pet to stay in that spot.
Invest in a plastic cover for your mattress. Your pet may stain your mattress with its accidents during the night—which is a time-consuming, potentially expensive fix.
Wash your sheets weekly, or develop a rotation of sheets that you put on your bed. Doing so will diminish the amount of pet fur and dander you’re exposed to, which could reduce your allergy symptoms.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to dissuade your pet from sleeping in the bed with you, there are several steps you can take. First, understand that it will take time for your pet to understand and get used to the new routine you will set. Second, create a space for your dog or cat to sleep in. For dogs, that means a crate with comfortable blankets, toys, and bones to keep it company during the night. Cats will prefer a secluded space with a covering and material to scratch (along with a toy or two).
Be as Comfortable as Possible
Comfort is crucial. Whether you’ve decided to keep sleeping in the bed with your pet or not, you need the best bedding as possible to enjoy the night’s rest. Explore our collection of pillows that are created with an open-cell structure that allows airflow for regulated temperature. Plus, they’re made to be hypoallergenic—one less thing in the bed to be allergic to.
Should I Let My Pet Sleep In My Bed? References:
- Christy L. Hoffman, Kaylee Stutz & Terrie Vasilopoulos (2018) An Examination of Adult Women’s Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing, Anthrozoös, 31:6, 711-725, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354