The Health Effects of Sharing a Bed With Your Dog
Here’s some light, bedtime reading material for you: According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, nearly half of dogs sleep in their owners’ beds. That’s 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs, and even 32% of large dogs.
No judgement here — cuddling with a warm, sleepy puppy is basically bliss. Jonathan Regev, CEO of The Farmer’s Dog, adheres to a strict dog-on-bed policy and insists that it’s worth any health risks. Still, there are both upsides and downsides to be aware of before giving your pup free reign over the bed.
Stress Reduction & Comfort
The #1 reason people like having pets in bed is companionship. Dogs, like humans, take comfort in having a warm body next to them while they sleep, which is why they crawl into bed with us in the first place. People who might otherwise sleep alone also enjoy the experience of curling up next to someone, and many who live alone cite feeling safer when they fall asleep next to their dog. This increased sense of comfort and security can reduce stress over time.
A 2015 Science Mag study showed that dogs bond with us in the same way infants do: with a long, mutual gaze. Locking eyes with someone you feel safe with can create a strong bond, and dogs feel that same connection. Sharing a bed can deepen those feelings of trust and affection between dog and owner.
Dogs have a body temperature that’s 3-6 degrees higher than humans, making them a built-in heating pad for your bed. Sleeping with one could save you money on that heating bill (though it could also cause night sweats if you run warm…).
The human sleep cycle is a fickle thing, and sharing a bed with someone (be it animal or human) can disrupt it. A quiet, dead-sleeper dog is no problem, but if your pup is scratching, squirming, or hogging the covers, it can negatively impact your sleep cycle. Waking up a few times in the night might not seem like a big deal, but when your sleep cycle isn’t allowed to complete without interruption, the sleep you’re getting isn’t actually all that restful. If your dog is taking up the entire bed and leaving you curled up on the edge, it may be time to train him to sleep elsewhere. We know: it’s easier said than done. If you’re going to bed at a reasonable hour but consistently waking up tired, consider sleeping solo for a few nights to restore those missed hours.
This may seem obvious, but even people with dog allergies can’t seem to force their pups out of bed. (It’s hard when their snores are so cute!) People with mild allergies can build up a tolerance, and allergy shots and over-the-counter medication can also help to curb symptoms. Still, sleeping with the source of an allergy can contribute to diminished sleep quality and affect your breathing. Since your heart rate slows during sleep, your breathing gets shallower, and any obstruction (like asthma from allergies) can make good sleep harder to get.
They Can Come Between You And Your Partner
Literally. Dogs like to lie right in the middle of the bed, but contact between romantic partners at night is a primary and necessary biological bonding response and essential for the continuation of human kind. Cuddling with your dog is great, but (maybe) not at the expense of your relationship.
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision whether or not to let your pup curl up next to you at night. Just be sure to carefully weigh your personal health factors and your dog’s behavioral patterns before setting a precedent (which can usually be established after just one night).