Therapy & lifestyle

Pets and sleep: friends or foes?

We love our pets more than almost anything. Even when they’re pesky, they still warm our hearts. It’s no surprise that we often put our pets’ wellbeing above our own, especially when it comes to sleep. Anyone who’s experienced the Tetris-like maneuvers to give a dog sleeping space knows it’s true. We may mutter, “never again,” with the cat’s 4 a.m. wakeup call, but there we are the next day, up at the crack of dawn with a paw in our face.

When it comes to sharing a sleeping space with our pets, how do we make sure we’re taking care of our own sleep health? Especially for those with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, the question must be asked: When it comes to sleep, are our pets friends or foes?

 

Who’s sleeping with pets?

If Fluffy and Spot snuggle in with you at night, you’re not alone. Over 35% of U.S. households have dogs, and just over 30% have cats.1 Of these, surveys show that the majority of pet owners allow their pets in the bed. Anywhere from nearly 50% of dog owners to 62% of cat owners welcome their pets at bedtime.2

 

Is sleeping with pets hygienic?

Hair, dander and debris come with the pet ownership territory. That doesn’t mean your bedroom or your breathing has to suffer the consequences. Keep yourself, your pets and your bed clean and your sleep uncompromised with a few common-sense actions.

  • Up your tidying schedule – Wash your sheets often, and make it a habit to sweep or vacuum every other day. Don’t forget blinds, curtains and ceiling fans, where dusty bits also hide.
  • Invest in a quality air purifier – Especially if you have allergies (but a great idea for any pet co-sleeper), keep an air purifier with a HEPA filter in your room.
  • Share your hygiene routine – Keeping your person clean makes your space cleaner, too. Wash your hands after engaging with your pet, keep lint rollers on hand and take time for pet primping, too. After the dog park or a long walk, wipe off your pooch’s paws and keep kitty’s feet litter-free. Brush their teeth and coats every day – your nose will be happy you did.

Is sleeping with pets healthy?

Research has been mixed on the topic of pets and sleep, but studies have found some promising results for co-sleepers. In one recent study, people report that dogs sleeping in the room reduces anxiety and brings comfort. What’s more, 41% believe their pet to be unobtrusive or beneficial to sleep. Those who let their pets sleep in the room even slept better in some cases.

For cat people, the benefits extend to a sense of security, warmth, coziness and emotional support, though maybe a little less so. In one study, cats who slept in their owner’s bed were found equally as disruptive as human partners, and they created fewer feelings of comfort and security than both human and dog bed partners.

Sleep disruption increases with multiple pets, so be mindful if you’ve got a full house, and pay extra attention to how you’re all faring through the night.

How can I get good sleep with my pet?

The best thing you can do to ensure happy snoozing is to take an honest look at how your sleep setup is working. You may love having a furry friend by your side, but how can you optimize sleep health in the process? Here are 7 tips for sleeping with your pets:

  1. Healthy pets sleep better – Make sure your pets are healthy and critter-free. Fleas, ticks and illnesses can affect their sleep, and thereby your own. Regular vet checkups ensure they’re staying in good health.
  2. Keep equipment under wraps – Cats can turn almost anything into a plaything, and just ask a dog what isn’t a chew toy. Protect your sleep apnea equipment from prying pets. Tubing wraps for CPAP machines can shield from cat claws and puppy teeth, and also enhance therapy comfort.
  3. Cleaner air helps breathingAir filters protect from hair and pet dander. Your CPAP machine can be more effective when it’s free from such contaminates. Make sure to replace filters often – at least every six months or more – especially if your pets sleep in your room.
  4. Space for everyone – Try keeping your pets in the room, but not in your bed. Create a comfortable sleep space your buddies will gravitate to, with quality pet beds and warm blankets. Researchers found that dogs sleep well, whether or not they are allowed in bed.3
  5. Get tuckered out – Exercise contributes to healthier sleep, and that is true for your pets, too. Long walks hours before bed, running around at the park and chasing toys during the day will prime your pets for bedtime.
  6. Establish routines – Sticking to a schedule can help your pets understand when it’s time for bed. Make feeding, walks and bedtime as close to routine as possible, and you’ll have a better chance creating consistent sleep behavior.
  7. Consult your doctor – It’s recommended that those with sleep disorders talk with healthcare professionals about how animals factor into your sleep environment. You can then work together to optimize sleep solutions.5

At the end of the day (literally), it’s about what works best for you. Always make healthy sleep hygiene your first priority, even if that means separating at bedtime. Your pets will still love you in the morning.


References

  1. https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Statistics/Pages/Market-research-statistics-US-pet-ownership.aspx
  2. https://pets.webmd.com/features/pets-in-your-bed#1
  3. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30486-X/fulltext
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354
  5. https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(15)00674-6/fulltext

 

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