There has been a long-standing debate as to whether or not humans should sleep with their pets. Some argue that having a dog or a cat in your bed is unhygienic, and others say it makes getting a good night’s sleep more difficult.
With all this confusion, you may be asking yourself- “should I let my dog sleep in my bed?”
Perhaps you already allow your pet into your bed despite the nay-sayers, or maybe you’re considering it but you don’t know if you should. While there are pros and cons to sharing your bed with an animal, pet-owners everywhere will be happy to know that there are actually a number of benefits to snuggling with your pooch at night.
Should I Let My Dog Sleep in my Bed?
Allowing your dog into your bed can provide a sense of calm and security, can help you to relax, and can even improve the quality of your sleep. What’s more, sleeping with your pet can increase the bond you have with your animal. Check out these amazing benefits of sleeping with your pet:
1. It May Reduce Depression
But how do dogs have this effect on us? A study in Japan found that interacting with our pets can cause an increase in oxytocin– also known as the ‘love hormone.’  Essentially, the more oxytocin you have, the happier and less depressed you are.
So, if doing activities with your dog can make you happier, it is possible that sleeping with your dog could also have this effect.
2. It Can Promote Theta Brainwaves
Theta brain waves occur during deep meditation and the REM stage of sleep, and is a state of mental relaxation. Other times when humans experience these types of brainwaves are when they’re daydreaming, running, in the shower, or doing any activity that is somewhat monotonous and automatic. It allows them to think freely and is often when they come up with great ideas or solutions to their problems .
The increase in oxytocin that pet-owners experience when they’re with their dog can promote theta brainwaves and improve sleep quality .
3. It Can Ease Insomnia
Insomnia is often triggered by feelings of anxiety and stress or could be caused by a medical condition. Studies have shown that sleeping with a pet can help people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), nightmares, narcolepsy, parasomnias, and other sleep disorders .
Pets help to reduce anxiety and provide a feeling of safety, which decreases hyperarousal and hypervigilance, helping their human to fall asleep more easily. This effect has also been witnessed in individuals who have insomnia due to PTSD .
4. It Can Improve Sleep Quality
A study from 2017 tracked the movement of both dogs and owners while sleeping over the course of seven nights. The goal was to determine the sleep efficiency of the animal and the human, and give them a score out of 100. Sleep efficiency refers to how much time you actually spend sleeping when you’re in bed.
The study found that humans and their dogs benefited from the co-sleeping arrangements. The people in the study showed an average sleep efficiency of 81 percent, and the dogs 85 percent. For reference, a score over 80 is considered satisfactory. The researchers did note, however, that humans’ sleep efficiency increased when their dog was in the room but not on the actual bed.
5. It Can Lower Blood Pressure
Contact with dogs has a number of physical effects on humans, including improving our cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that human-dog interactions, such as petting, can actually lower your blood pressure .
It is possible, then, that having a dog cuddled up to you all night long can produce the same effect, since dogs appear to have a calming presence for most individuals.
6. It Can Decrease Stress
Speaking of which, that calm feeling that you get when you’re petting a dog is known as “The Pet Effect”. In a survey of pet owners, 74 percent of respondents reported an improvement in mental health after they got a pet .
This goes back to the increase in oxytocin that pet owners experience when they spend time with their animals. Having your dog or cat in bed with you can reduce your levels of anxiety, which can help you to get a better night’s sleep.
7. It Can Decrease Allergies Later in Life
If you have kids, allowing your dog to sleep with them (as long as they are old enough so that its not dangerous) can actually improve their immune systems. A 2004 study found that children who were exposed to pets early in life had a lower instance of allergies as they got older .
Sleeping with a Pet is Not for Everyone
If you already have allergies, sleeping with your pet may aggravate your symptoms and make it more difficult for you to get a good night’s sleep.
Additionally, not all dogs will make great sleep partners. This is because dogs are polyphasic sleepers, which means they have an average of three sleep/wake cycles per night time hour. Humans, on the other hand, are monophasic, which means we have one sleep phase per 24 hours. Dogs can sometimes be lighter sleepers as well, meaning they are more likely to wake up if they hear a sound .
A well-adjusted, well-behaved dog will likely not be a problem to sleep with, but if your dog is more excitable or is causing you to wake up frequently throughout the night, it might be time to find a better place for them to sleep.
Despite these drawbacks, however, the research does seem to point toward a number of benefits, and for many pet owners they outweigh the disadvantages. So if you’re thinking of allowing fido into your bed at night, perhaps it couldn’t hurt to give it a try, and if you’re already sleeping with your dog regularly, the science says you can continue to do so.