Should You Sleep with Your Pet? Health Risks & Benefits
By: Dan Jaques
Of the sixty-eight percent of Americans who have pets, about half of those let their pets share their beds, at least sometimes. But, is it safe to sleep with your dog or cat? Are there any health risks – or benefits that you should be aware of? Let’s take a closer look.
Risks of Sleeping with Your Pet
Sometimes it’s best to hear the bad news first. After all, this gives you something to look forward to! As it turns out, there are a few minor risks associated with co-sleeping with your cat or dog.
A Little Bit of Disease Risk and Some Exposure to Dirt
This potential risk depends on your pet, their activities, and the way you interact. Co-sleeping with your dog or cat puts you at a higher risk of being exposed to parasites, fleas, and general “yuck.” The good news here is that if you keep your pet on flea protection and you make sure to worm them regularly, your risks are reduced to a minimum – about the same as you’d get from otherwise interacting with them.
Be sure to bathe and brush your dog regularly and keep your cat well-brushed (she’ll wash herself, thank you!) too. This way, your bed will stay cleaner – even though you’ll want to change those sheets a little more often than you would if you and your pet weren’t sleeping together.
Higher Exposure to Allergens
If you suffer from asthma or pet allergies, you shouldn’t sleep with your pet – in fact, it’s probably best to have them sleep in another room and keep them out of your bedroom altogether. If you’re allergic but you still want to cuddle with your pet, be sure to ask your doctor about allergy shots and consider using a HEPA filter to keep the air as clean as possible.
Pets Can Interrupt Our Sleep
Pets have some annoying habits like taking up too much space, snoring, or pestering us when they think it’s time to be fed on Saturday morning while we’re trying to catch a few more ZZZ’s! Luckily, there are some ways to get around the issues.
Make sure that everyone has plenty of space. For example, choose a mattress that accommodates pets and humans alike. The best choices offer with good edge support and a high level of motion isolation.
If your pet snores and is overweight, it could be that they have a condition that shares similarities with human sleep apnea. Be sure to talk with your vet if you think this might be your pet’s issue. It might be helpful to look into online resources concerning your pet’s diet and exercise needs as well.
If your pet pesters you and disturbs your sleep, or if he’s a big dog who takes up tons of space, then you might consider getting him his own bed or a comfy crate in your bedroom. This way he’s still sharing your room, and you’ll probably find that it’s easier to sleep well. You can find some helpful information on how to crate train your dog here.
Very Small Animals Are at Risk of Suffocation
You aren’t the only one who might be at risk from co-sleeping with pets. Small kittens and puppies, ferrets, rabbits, and other tiny critters could suffocate if you accidentally roll onto them during the night. Give these little ones their own safe, comfy place to sleep and everyone will be happy!
Benefits of Sleeping with Your Pet
Now for the good stuff: There are some definite benefits to be had from sleeping with your cat or dog!
Both of You Feel Safe
Pets are a lot like us: They often crave companionship and that includes co-sleeping. If you decide to sleep with your pet, you’ll both enjoy feelings of safety and security. This is doubly true for those of us who don’t share their bed with another human, or for those times when our usual sleeping partner is away.
Pets Calm and Comfort Us
When you’re feeling chilly and you’d like a little extra warmth, your pet is happy to provide it. At the same time, their breathing and relaxed attitudes tend to help us feel calmer and more relaxed. This can really help with insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Remember, touching pets has been proven to increase oxytocin levels in our brains, helping us feel better in general!
If you and your pet sleep together, you’re likely to enjoy a stronger emotional bond than pet owners who sleep separately from their furry friends. With a clean pet, a roomy bed, and a calm, quiet atmosphere, you and your cat or dog can rest easy together.