In the quest for better sleep, people often ask if they should share their bed with a pet. Before we get to that, let's take a moment to ponder the flip side: Is sleeping with you good for your pet?
"In general, it is a very good thing for animals to sleep with their people." said Dr. Dana Varble, the chief veterinary officer for the North American Veterinary Community.
Pets who share their human's bed tend to have a "higher trust level and a tighter bond with the humans that are in their lives. It's a big display of trust on their part," Varble said.
"Dogs and cats who are more closely bonded with their humans get additional health benefits, including increases in beneficial neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones," she added.
With that important matter out of the way, let's turn to you -- is it good for you to sleep with a pet? Experts have traditionally said no because you might not get quality shut-eye.
"Animals may move, bark and disrupt sleep. Sleep in dogs (and cats) is not continuous and they will inevitably get up and walk on the bed, stepping on people. All of that activity will lead to sleep fragmentation," said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, director of sleep research and a professor in the department of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
These "microawakenings," which can happen without your awareness, "are disruptive because they pull you out of deep sleep," said Kristen Knutson, an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "They have been associated with the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can make sleep even worse."
That may be true for many of us, but recent studies have shown that pets in the bedroom could be beneficial for some of us.
"People with depression or anxiety may benefit from having their pet in the bed because the pet is a big pillow, a big blanket, and they may feel that snuggly, cuddly, furry creature decreases their anxiety," said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Data gathered in 2017 from the Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine in Phoenix found over half of pet owners seen in the clinic allowed their pet to sleep in the bedroom -- and the majority found their pet "unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep."
About 20% however, did believe their furry friends made their slumber worse.
Children may benefit from sleeping with a pet as well. A 2021 study asked adolescents ages 13 to 17 to wear sleep trackers for two weeks and then undergo a state-of-the-art sleep test. About a third of the kids slept with a pet, the study noted, which didn't appear to affect the quality of their rest.
state-of-the-art: adj. 最先进的；达到最高水准的
Despite the new science, many of us still need to think twice about bringing our dogs, cats or indoor pigs into our beds.
"It is particularly harmful in people with insomnia or in patients with other sleep disorders," Polotsky said.
There is another reason why snuggling with pets all night may not be good for your health. If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from asthma, allergies or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleeping with a furball could become a nightmare.
And there are some pets, Varble said, you should never invite to bed.
"I work with exotic pets, and a lot of them have very specific health and safety requirements, including being in an enclosure," Varble said. "So while I know people who are very close to their ferrets and their guinea pigs, they need to be in their enclosure for their health at night. Those are not animals that we would want to have in bed with us."