Where your pet sleeps is a personal decision. Some people prefer to sleep with their pets and feel more comfortable with a furry companion sleeping next to them. Others get a better night’s sleep when Fido is in his own bed. But neither choice is wrong, as there are both benefits and risks to sleeping with your pet in bed with you.
About half of dog owners sleep with their dog in bed with them. Small dogs are the most common dogs to sleep in bed — and about 16 percent of dog owners say their dog sneaks into bed with them occasionally.
Is it Safe to Sleep With Your Pet?
Although it was once thought allowing dogs to sleep in your bed could lead to aggression, dominance, or transmission of illness, it’s generally safe to sleep with a trusted pet. If your dog is well behaved outside of bed, sleeping in bed with you isn’t likely to change that. Of course, it’s not a good idea to allow an aggressive animal into your bed.
It is possible to transmit diseases from humans to dogs and vice versa. However, this is very rare. If you and your pet are in good health and up to date on vaccines and checkups, there should be no cause for concern. However, if you’re immunosuppressed, for example, you’re going through treatment for cancer, a transplant recipient, or are HIV positive, you shouldn’t sleep with pets.
Benefits of Sleeping With Your Pet
Sleeping with a dog in your bed can offer distinct benefits. You may find a greater opportunity to bond, relax, and even enjoy the warmth offered by your dog for a more comfortable night’s sleep.
Sleeping with your pet can offer a stronger bond. Even if you don’t get to spend much time with your dog during the day, you’re together all night. It can bring you closer emotionally as you sleep next to each other, offering better comfort and companionship.
Similarly, sleeping with your dog can be relaxing and reassuring. Some pet owners simply feel more comfortable with their dog next to them. You may feel more safe and secure together (and your dog may, too). Dogs (or humans) that suffer from separation anxiety may get relief from sleeping together. And having a dog in bed can comfort any fears you have about the risk of intruders at night.
Dogs have a higher body temperature. Sleeping with a dog can make you more comfortable at night if you need extra warmth, especially during winter months.
Risks of Sleeping With Your Pet
Although there are benefits to sleeping with your dog, it’s not a perfect solution. There are still risks and drawbacks to sharing your bed with a pet.
Dogs can expose you to allergies while you sleep. Even if you’re not allergic to dogs, you may be allergic to pollen, dust, and other materials on their body. As they rub their fur on your bed or get their paws on your sheets, they may spread environmental allergens that can bother you while you’re trying to sleep.
Your quality of sleep may suffer. People who sleep with a dog in their bed may have slightly lower sleep efficiency and are more likely to wake up in the night than people who sleep without dogs.
Dogs and humans sleep differently. While humans sleep soundly for several hours each night, dogs sleep more lightly and will stay somewhat alert for sounds even while sleeping. They may wake up more often than you do, scratching, barking, or generally moving and disturbing your sleep.
Once you start sleeping with your dog, it may be difficult to stop. As dogs become accustomed to resting in your bed, they may have a difficult time understanding if you don’t want them to share your bed occasionally. It can be a tough habit to break and lead to frustration and lost sleep as your dog tries to get back in bed with you.
The bottom line: if you like sleeping with your pet, it’s probably fine for you to do so. It’s also fine to put your dog in a bed on the floor. Consider the risks and benefits before you make sleeping with your dog a regular habit.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.