Why Sleeping With Pets Actually Improves Sleep Patterns

Boy kissing a senior Jack russell terrier

For years, experts have said sleeping with our pets keeps us from getting a good night’s rest. Turns out, they might have been wrong. 

Not everyone has been listening to those experts anyway. About half of America’s households contain pets and half of those pets sleep in the bedroom or in the bed. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic found that sleeping with their pets gives some people a sense of security, helping them to sleep better.

In the study, 150 respondents filled out a questionnaire about their pets, including the type and number of animals in the home, and their sleeping habits. In subsequent interviews, respondents were asked where their pets slept, how they behaved and whether their pets affected their own sleep.

Although 20% of respondents reported sleep disturbances because of pets, 41% believed they slept better with a pet in the bedroom. “(Some people) find that sleeping with their animal actually helps them feel cozy,” says study co-author Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center in Phoenix. “One woman said her two small dogs kind of warmed her bed. Another person felt her cat, who was touching her during the night, was comforting and soothing.”

Many experts say how sleep is affected depends on the person and the pet.

“I don’t have a problem (with you) sleeping with your dog until you complain that sleeping with your dog is problematic,” W. Christopher Winter, a sleep medicine expert at Charlottesville Neurology & Sleep Medicine in Charlottesville, Virginia, told NBC’s “Today” show. Winter suggests having pets sleep in a crate or pet bed in your bedroom to maintain the emotional connection without disrupting sleep.