Family

Snuggle In for a Good Night's Sleep: Sharing your bed with a pet can be smart for slumber

 (AP Photo/mugumogu)

When I was a kid, I wouldn’t go to sleep after watching a scary movie at night unless my dog slept at the foot of my bed. I believed that his presence, even though he was a miniature poodle, kept the monsters away.

Today, I share my bed with my husband and two cats. The cats sleep on me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Cats usually sleep on each other in a grouping called a clowder,” Darlene Arden, a certified animal behavior consultant, told LifeZette. “When they consider us part of their clowder, they will sleep on us.

“Little dogs will sometimes do the same thing, or they need to be touching you,” she added.

I consider my cats little heating pads because they exude such warmth and I feel more comfortable with them on or next to me. I’m not alone. Other “pet parents” feel the same way about their cats and dogs and science backs it up.

Researchers at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic recently completed a study that found this:

• 56 percent of participants shared their bed or bedroom with a cat or dog.

• 41 percent said having their pets in bed with them actually helped them sleep better.

• The majority of those who slept with their pets found that having the pets there with them relaxed them and made them feel more secure.

These findings contrast sharply with last year’s study from the Mayo Clinic. It found that half of patients reported their pets woke them up in the middle of the night. Arden noted that this could be due to the sleeping habits of the pets — and the people.

Some pets are restless and others spread out, leaving little room on the bed. So you have to set limits.

“Pets can hog the bed,” said Arden. “They usually find a spot near you or under the covers.

If the pet refuses to sleep in one place but keeps displacing you, then he loses bed privileges and sleeps in his own bed until he realizes he has to share.”

Sharing your bed with a well-behaved pet has plenty of advantages. “People who sleep with their pets feel safer and more secure, allowing them to sleep better,” Arden said. “Other than allergies, why wouldn’t you want to have your pets in bed with you?”

She cautions that pet parents need to be aware of their pets’ safety. “Tiny dogs have been inadvertently suffocated by a large owner rolling over on the dog in their sleep,” she said.

“Cats are nocturnal and will come and go during the night, but pet parents are unaware of that unless the cat is particularly noisy,” she explained.

For couples wanting alone time, Arden suggests taking the dog out for a long walk and then giving him a bedtime treat before putting him in another room to sleep. For cats, play with them before bedtime and give them a small treat before relegating them to another room.

And the single men and women in the study reported that they, too, had a more restful sleep if they shared their beds with their cats and dogs.

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