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8 Scientific Benefits of Sleeping With Your Dog
Sleeping with your best friend (your dog) can have surprising benefits. Nevertheless, this question divides canine owners. Some people tolerate this practice, even encourage it, while for others, allowing access to their bed or even their bedroom is totally unacceptable. The arguments held in each of the two camps are quite solid. But what does science say exactly? Here is the list of eight scientifically-proven benefits of sleeping with your four-legged housemate, which will help you decide whether or not to let your canine companion share your bed tonight!
1. Better Sleep For People With Anxiety
One study noted that people with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, whose nights can be very restless, sleep much better with a dog; they have fewer nightmares. Ditto for children; having a dog in the same room reduces the frequency of nightmares.
Maybe this is the effect of oxytocin? The “love” hormone helps form bonds of attachment between two individuals and appears to have an anti-anxiety and anti-stress effect. Your body produces more of it when you are in contact with your dog.
Other biological causes could explain this phenomenon. For example, stroking a dog seems to cause a drop in blood pressure and, therefore, generates more relaxation.
2. Greater Sense of Security And Comfort
For most of us, sleeping with a dog makes us feel safe and comfortable. One study even compared the sleep of women sleeping with a cat, dog, or human. The authors concluded that the dog would be a nocturnal companion that disturbs sleep the least!
This finding is not that surprising, given that some cats tend to wake their owners up in the wee hours of the morning and don’t let go until you go to fill the bowl that still has food in it. And also, humans who snore, grind their teeth, or curl up in a duvet to leave you only 6 inches of blanket.
But more seriously, what stood out most in this study was the sense of security, which is more important when a woman sleeps next to a dog than when she sleeps with a man. But don’t take it the wrong way, gentlemen. The dog has an advantage over you; its “alarm” effect is more effective than yours, which is even more reassuring!
3. Positive Effects On Mental Health
Many dog sitters consider that the mere presence of a canine companion has a positive impact on mental health. Indeed, these would provide good emotional support. In addition to reducing stress, people with anxiety and depression seem to benefit from their contact. So, if cuddling your dog makes you happy, then why deprive yourself of his presence at night?
4. Less Anxiety In Your Dog
Dogs can also feel the same well-being when their human is around them, thanks to oxytocin secretion.
Indeed, dogs love to be with and spend time with their humans. For anxious dogs, sleeping near us is a time when they feel safe, and their stress is reduced considerably. So, for a nervous dog, snuggling up in bed with their human is probably one of the few times they can really sleep well and relax.
5. Decreased Loneliness
Lonely people can benefit greatly from the habit of sleeping with their dog, according to this study. Indeed, dogs provide us with a sense of emotional well-being, thanks to their unconditional love for us; that is why their company is rewarding and comfortable for people who live alone.
Sleeping with your dog would also help people overcome personal trauma, such as grief.
6. Natural Source of Heat
One of the reasons to sleep with your dog that doesn’t need to be scientifically proven is simply for the extra heat they provide! Indeed, your furry companion is a perfect heater for cold winter nights; on the other hand, in summer, you risk having the opposite problem!
7. Strengthening The Bond With Your Dog
Sleeping with your companion helps with socialization and makes training easier. In addition, admit that it is very difficult to resist the crying or the beaten dog stares that your four-legged companion throws at you on the landing of the door of your room! This is because the dog is a social animal, like us. He, therefore, has a constant need for interaction and contact with his human. Never far from you, your dog will also feel safer sleeping by your side, and this will make your bond even stronger.
8. Reduces Allergies Later In Life
A Canadian study found a surprising link between infants and furry pets. According to the report’s findings, sleeping with a dog (or cat) in the first 3 months of life reduces the risk of allergies. So, putting a baby under 3 months to sleep with a dog would be good for his health. To come to this conclusion, the researchers studied 2,500 babies over a 10-year period.
As a result, those who slept with a dog or cat before their third month of life had a 79% reduced risk of respiratory allergy by the age of 6. However, researchers recommend using sheepskins (sold in some health food stores) rather than placing a dog or cat directly in your baby’s crib to avoid the risk of suffocation.
Are There Any Downsides to Sleeping With Your Dog? Top Myths Explained
Now that you know a little more about the benefits of sleeping with your canine companion let’s take a look at the persistent myths attributed to this habit as well.
1. Your Dog Will Think He’s The Pack Leader
The term “dominant” is a catch-all word for a bunch of unwanted behavior, the cause of which many people don’t understand. Your dog is not plotting to try to steal the chef’s place from you. You decide when he eats, plays, walks, sleeps, etc. So, how could he conclude that he is the boss?
The dog is an opportunistic and hedonistic animal. If he’s allowed to sleep somewhere warm and comfortable, he’ll benefit from it. This is not an assertion of dominance — it is simply an opportunistic choice.
Nevertheless, a dog who is very possessive of his owner will indeed tend to be aggressive towards any other human or animal who wants to share his bed with you. But that comes down to his socialization and education; therefore, it is your responsibility to educate your dog to accept the presence of another person in your bed. If you notice an aggressive reaction, you should not allow him to spend the night with you until his behavior changes.
2. Your Dog Will Become Too Spoiled
Like anything with dogs, if you are clear about what you want and what you don’t want, your dog will be able to discriminate. So, just because your dog is sleeping in your bed does not mean that he will start to behave unwantedly. There is no connection between these two elements; it is rather our tendency to attribute anthropomorphic behaviors to our pets that would be responsible for this persistent myth.
3. Your Dog Will Suffer From Separation Anxiety
While teaching your dog to learn to be temporarily separated from you is crucial, there is no real evidence that sleeping with you will cause separation anxiety. On the other hand, it is true that in a dog already extremely dependent on its owner, co-sleeping can aggravate the problem. However, in a well-balanced dog, sleeping with its owner does not cause additional anxiety; it is quite the opposite!
4. Your Dog Will Never Want To Sleep Anywhere Else
Again, it depends on the training you gave to your furry friend. So, by making a habit of putting your dog to sleep elsewhere on occasion and making other places comfortable and positive, you shouldn’t have a problem. Of course, you have to make sure that the dog is comfortable in his crate and well trained.
However, all the positive aspects of human sleep can be reversed if your dog is restless at night. An American study showed that subjects who slept with their dog in their bed had a good quality of sleep. Nevertheless, this figure is slightly higher if the dog only sleeps in the same room and not on the same bed.
Besides, if you suffer from allergies or asthma, you should avoid sleeping in the same room with your dog. In addition, the hygiene factor must be strictly observed. The main thing is to regularly deworm your dog and make sure that he does not have ectoparasites such as ticks and fleas. In the worst cases, your dog could potentially transmit Lyme disease to you. But he could also pass it on whether he sleeps with you or not.
If you don’t have severe allergies or an ultralight sleep, sleeping with a dog, or at least in the same room, may be beneficial. That said, co-sleeping with your furry companion is a personal decision. In some cases, this habit may not work. For example, if it creates tension in your couple, or if your dog moves a lot and snores all night! But in the end, getting a good night’s sleep is essential for mental and physical balance, so it’s up to you to see what can improve yours and what not. If sleeping near your dog makes it better, then why not?
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock
Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.
- 1. Better Sleep For People With Anxiety
- 2. Greater Sense of Security And Comfort
- 3. Positive Effects On Mental Health
- 4. Less Anxiety In Your Dog
- 5. Decreased Loneliness
- 6. Natural Source of Heat
- 7. Strengthening The Bond With Your Dog
- 8. Reduces Allergies Later In Life
- Are There Any Downsides to Sleeping With Your Dog? Top Myths Explained
- The Caveat
- Final Thoughts