Science Shows Why Canine Co-Sleeping May Not Be Such a Bad ThingMatthew Russell
For all the arguments against letting your dog find a warm corner in your bed every night, there are some pretty valid reasons to rethink your sleeping arrangements. Research in many studies has shown that co-sleeping with a pet is a natural, healthy way to increase health and wellbeing, along with strengthening the bonds of owner and animal.
There is little to be concerned with when it comes to having an animal in the bed if you do not suffer from allergies. In a study led by Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Arizona, out of 150 people observed, over 60 of them said they experienced better sleep with an animal near them.
“[Some people] find that sleeping with their animal actually helps them feel cozy,” Krahn told Today. “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.”
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5. Stress and Anxiety
“There are all kinds of medical benefits to having a pet,” says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine, a sleep center outside Chicago. “And some people might feel safer or calmer with a dog in their bed.”
Shives sleeps with her 45-pound dog in the bed, much like many other pet owners in the world, including those overburdened with stress and anxieties. This predilection for canine co-sleeping isn’t just a friendly bargain for pillow real estate, either. In an article published in Sleep Review Magazine, a team of sleep experts led by Mary W. Rose, PsyD, CBSM reported that those who suffer from PTSD and sleep near their service animals were less likely to experience interruptive nightmares.
“In the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers system, service As are being more widely used to diminish the impact of PTSD-related nightmares through training in which they immediately awaken the nightmare patient and provide comfort, a role that no medication has yet to accomplish,” Rose wrote. “Dogs are also used to mitigate anxiety, which is often associated with insomnia, and to modify hyperarousal and hypervigilance, which in turn creates a more amenable mood state for sleep initiation, as well as a greater sense of safety in those who are uneasy in the dark and/or night and who tend to phase-reverse to dodge nighttime sleep.”
Candace Hunziker of Kennesaw, Ga, told WebMD that she sleeps with her Labrador retriever mix, P, for the better rest it provides.
“She sleeps against me and she has very rhythmic breathing and it just puts me out,” Hunziker said. “I have insomnia, my whole family does, and we all sleep with dogs. She puts me to sleep better than an Ambien.”
Researchers in the Arizona study reported that added companionship and a sense of security contribute to a better night’s sleep.
“Respondents described feeling secure, content and relaxed when their pet slept nearby,” Krahn and others wrote. “The value of these experiences, although poorly understood, cannot be dismissed because sleep is dependent on a state of physical and mental relaxation.”
The meaning behind a “three-dog night” may be lost on those neither accustomed to sub-zero temperatures or classic rock, but it symbolizes a very real benefit of snuggling up to a pup.
Dogs have higher metabolism rate than humans do, and give off more heat. While our internal temperatures average a cool 98.6 degrees, your dog is moving the mercury up to as high as 102.5 degrees. At the same time, they want to feel warm and secure, too, so co-sleeping may be the best arrangement for both you and your dog if you’re feeling a little chilly.