SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When it comes doggy “parents,” many typically go about how they choose sleeping quarters for their beloved pooches in one of three ways. There are the ones who let their dog them sleep in the same room, ones who let them sleep in the same bed (a naturally warm heating blanket!) as them, and ones who don’t let their fur babies sleep in the room at all.
But which is the smartest option?
According to a new Mayo Clinic study, letting our dogs sleep in the same room can help us sleep easier — except if they are under the blankets with us, and it’s not because of the dog hair.
Researchers from the Center for Sleep Medicine on the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus aimed their study on what some pet owners are often suspicious of: the potential negative effects of sleeping with a pet on sleep quality.
The American Veterinary Association reports that more than 40 million American households have dogs and 63 percent of these households consider their canine companions to be family. However, the study notes that many households fear that they will be sacrificing their good night’s sleep if their dogs sleep with them.
“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” says Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study, in a press release. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”
The study involved 40 healthy dog owners, none of whom had been diagnosed with any sleep disorders. Researchers analyzed their sleep with their dog in the bedroom for more than five months. The owners only had one dog and wore activity trackers to monitor their newly developed sleeping habits for seven nights.
The results were ones that we all wanted to hear: no matter what breed, sleeping with their furry family members helped them achieve 83 percent sleep efficiency — 80 percent is typically considered satisfactory. From pit bulls to small schnauzers, all dogs made their owners feel comforted with their presence.
However, those who slept with their dogs in bed had a lower sleep efficiency percentage of around 80 percent. These participants were found to have occasionally woken up throughout the night.
“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” says Dr. Krahn. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”
Dr. Krahn notes that sharing a bedroom with multiple dogs can get complicated because chances are, the dogs have different sleeping habits to adjust to — snoring, moving or acting out in their dreams. However, if you are a heavy sleeper, let the sounds of their snores be the lullaby that puts you to sleep.
“My main recommendation is for people to take a look at their setup and carefully consider whether it is truly working or not,” says Dr. Krahn. “And not allow loyalty to their pet to blind them to consequences that aren’t desirable to their sleep.”
The full study was published this month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.