Many people see dogs as legit members of the family, so it's no surprise that dog and owner often wind up snoozing side by side. But are these pet parents sacrificing their own sleep quality? Researchers at the Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus recently sought to uncover the truth, with some surprising results.
Their small study fitted 40 participants and their pups (older than 6 months of age) with sleep trackers, which they wore for seven nights. The data revealed that sleeping with animals in the bedroom actually helped participants achieve better quality sleep.
"Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption," says Lois Krahn, M.D., a co-author of the study and a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic, in a press statement. "We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets."
However, those participants who cuddled right up to a pup didn't sleep as well as those whose dogs were in their own beds. But the difference was not great. The sleep efficiency (the time spent in bed versus the time spent sleeping) for people with a dog in the bedroom was 83 percent. When the dog was in the bed, it was a tad above 80 percent. Eighty percent is considered the cut-off point for acceptable sleep efficiency.
Sleep expert and clinical psychologist Dr. Michael J. Breus is not surprised by the findings. "For years, I have been saying that it is OK to sleep with animals in your bed. It is a very comforting feeling; they are members of your family."
Breus has two small dogs, as well as a cat. "Our animals usually sleep on top of our bed," he says. He recommends a 25-pound (11-kilogram) cut-off for pet bedmates. "Once you go much over that, there is a space issue, a movement issue, and in some cases a snoring issue [with] bulldogs and 'mushy faced' animals," he says. He also suggests that they remain on top of the covers, rather than snuggling under. And, "Consider getting an accurate sleep tracker ... and monitor if your pet is disruptive or helpful to your sleep."