Sharing Your Bed With Your Pet

Ryan Fiorenzi, BS, Certified Sleep Science Coach - Updated on March 22nd, 2023

Benefits of Owning a Pet

Almost half of all pet owners share their bed with their pet. If you spend most of your day away from your pet, sleeping in the same bed can be a great way to spend time with them to make up for the time spent apart.

Pet experts used to advise owners not to let pets sleep in their bed. They believed that it may cause illness in the owners, and promote bad habits in the pet. Many veterinarians now believe that those assumptions are overblown or incorrect.

The human-animal bond is beneficial for both the human and the animal, with humans enjoying many physical and psychological benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleeping with your dog doesn't disturb your sleep, though the dog's position makes a difference.

Better Mental Health

A study published on HABRI Central (Resources for the Study of the Human-Animal Bond) found that animals can help people with long-term mental health problems experience a sense of security and routine that helps them with their condition.

The Mental Health Foundation states that having a pet reduces the number of outbursts for Alzheimer's patients, and benefits children with ADHD as well as autism.

Reduced Stress

Another study from the State University of New York at Buffalo found that when people were performing a stressful task, they felt more comforted by having their dog nearby than the presence of a friend, spouse, or family member. It's no surprise to most pet owners that their furry family members are a great source of support.

Reduced Heart Attacks and Stroke

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that having your dog around lowers your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.

Cat owners were found to have more than a 33% lower chance of heart attack or stroke, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.

Improved Mood

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that pets have a positive impact on mood. The study had students exposed to pets for 20 minute periods and found that the students' well-being and mood improved and their anxiety levels decreased.

Prevention of Allergies in Infants

Surprisingly, owning pets when less than 1 year old helps prevent allergies because the dander on hair acts as immunotherapy. A study from Sweden also found that the greater the number of pets in the home, the better. This is referred to as the "mini-farm effect," as children raised on farms tend to not have allergies later in life. However, owning a pet later in life doesn't seem to have the same effect.

More Exercise and Socialization

The CDC also states that having pets gives people more opportunities for outdoor exercise, as well as meeting other people. In a world that's becoming more digital, and less face to face, it's very common for people to strike up a conversation with a pet owner as they're taking a stroll.

Being near an animal can increase our levels of oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone." Some owners like the rhythmic sound of their animal's breathing, and claim that it helps them get to sleep faster.

Sleeping with a dog can make you feel safe, as larger dogs could fend off an intruder, and any size dog would start barking if anyone tried to break into your house or apartment.

For all the benefits of having a pet, it's important to be aware of the possible risks, and how to prevent problems.

  1. In rare cases that your animal starts to show signs of aggression associated with sleeping in the same bed, provide the animal their own bed or sleeping space and consult with a veterinary behaviorist.
  2. For cat owners, leaving your bedroom door open is advisable as they are nocturnal and will often not spend the entire night in bed.
  3. If you have allergies, don't want pet hair in your bed, or want to avoid being woken up during the night because they're disturbing you, buy or create an area for your animal to sleep in near your bed.
  4. If you're waking up hot, and your pet is in contact with you, it's a good idea to sleep with a little bit of space between you. To get restful sleep, your body temperature will drop, and staying warm can prevent restful sleep. Hence the popularity of mattresses advertising "cooling" mattresses.

Tips for Getting Your Pet Out of Your Bed

One reason your pet may enjoy sleeping in your bed is that they're in a great strategic position where they can see everything happening around them. They may also like the extra warmth they get from sleeping with their owners.

If for whatever reason you need them to not sleep in the bed with you, it's recommended that you do it gradually. Before you start the transition, add a blanket to your bed that they sleep on that you can later add to their new sleep spot so they associate sleep with their new bed.

Start by having them sleep in their own crate or bed near your bed. You can put toys or treats in their new space so they associate their new space with things they like, and not feel that it's a punishment. Gradually move their bed further from yours, until you can move them into another room.

Letting Children Sleep With Pets

Most experts won't discourage you from letting your child sleep with your pet. The chance of disease transmission from the pet to the child is very rare, though it's a good idea for your pet to get a yearly checkup.

One thing to keep in mind is the maturity of the child. If they're alone in the room together, you want to be confident that the child doesn't do anything to disturb the pet. Cats and dogs are usually tolerant of tail-pulling and teasing, but if an animal feels threatened, they will bite and/or scratch to protect themselves.

If your child is immunosuppressed, talk to your pediatrician. Doctors are unlikely to approve children with cancer, undergoing chemotherapy, or dealing with other issues sleeping with the family pet.