Sleeping With Pets

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Written by Afy Okoye

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process

Table of Contents

Many adults and children choose to sleep with their pets. Some sleep experts advise against sharing a bed with pets because of potential sleep disruptions, but recent research suggests that sleeping with pets may offer comfort and support and may not compromise sleep as much as previously believed.

We discuss the possible benefits and drawbacks of sleeping with a pet. We also share tips for sleeping more comfortably and safely with your pet.

Key Takeaways

 

  • About half of adults report sleeping better with a pet than without one.
  • Make sure you bed is big enough to minimize sleep disruptions from your pet.
  • Give your pet regular baths and veterinary care to keep your sleep space sanitary.
  • Wash your sheets and other bed linens at least once a week.

What Are the Benefits of Sleeping With Pets?

Some people find that sleeping with a pet benefits their physical and mental wellbeing. This may explain why about half of dog and cat owners sleep with their pets at least some of the time.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Many people report that sleeping with a pet relaxes them and reduces stress and anxiety. When people engage with a pet, they often experience a drop in cortisol, a stress hormone. This effect may benefit people who sleep with their pets by helping them calm down at bedtime.

Companionship and Bonding 

Sharing a bed with a pet may help ease feelings of loneliness, and the extra time together may help strengthen the bond between pet owner and pet. Children, in particular, tend to view their pets as good friends and enjoy the companionship they get from sleeping with their cat or dog.

Comfort and Security

Sleeping with dogs or other pets may provide a feeling of security. Research has found that some adults feel more safe sleeping with a dog than with a human bed partner. Similarly, children who get scared or anxious at bedtime may find that sleeping with their pet helps allay their fears.

Improved Sleep 

About half of adults who share a bed with their pet report sleeping better with a pet than without one. Some people report that sleeping with a pet is less disruptive than sharing a bed with another person. Children who regularly sleep with their pets generally say that it helps them sleep better.

Health Benefits

People who sleep with their pets may experience some of the physical and mental health benefits that accompany pet ownership in general. For example, having a strong bond with a pet has been linked to:

  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Decreased cholesterol levels 
  • Better management of depression symptoms 
  • Fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 

Additionally, people with chronic pain may get better sleep with a pet in their bed.

Are There Risks to Sleeping With Pets?

Although there may be benefits to sleeping next to your pet, there are some potential risks to be aware of when your pet is part of your sleep environment.

Allergies 

Pets can be a problem for people with allergies. Doctors recommend that people with pet allergies limit exposure to pet dander, which includes keeping pets out of the bedroom. However, many people with allergies continue to sleep with their pets. Pet owners can decide whether the benefits of sleeping with a pet outweigh the allergy symptoms they experience.

Germ Exposure and Cleanliness 

If you aren’t careful to wipe off your pet’s paws after they spend time outside, they may bring dirt, feces, and bacteria into your bed. Additionally, ticks and fleas can pose a health risk for anyone sharing a bed with a pet, especially one that spends time outdoors. 

Disrupted Sleep 

Having a pet in the bed may make it difficult for some people to get a good night’s sleep. About one in five people who sleep with a pet say that it compromises the quality of their sleep. This may be because of your pet’s movements, noises they make during the night, or increased temperature from your pet lying close to you.

Pets That Should Not Join Your Bed

While dogs and cats can make good sleeping companions, some may have a negative impact on sleep. For example, a cat that is active and noisy in the early morning hours may disrupt sleep. Also, any pet that bites or scratches does not belong in a bed.

It is not a good idea to sleep with small or exotic pets, including:

  • Hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs
  • Mice and rats
  • Rabbits
  • Ferrets
  • Hedgehogs
  • Birds
  • Snakes, frogs, and lizards
  • Insects

Allow your small or exotic pet to sleep where it is safe and secure—in most cases, in a roomy, secured cage.

How to Sleep Well With Your Pet

If you choose to sleep with your pet, there are steps you can take to successfully share your bed and promote good sleep for you and your pet.

  • Make sure the bed is big enough: You and your pet are less likely to disturb each other if there is ample space for both of you. Consider moving your pet to a nearby pet bed if your mattress isn’t big enough for both of you or if you’re disturbed by your pet’s movements.
  • Keep your pet clean and healthy: Regular veterinary checks and routine vaccinations can help keep your pet healthy. Bathing your pet when it is dirty and using medications that control fleas and ticks may also help keep germs away.
  • Clean bedding: Wash sheets and other bed linens regularly to get rid of germs that may make you or your pet sick.
  • Take your dog for a walk: If you have a dog, getting some exercise during the day may help you and your pet sleep more soundly.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Healthy sleep habits are important whether you share a bed with your pet or not. Having a consistent bedtime and creating a quiet, dark sleeping environment are practices that will set you up for a good night’s sleep.

About The Author

Afy Okoye

Staff Writer, Sleep Health


Afy is a writer and creative strategist in San Francisco with a master’s degree in international health policy from the London School of Economics. She has written for VeryWell Health, BlackDoctor.org, and Paste magazine and edited peer-reviewed journal manuscripts for Elsevier. Afy says her work with The Sleep Doctor is anything but “sleepy.” She enjoys the opportunity to learn new information and share knowledge that gives people the power to make better choices. Afy also likes to read non-fiction, do creative writing, and travel solo.

  • POSITION: Side Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Hot Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Bear

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