Let’s face it: it’s a tough world out there, and sometimes the only thing you can rely on is your dog. Dogs are some of the best comforters around, helping owners cope with just about anything life throws their way. In fact, many people look at their dogs not as pets, but as members of the family, and some of these people prefer to get their rest with furry family members beside them.
In the United States alone, 43,000,000 households own one or more dogs, and some studies have shown up to 60 percent of dog owners allowing their pets to sleep on their beds. Naturally, if so many Americans are opting to sleep with their dogs in the bed, it makes sense that researchers would choose to investigate the effects, both harmful and negative, of this practice.
Recently, the Mayo Clinic published the results of a study that examined the effects (or lack thereof) experienced by dog owners who slept with their pets. A total of 40 adults were used in the experiment, and while each person slept with a dog nearby, some slept with the dogs on their own beds while others preferred to simply keep them off the bed but in the same room.
The study lasted for five months, and the humans and their dogs were both given equipment to monitor their activity during sleep.
The Science of Sleep
This is where the results get interesting. Sleeping with a pet in the room seemed to have a positive effect on the individual’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. However, those who slept with dogs on their own beds actually experienced a negative effect on their ability to sleep soundly.
The researchers used sleep frequency—the percentage of time spent asleep in bed versus the amount of time spent awake in bed—to determine how the presence of dogs did or did not affect a participant’s ability to sleep. An 80-percent sleep efficiency rate is considered satisfactory.
Ultimately, those who allowed their dogs to sleep in the same room scored above satisfactory sleep efficiency ratings, averaging in at 83-percent sleep efficiency. But owners who preferred to sleep with their dogs on the bed just barely managed to score within the acceptable range, averaging 80-percent sleep efficiency.
So, while the numbers may not be drastically different, there was a definite advantage for those who kept their dogs off the bed but inside the bedroom—which makes sense, since they kept their source of comfort close by without having to worry about another body tossing and turning. And, depending on a person’s own sleeping habits and needs, the data may be enough for a sleep routine reexamination, especially for those who already have trouble sleeping soundly through the night.