If you have a spouse, there’s a good chance that you understand just how much having another person nearby can affect your ability to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Sure, it’s not all bad. But whether it’s the snoring, tossing and turning, or random trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, that other person in your bed may unintentionally do his or her to test the limits of your love and devotion.
However, if you own a dog, and if that dog happens to sleep nearby, your experience may be quite different. According to the results of a recent study from researchers at Canisius College, women are more likely to report a higher quality of rest when Fido is curled up next to them. In fact, of the 962 women participated in the study, the majority experienced rest benefits when their dogs were sleeping nearby—but those results only applied to dogs.
While 57 percent of the women slept with another person in their bed, and 55 and 31 percent slept with dogs and cats, respectively, those who slept with cats or another person did not report any benefits. On the contrary, both the cats and the people were generally considered “disruptive” to the women’s sleeping patterns.
Given the results, the question many were asking was why there was such a significant difference between the effects that dogs had on the subjects’ sleeping habits and the effects that cats and other humans had. Although there is no clear answer, Christy L. Hoffman, the associate professor who headed the study, has a few theories about why the responses were so different.
“Dog owners have to adjust to their dogs’ needs to toilet each morning, and this helps keep dog owners on a relatively strict wake-up routine,” she said. Hoffman also noted that “dogs’ major sleep periods tend to coincide more closely with humans’ than do cats,” adding that, “dog owners may take comfort in the thought that their dog will alert them in the case of an intruder or other type of emergency,” and “a cat is less likely to take on this role.”
So, that all may explain the preference toward dogs over cats, but what about dogs over humans? According to Hoffman, those results were perhaps the most unexpected. “I had thought participants would have rated their dogs and human partners similarly in terms of the comfort and security they provide, but surprisingly, the women rated their dog bed partners as better sources of comfort and security than human partners.”
Another reason why the results seem so surprising is because they appear to conflict with those of a sleep study published by the Mayo Clinic in 2017. According to that study, sleeping with a dog close to your bed could lead to better rest, but sleeping with a dog in your bed could actually be disruptive.
Whatever the case may be, if you’re a dog owner, you can try for yourself to see which method works the best for you. And when you find the right setup, you can look forward to a new quality of rest that will make you love having your favorite pup around even more.