The warm feelings you get from loving your dog, and from the special way your dog loves you, are more than warm feelings.
We already know that the bond you and your dog share creates a calm that can carry its own health benefits. New studies also reveal that sleeping with your pet may be another way to ease anxiety and stress.
Turns out the mood-enhancing vibrations you get from playing with your dog can continue during sleep, and turn into mood-calming vibes, when your pup snoozes nearby.
Increase the good hormones, decrease the bad
More than 30 years ago, we learned that regular human-animal interaction can reduce anxiety by reducing the human stress hormone known as cortisol while also lowering one’s heart rate. High cortisol and a rapid heart rate are both markers of anxiety.
Cuddling with your pet also engages the oxytocin system in your body. Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone in your blood that elevates your mood. Working together to lower heart rate, lower cortisol, and produce more oxytocin, a better mood may also enhance an individual’s empathy and reduce aggression.
With the fact that people with animals also find themselves exercising more, which also reduces stress, it’s a wonder everyone doesn’t own a dog.
It’s no secret that it’s easier to sleep longer and better when you’re able to reduce stress. You’re off to a great start prepping for a good night’s sleep just by owning a dog. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American calls it the “pet effect.” It is real and, for dog lovers, a lovely bonus.
Less fear, more friends
Having a dog can expand a person’s social network, which can be important when dealing with stress. Maintaining a supportive social network can be particularly beneficial for seniors, who may often lack friends and a routine to keep them engaged. The routine of waking up, eating, exercising, relaxing, and going to bed at a good time mimics what a pet needs to stay healthy, and sharing a routine can enhance the experience for both owner and pet. Owners, then, are better equipped to handle and avoid symptoms of anxiety.
Slumber party with pets
You can see now that it is no stretch to add that sleeping with your pet close by can be beneficial, even reducing anxiety overnight while you both rest.
I remember the first time I slept with a pet was while looking after friends’ dogs during their vacation. These two French bulldogs always slept with their owners. I did the same and it was no hardship to have Flash and Hampton’s smooshed faces watching over me as we slept. They were sweet, funny dogs and I like being close to them, and it did ease my sleep.
One Mayo Clinic study still urges a bit of caution when you figure out whether or not to allow your dog into your room during bedtime. Some studies say keeping your dog in bed with you, where they could move during the night or snore, might hinder or disrupt sleep. You may still glean positive effects if you sleep in the same room, just not in the same bed.
Figure out whatever feels most comfortable for you and your pet. And don’t forget to take some time to evaluate the sleep cocoon you create for both you and your pet in your bedroom (mattress, sleeping mat, temperature, covers, etc.).
Only you can decide how close you’ll want to keep your dog while you sleep if you wish to benefit from the anxiety-reducing benefits pets can provide. But, if nothing else, you can rest easy knowing that how your dog makes you feel in daily life is also good for your body and mind over the long term.