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The Surprising Benefit of Sharing Your Bed With Your Dog

Self-Care & Mental Health

HealthDay News

TUESDAY, Dec. 15, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- When your bedtime approaches, does a four-legged friend hop onto the blankets, too? A new study finds that for many American pet owners, that's not a bad thing.

According to a Mayo Clinic study surveying 150 people, "more respondents perceived their pets to not affect or even benefit rather than hinder their sleep," while "some respondents described feeling secure, content and relaxed when their pet slept nearby."

The study is published in the December issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The research was led by Dr. Lois Krahn of the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. Her team said there hasn't been good research to date on the impact a pet slumbering nearby might have on an owner's sleep.

Sleep problems continue to plague millions of Americans, and "pet ownership and the number of pets per household are at the highest level in two decades," the study authors wrote.

In their research, Krahn's team used interviews and questionnaires to discover how pets in the bedroom affect sleep. Seventy-four of the 150 adults interviewed had at least one pet, and 31 had multiple pets. More than half (56 percent) of pet owners allowed their animal (or animals) to sleep with them in the bedroom or on the bed.

Only 15 pet owners (20 percent) considered the pet's presence "disruptive" to their sleep. Some said their pets wandered, snored, whimpered or needed bathroom breaks, for example. One single 51-year-old woman complained that her pet parrot "consistently squawked at 6 a.m.," according to the researchers.

Many more were just fine with a pet sleeping nearby, however. Forty-one percent of people who allowed their pet to sleep with them said that it was either "not an issue or [was] advantageous" to their sleep.

"A single 64-year-old woman commented that she felt more content when her small dog slept under the covers near her feet," Krahn's group wrote. In addition, they reported that a 50-year-old woman said she did "'not mind when my lovely cat' slept on her chest and another described her cat as 'soothing.'"

Some people even said that part of the reason they acquired a dog or cat in the first place was to help them relax at night, and this was especially true for single people or people whose partners often traveled or worked at night.

The researchers stressed that having a pet in the bedroom is not always a calming experience, and people should prioritize their need for restful sleep over the need of a pet to be close by.

However, when pet-human slumber does work, it can be very rewarding, according to Krahn and colleagues.

"The value of these experiences . . . cannot be dismissed, because sleep is dependent on a state of physical and mental relaxation," the authors concluded.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, December 2015

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