Sleeping With Your Dog: 6 Science-Backed Benefits
You love spending time with your dog. In fact, if it were up to you, they’d never leave your side.
But does that really mean that they need to share your bed with you?
As it turns out, the science is clear that keeping your dog in bed could have amazing benefits for both of you. Below, we’ve assembled six of the top reasons that you should consider letting your pooch hop up next to you when you turn in for the night.
The 6 Benefits of Sleeping With Dogs
1. Sleeping With Dogs Can Alleviate Depression
It’s hard to feel sad when there’s a dog around, and it just so happens that there’s a scientific explanation for that: Spending time with your dog — especially in close physical contact — releases oxytocin, the “feel-good chemical.”
The longer that physical contact is maintained, the more oxytocin is released. Thus, spending all night with your pooch is a great way to flood your brain with natural mood-altering drugs.
If you do this enough, it may just reduce your symptoms of depression. We wouldn’t recommend going off any medication or canceling visits with your therapist, of course, but those efforts might be bolstered by cuddling up with your puppy when it’s time to go to sleep.
2. Sleeping With Dogs May Reduce Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders
There’s nothing worse than tossing and turning all night — except maybe for looking at the clock and realizing just how much sleep you’ve cost yourself.
If you suffer from frequent insomnia, inviting your dog to share your bed might help. In fact, just about any sleep disorder — including narcolepsy, night terrors, and obstructive sleep apnea — can be improved by sharing your bed with a dog.
Now, to be clear, this information is based on a study using therapy dogs, so your garden-variety pooch may not be as useful. However, experts aren’t clear on what it is that the dogs did to improve their owners’ sleep, so their extra training might not have factored into it at all.
Research has also shown that sleep disorders are likely to worsen dramatically if you stop sleeping with your dog. So, if you’re already sharing your bed with your Rottweiler, you should continue to do so.
3. Sleeping With Dogs Can Save Your Life
Dogs are basically little furnaces on wheels, and having one tucked into the small of your back can keep you warm all night long, even if you’ve long since kicked off the covers.
While that’s great for your comfort, it might be even better for your heart.
Research has shown that being cold while sleeping increases your risk of cardiac arrest. Scientists aren’t sure why this is, but there seems to be a clear correlation between low body temperature and increased incidences of heart failure. There are some theories that the cold causes blood vessels to constrict, forcing your ticker to work harder as a result.
So, the next time you wake up in the middle of the night because your dog has you soaking in your own sweat, take the time to thank them.
4. Sleeping With Dogs Can Make You Feel Secure
Your dog considers it their sworn duty to act as your protector, and that duty doesn’t end when you fall asleep. They’ll keep a watchful eye over you as you slumber — even if that eye may be closed as well.
It seems that we instinctively feel their tendency to guard us, even while we’re asleep, and research has shown that it makes us feel more secure as a result.
That security isn’t all symbolic, either. Many burglars report that owning a dog is the best way to deter break-ins, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a big, ferocious Belgian Malinois, either. Even a yappy little dog can keep bad guys at bay, as they don’t want to attract any attention.
Of course, it isn’t just other people that can hurt you. Things like gas leaks are actually a much bigger danger, and dogs have even been known to save people from those as well.
So, regardless of whether you have a little Chihuahua or a massive Great Dane, you should sleep more soundly knowing that your dedicated security system is on full alert at all times.
5. Sleeping With Your Dog Can Make You Feel Less Lonely
Living by yourself has its perks — you don’t have to clean up anyone else’s messes, nobody eats your food out of the fridge, and you have full control of the remote.
However, it also means you don’t have anyone to curl up next to at night — and that can make you feel lonely.
Luckily, your dog can fill that emotional gap in your life (not to mention the physical one in your bed). Many dog owners, especially single ones, report feeling less lonely when they can share their bed with their pups.
It’s nice to cuddle with anyone, but your dog makes an especially inviting target. After all, they’re warm, snuggly, and completely adorable. Plus, they won’t mind your morning breath.
6. Sleeping With Your Dog Can Make You Sleep More Efficiently
The amount of time that you spend in bed isn’t terribly important for helping you feel more rested; rather, it’s the time you actually spend asleep that matters.
This concept is known as “sleep efficiency,” and scientists have even created a score to rank it. The scale goes from 0-100, with 100 being the highest; the goal is to have a score of 85 or greater. Very few people manage to sleep that efficiently, however.
Your odds of hitting that mark go up if there’s a dog in bed with you, though. One study examining sleep efficiency involved having people and their pets wear a sleep tracker for a week, with the results showing that the humans averaged a score of 81.
How’d the dogs do? They averaged an 85 — so co-sleeping may be better for both you and your furry friend.
Are There Any Downsides to Letting Your Dog Sleep With You?
While the health benefits of sharing a pillow with your dog shouldn’t be overlooked, there are a few clear downsides that can also occur.
The examples below won’t apply to every situation and may not outweigh the benefits outlined above, but they’re worth noting all the same.
It Can Aggravate Your Allergies
It seems obvious — anyone who’s allergic to dogs shouldn’t let them climb in bed with them. However, the truth may be more complicated than that.
As it turns out, even people who aren’t allergic to canines can suffer more allergy symptoms by letting their pet sleep with them. The problem isn’t the dog, per se; it’s everything the dog brings with them.
If your pup has been outside, whether to romp in the grass or simply for a long walk, then their coat has attracted all sorts of dust, pollen, and other debris. If you let them up in your bed, some of that detritus will end up all over your pillows and sheets — and eventually, in your lungs.
Worse, it will linger until you wash the sheets, so letting the dog sleep with you for just one night can cause symptoms that stick around for days.
Those who have allergy problems but still want to snuggle up with their mutts should wipe the dog down with a damp cloth before letting them jump on the bed. You should also change the sheets regularly and consider investing in HEPA filters.
It Can Hurt the Dog
Your dog has been sleeping in bed next to you for years. The bed feels empty without them. So, you should continue calling them to lay down by your side, right?
Not necessarily: As your dog ages, arthritis and other painful conditions may set in, making it difficult for them to muster the ability to hop onto your bed. They’ll oblige you if you insist, of course, but it may hurt them.
Many soft mattresses don’t provide the support that your dog’s aging joints need either. They’ll feel like they’re sinking, which can cause them to keep moving in the hopes of getting comfortable; all that movement will only aggravate their condition.
If you still want your dog to lie down next to you, consider picking them up and setting them gently in bed. Only do this if they’re small, though, as that could cause bigger dogs even more discomfort. Instead, consider investing in a ramp that your Great Dane can walk up.
However, it may be more comfortable for everyone if you provide your aging pup with a comfortable pad or pillow on the floor. They’ll still be there for you to cuddle in the morning.
Dogs Can Make a Mess
If you have a rambunctious dog that’s always getting into trouble, there’s a good chance that their paws will be covered with mud, dirt, or some sort of unspeakable grime at the end of every successful day.
Now think about sleeping in that muck.
Your dogs can make your bed absolutely filthy. Not only does that ruin the aesthetics of your white sheets, but they can get dirt and debris everywhere, making it hard for you to get comfortable.
Also, older dogs sometimes become incontinent. We know that we said that dogs keeping you warm is a good thing, but that’s not what we meant.
It Can Ruin Your Love Life
Dogs know that beds are for two things: sleeping and getting petted. That means many dogs see two humans climbing into bed and think that it’s an opportunity to get double the attention. They continue to think this even as you push them away, beg for privacy, or yell at them to leave you alone.
If you don’t nip this behavior in the bud, it can ruin your love life. You need to teach your dog to go sit in their crate until you say that they’re allowed to come out if you want to have any hope of having some fun of your own.
There’s nothing wrong with getting down while your dog’s in the room; however, many people struggle to perform knowing that their pooch is watching every move. If that sounds like you, you’re better off never letting your pooch share your bed.
Verdict: Should You Sleep With Your Dog?
Experts used to think that sharing a bed with your dog would wreck your sleep; however, that’s no longer the case. Instead, we’re learning about all sorts of beneficial side effects. It can make you happier, healthier, and even better rested.
That’s not to say you should definitely do it, though. Allergy sufferers should think twice, as should anyone who’s squeamish about messes. Newlyweds may also want to reserve the bed for their own use.
Ultimately, it’s purely a personal decision. If you let your dog in the bed, you’ll soon learn that it’s both a good and bad experience. If you refuse, your dog will still love you.
Featured Image: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock