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Sleeping With Your Dog: 6 Science-Backed Benefits

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Sleeping with dog

We’ve all done it (even if we swore we wouldn’t). If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve probably snuggled up in bed with them at least once. While some dog trainers may frown upon sleeping with your dog, there are actually some benefits to sleeping with your canine (for both of you). That said, sleeping with pets carries a low risk of acquiring a disease from them (zoonotic infection), especially in vulnerable people, such as immunocompromised individuals.

Of course, scientific research on sleeping with our dogs is few and far between. However, we can guess at a few different benefits.

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The 6 Benefits of Sleeping With Your Dog

1. Reduction in Stress and Anxiety

Dogs are known to reduce anxiety and stress in their humans. Therefore, spending more time with your dog (like while you’re asleep) may help reduce your stress levels even further. Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels, which are associated with stress and anxiety.1

So, why would cuddling at night be any different?

Sleeping with your dog may trigger the release of oxytocin, which is the “bonding” hormone. This can help you feel more relaxed and secure at night, which may promote sleep quality.

woman sleeping on sofa with dog
Photo Credit: Jep Gambardella, Pexels

2. Improved Sleep Quality

Obviously, being less stressed when sleeping may help improve your sleep quality.2 However, sleeping with your dog may help you sleep better in other ways too.

For instance, dogs often have a natural circadian rhythm that matches a human’s sleep rhythm. Therefore, having your dog in bed with you may help you know when to go to sleep and when to wake up. You may also be less likely to stir if your dog is in bed with you.

Additionally, sleeping with your dog can reduce nightmares and insomnia, as seen in veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

3. Boosted Immune System

Many people mistakenly believe that dogs make people sick. However, it seems that regular exposure to dogs actually prevents people from getting sick, especially when they’re exposed from a young age. Specifically, studies have found that people who grow up with dogs have lower rates of allergies and asthma and are less likely to develop autoimmune diseases.3

Dogs carry a variety of microbes that help expose your immune system to the world. The immune system isn’t developed already knowing what is bad and good. Therefore, by introducing it to lots of different microbes very early, you help develop it better.

Man sleeping with his dog
Photo Credit: Josh Sorenson, Pexels

4. Strengthened Bond

By sleeping with your dog, you can also enhance your relationship with them. Dogs are social animals that need physical contact. By providing this physical contact, you help meet their needs. Just like with a human, you show your dog that you trust and value them by letting them sleep with you.

Dogs with better relationships with their people are more likely to be obedient and safely attached. However, there is a belief that sleeping together can also make your dog a bit too attached (or too fearful of being alone). There is no consensus or scientific data in this regard, though, so if in doubt, it is best to consult with your veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

5. Keeps You Warm and Cozy

If you often get cold at night, sleeping with your dog can help you stay a bit warmer, according to the survey participants of one study. Dogs produce body heat, just like us. This can help us stay warmer at night.

However, it also means that our dogs can make us too hot. If you’re naturally hot-natured, then having a dog in your bed may be a bit much. You may also like having your dog sleep with you during part of the night but not during the whole night. The heat can get a bit much after a while.

Photo Credit: dogboxstudio, Shutterstock

6. Increased Happiness

Who doesn’t like cuddling with a fluffy canine? Dogs can make you happy while you’re settling in for the night, especially when they provide lots of cuddling. Some people simply like sleeping with their canines—and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s hard to quantify happiness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a benefit.

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Sleeping with your dog has a range of benefits and some of these are easily seen by studies. For instance, we know that petting and being around dogs lowers cortisol and some other signs of stress. Therefore, dogs can lower our stress levels in the bedroom just like they do during a therapy session. Precautions should be considered, however, such as protecting your dog against internal and external parasites and practicing excellent hygiene. This is particularly important if your dog is fed a raw meat-based diet or if the co-sleeper has a weakened immune system.

There are also many benefits that we can’t exactly quantify. For instance, dogs make us happy—any dog owner can tell you that, and falling asleep happy can’t be a bad thing!

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Featured Image Credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock

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