Most pets love to snuggle, and their urge to stay close often continues well into the night, starting when they jump up on your bed to go to sleep. It can be difficult to resist the temptation of all-night snuggles with your furry friend, which is why many pet owners share the bed with their pets night after night.
However, sharing a bed with a warm, purring or panting cat or dog isn’t always easy—or comfortable. Some people actually think it causes them to sleep worse. Unfortunately, once the habit is created, it’s often next to impossible to stop your pet from resting next to your pillow at night.
Fortunately, there are lots of benefits to co-sleeping with pets, including better sleep! The trick is to make sharing the bed easier for both you and your pet and establishing good sleeping schedules and rules from the start.
Is sharing the bed with a furry friend bad?
Some people suggest that sharing the bed with your pet can have numerous drawbacks, one of which being poor sleep quality. If you are a light sleeper or have difficulty falling and staying asleep even on your own, this may be true.
That being said, there are also many benefits to sharing the bed with a cat or dog! While it’s not for everyone, it may be better for you—and your furry friend—than you’d think. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Improved bonding: Sleeping next to your pet may help you and your pet bond, especially if you’re gone at work for most of the day. This time is great for relieving your pet’s separation anxiety and making it feel loved.
- Reduced stress: Studies show that merely owning a pet can help reduce stress levels, so sleeping next to your dog or cat may help alleviate stress the same at night as during the day!
- Comfort: Pets are also known to provide comfort to their owners, particularly those who suffer from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Many pet owners who co-sleep with their pets say that their pet’s warmth and soft breathing help them sleep more soundly.
- Improved sleep for sufferers of sleep disorders: Research suggests that animals, particularly service or emotional support dogs, could be a valuable form of treatment for people who have sleep disorders.
- Protection: Pets can also provide a form of security or protection for people—especially those who live alone. Pets can wake their owners in the event of a disaster or home intruder, and this often helps people feel safer at night.
Ways to improve your sleep while sharing the bed
Sharing a bed with an animal isn’t always easy. Here are some ways to improve your sleep while still enjoying the comfort of your pet nearby.
- Set boundaries: Teach your pet where it is appropriate for it to sleep. You may not want it laying directly on your pillow but are comfortable with it sleeping by your feet. In this case, you may need to endure a training period where you instruct the pet or move it to the appropriate location at night until it learns where its “spot” on the bed is.
- Offer an out: Allow your pet the opportunity to come and go as it pleases. This is particularly true for cats, which are nocturnal. According to experts, your pet may want to get up to eat and play throughout the night, so you should leave your bedroom door open. Otherwise, your sleep may be disrupted by a whining animal that wants to get out.
- Keep cool: Sleep with a cooling mattress or light blankets to counteract the extra heat your pet will create in bed. Both dogs and cats have higher body temperatures than humans, so they are naturally warmer than us. Add to that their proximity in bed, and you could be struggling to sleep due to the extra heat!
- Stick to a schedule: Maintain a routine to help your pet sleep more soundly. The more you’re able to go to bed and wake up around the same time each night, the faster your dog or cat will be able to adjust to your sleeping schedule so it does not wake you up in the middle of the night. Changing the schedule may alter your pet’s sleep schedule, too, making it more difficult to resume a pattern later.
Breaking habits is hard
If you’re not interested in sharing the bed with your pet, or you’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for you, there are ways to transition your pet into sleeping elsewhere.
It’s obviously easier to train your pet from the beginning. If you have allergies or a condition that prohibits you from safely sharing the bed with your pet, make a point to prohibit the pet from being on the bed from the start.
If the pet is used to sleeping on your bed, gradually transition it off. You may find success by brining your pet’s bed, favorite blanket or crate into your bedroom for it to sleep in, so it still feels close to you without physically being on the bed.
If your pet becomes territorial or aggressive about your bed, you may need to enlist the help of a vet or behavioral training expert to curb the habit.
By following these tips, you and your pet can have the best of both worlds—nighttime cuddles and a good night’s sleep!