Did you know that 96% of pet owners consider their furry friend a member of the family? In fact, over half of pet owners across the country allow their four-legged companions to sleep in their room with them. Whether you fall in line with the majority or draw the line when it comes to sleeping with your pet, having your pet nearby while you catch your ZZZs may improve your sleep and your health.
One study found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. In fact, research by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that positive human-animal interaction reduces psychological stress and increases levels of oxytocin in the brain (aka the hormone that creates a calming effect when released).
Here’s why this is a big deal – seven out of ten adults in the US say they experience stress or anxiety that interferes with their sleep daily. With this in mind, here are four reasons you may entertain the thought of sleeping with your pet.
1.Having your pet nearby helps you feel safe
One study by the Mayo Clinic found that people who sleep with their pets improve their sleep quality due to increased feelings of safety and security.
The opposite of safety is fear. When we experience fear, our body physically can not relax. That’s because our fight or flight response is triggered. The sympathetic nervous system releases neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline, dopamine and noradrenaline, that increase our alertness. When the levels of these neurotransmitters are high, it is nearly impossible to fall asleep.
Having a pet around to help you feel safe, especially if you live alone, decreases the presence of stress hormones.
2. Stress keeps you up at night. Pets help alleviate that stress.
Speaking of stress, it can be difficult to wind down after a long day. At night, cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) should naturally decrease. However, when you have had a stressful day, cortisol levels stay elevated, leaving an adverse effect on your sleep quality.
Here’s the cool part. Remember that hormone oxytocin we talked about? Oxytocin counteracts the effects of cortisol. That means if you are stressed, your animal’s presence can calm you.
Snuggling up to your pet at night may just be the remedy you need to help you relax and fall asleep.
3. Reduce anxiety
Not only do pets lower stress levels, their presence can even ease anxious thoughts. Like stress, anxiety is a common culprit of robbing hours of sleep we so desperately need. In fact, anxiety disorders are a common cause of sleep disorders and vice versa. Have you ever found yourself lying wide awake, staring at the ceiling, mind racing? That’s what anxiety does to your mind.
It’s believed that dogs and other service animals can sense when anxiety levels are on the rise. Having a pet nearby will take the focus off you and allow you to focus on your companionship. Not to mention, loneliness is a common trigger of anxiety. Having a pet around to keep you company will do you some good!
4. It helps your pet too
We aren’t the only ones that suffer from anxiety – our pets battle anxiety too. Allowing your pet to sleep with you enables your pooch to reap many of the same benefits you do. If you can ease your pet’s anxiety on your own, Healthy Pets offers a variety of anxiety control tablets for your animals.
Lack of sleep comes with a long list of health and wellness problems. Sleep deprivation puts individuals at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, mood disorders, immune disorders and much more. If you find yourself suffering from lack of sleep, consider sleeping with your pet. They may just help more than you think.
It’s safe to say, sleeping with your pet isn’t for everyone. If you have allergies, doctors recommend leaving your pet off the bed. Additionally, if your pet isn’t fully trained, you may find your sleep more disruptive than peaceful. But, in the case of an accident, try this Urinase Enzymatic Odor & Spot Eliminator from Pet Health Solutions.
The litmus test allowing your pet to sleep with you depends on if they disturb your sleep or not.
The final tip is to make sure you have the right sleeping arrangements to experience the benefits of sleeping with your pet. Make sure you have enough space to stay comfortable and undisturbed all night long. After all, the purpose is for your pet to provide more benefits to your sleep than harm.
About the Author
Lisa is a freelance writer from Raleigh, NC that has suffered from anxiety and insomnia since her teenage years. Due to her condition, she is passionate about educating on the importance of sleep health and how pets can help ease anxiety. When she isn’t writing, you can find her practicing yoga or working on mastering a new recipe to try!