Sharing a bed with a significant other can be comforting for some people and torture to others. Nights are either filled with tossing and turning or plenty of warm cuddling depending on your perspective, but would you guess that whichever group you fall into, new research would argue that you’ll actually get a better night’s sleep sharing that bed with your dog? In fact, the same study published in Anthrozoös, a journal that looks at the interactions between humans and animals, concluded that women sleep better throughout the night with a canine by their side than with a significant other or even a cat.
The research included data of the sleeping patterns from 962 women in the United States. 55 percent of them shared their bed with at least one dog and 31 percent of them shared the bed with at least one cat. Meanwhile, 57 percent of the 962 women shared their bed with a human partner, and dogs were reported as the least likely to disrupt sleep patterns of the women throughout the study. In fact, both cats and human partners were found to offer less comfort and security as well, according to the self-reported results from participants. It backs findings from another recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where both men and women who slept with a dog in their room reported better rest than those who didn’t. However, the Mayo Clinic study did report that having a dog in the bed resulted in more disturbed sleep than simply having them in the room.
Another positive of sharing a sleeping arrangement next to man’s (or in this case, a woman’s) best friend, according to the study: they seem to make us morning people.
“Dog ownership and its associated responsibilities may cause individuals to adhere to a stricter routine,” researchers said. “Keeping to a consistent sleep schedule may be beneficial to dog owners.”
Dogs tend to get up and moving when they wake. And as anybody who owns a dog has learned, they have plenty of energy to spread first thing in the morning and they typically don’t hesitate to let you know about it. Whether it’s sitting at the foot of your bed and barking until you wake up or climbing all over you and licking your face until you cave and get out of bed, dogs are a four-legged alarm clock most mornings. These things alone are enough to give a jolt to anybody’s morning.
“It’s a personal choice,” Patrick Mahaney, veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist, of California Pet Acupuncture & Wellness says of the decision to share a bed with our pup. “The advantages include companionship, warmth and a sense of security.”
So why is it such a big deal to have your dog in your bed at night as opposed to in their own sleeping area nearby or even in another part of the house? Of course, for many people, it’s simply a matter of comfort just to have their loved pet next to them through the night, but this is actually a pretty big deal for your dog. When he or she wants to climb into bed next to you it’s another sign of affection and even admiration, as they’re simply trying to spend as much time with and near you as possible. They admire you. They love you. And even when you’re sleeping, they just want to be next to you. Even though you’ve probably given and assigned an actual bed for your dog to sleep in each night they probably want to be next to you instead of in a space all by themselves. Even lying at your feet when you sit on the couch is a very similar sign of ultimate affection from your pup.
Now, in a typical 24-hour period, dogs will sleep for about 12 to 14 hours a day. That means they’re sleeping a good portion of the day while you’re away from home but maybe not straight through the entire eight hours you’re trying to rest in the evening. So if your dog tosses and turns plenty through the night (and of course, wakes you first thing in the morning when they want to be let out to relieve themselves) this is pretty normal. However, significant troubles getting good rest can be the result of sleep disorders in dogs.
"Dogs with sleep disorders might whine, cry, or frequently wake up during the night, become more sluggish during the day, or seem more disoriented when performing normal tasks," says Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass.
But the long term, big picture consequences of sleep deprivation for dogs is much greater and potentially much more harmful than just that. "Because sleep deprivation can cause a buildup of stress hormones, dogs with sleep disorders may also become more aggressive or develop other behavioral problems,” Pendergrass adds. “In addition, a lack of sleep can weaken a dog’s immune system, increasing the risk of infection."
Obviously, if you share a bed with your dog and he or she is having trouble sleeping then you’re going to deal with some restless nights yourself. The causes of this can vary from emotional and mental challenges to physical problems that keep a dog awake at night. Loneliness, for example, is one type of emotional stress that forces a dog to toss and turn just like it would for you at night. This is most common for puppies and newly adopted dogs. Now that you’ve brought them to a new, unfamiliar home, they’re not sure what to make of it all and simply need time to adjust. You can help out simply by keeping their crate in your own bedroom and near wherever you’re sleeping at night. You can gradually move the crate away over time as they start to adjust to their new home environment. Anytime a dog is suffering from an injury you are going to notice irregular behavior, even if the injury itself might not seem so obvious. Any of these could be signs that your dog is injured or sick and the most effective thing is often to take them right to a vet.