Should You Sleep with Your Dog?
My husband and I are part of the 60% of fur-parents who sleep with their pets. Cuddling up with our pups at night is sometimes the best part of the day, but I worry it is terrible for my sleep and allergies.
Humans have been sleeping with dogs for centuries. Who I am to complain about this age-old tradition? When they look at me with those puppy eyes, it’s human instinct to ask them to jump up on my organic Belgian Flax sheets. But when the lights go out, it feels like there’s a silent circus happening in the same bed where I am trying to sleep.
Should you sleep with your dog? I weighed the pros and cons, and it may not be the most practical choice, but with a few smart solutions, we figured out how to make it work.
The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Pet
They Reduce Stress
If you feel better when greeted with slobbery puppy kisses after a stressful day, there is a little science in play. One study found petting your dog prompts a release of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, prolactin, and serotonin, and a decrease is the stress-related hormone cortisol. Bring on the slobbery kisses!
Dogs also help us relax and lower our heart rates. Two great things when you are trying to go to sleep. Some fur-parents even find the rhythmic sounds of their pets snoring, and breathing to be soothing. Maybe this is why so many people have pugs?
On a cold night, there is nothing better than snuggling up to your warm fur-baby. Their body temperatures are 3-6 degrees higher than ours, so it makes sense they make such excellent little heaters. (On the flip side, this can be negative in warmer temperatures. Nothing a little extra AC can’t fix.)
Dogs can make us feel safe, allowing us to be less alert and helping us fall into a deeper sleep. If you live alone, this can be especially important. When my husband is away on business, spooning with the dog makes me feel like I am cuddled up with a cozy security system.
This only works if you and the dogs have the same value system on a danger worthy of waking you up. My dogs are currently obsessed with the comings and goings of the groundhog in our backyard. I would be okay if they didn’t wake me up to address this safety concern.
Feelings of Companionship
You don’t need science to know that dogs are wonderful companions and make us feel less lonely. That feeling of connection can relax us, making it easier to sleep. And on nights when stress prevents you from falling asleep, it’s better to have a cozy K-9 to count sheep with rather than being alone.
Prevents Allergies in Kids
Some studies found kids who live with dogs are less likely to develop eczema and asthma. This is a great reason to have your kid share their bed with a four-legged friend. It doesn’t work if your kid is already allergic to dogs. In this case, a dog-shaped plush toy is a better alternative.
Back-Up Alarm Clock
Your dog acting as a back-up alarm clock is a bit of a double-edged sword. There are nights that I am so exhausted I go to sleep without setting the alarm, knowing my hound dog would never let me sleep through her prompt 7:30 am feeding. The problem is she can’t tell the difference between Monday and Sunday, so weekends can be brutal. We started to use an auto-feeder, which goes off literally like clockwork on the weekends so I can sleep in a bit.
The Downside to Sleeping with Your Dog
A recent Mayo Clinic study showed that while there is no change in sleep efficiency when a dog sleeps in the same room as a human when they sleep in the same bed, there is a decrease in sleep efficiency for the human. The number of disturbances can also be related to the reactivity of your pup. When you sleep with multiple animals as I do, the situation can be even more hectic.
If you are allergic to dogs, sleeping with one seems a little self-destructive. Increased exposure to pet dander can result in respiratory symptoms. Even if you don’t have specific pet-related allergies, your dog brings a bouquet of pet dander, and dust from their trips outdoors. There are ways to reduce your exposure, like changing your sheets frequently and wiping your dog’s paws. (see below for additional tips)
There is the potential that our pups can transmit diseases if they come in contact with wild animals or from any fleas they may carry. This transmission is not exclusive to sleeping with your pet. If you cuddle with your pup and live in the same house, there is still an opportunity for transmission. However, with a little flea and tick prevention, and by keeping an eye on them while in environments where they could come in contact with a wild animal, you can minimize the risk.
Your relationship counselor will probably advise against your dog sleeping between you and your partner. What seems adorable at first, over time, can create some emotional distance in your relationship. However, some couples don’t find this to be a barrier. Either way, it does warrant a discussion with your partner (and maybe the dog) to make sure you all are on the same page.
Smelly with a Side of Dog Hair
Sometimes the dog smells, and when they sleep with you, your bedding smells too. It’s simple physics. Unless your pup is some sort of Doodle, they will also leave dog hair in the bed.
We have a blanket we place on top of the bed, and the theory is that it prevents the dog hair from getting through to the sheets. Then we can capture all the dog hair on the top layer and swim in an ocean of clean sheet below.
It absolutely does not work for us, for a couple of reasons. Mort loves to burrow in the bed, pushing the blanket aside to create a nest with the bottom sheet and my pillow. Also, I am not sure what your bedding looks like when you wake up in the morning, but ours looks like a tornado just blew threw. There is no keeping the dog hair on the top layer.
It is still a manageable situation. It just requires frequent washing of all your sheets.
The Dog’s Perspective
While there are some downsides for humans, it is a win-win situation for your pets. They enjoy the warmth, security, and fancy West Elm sheets just as much as you do.
When your dog sleeps with their back to you, it’s a sign that the dog feels safe.
And that same Mayo study shows, while there is a decrease in sleep efficiency for humans when we sleep together, the dog’s sleep efficiency remains the same
When it’s a No Go
If you or your pup are not feeling well, you may want to consider separate sleeping arrangements.
Puppies and Babies.
If you are training a new puppy, sleeping with them at night can be problematic. Until they are solidly potty-trained, a crate or other solution will prevent accidents on your Boho duvet.
It can also be problematic to sleep with your dog if you are co-sleeping with a new baby.
Dogs with Behavior Problems
If your dog has some guarding behaviors and sleeps with you, they may begin to be possessive about their space on the bed. This is a serious concern and should be addressed by a professional behaviorist.
Some celebrity television trainers have suggested your dog may become dominant or spoiled when sleeping in your bed. This theory has been debunked. Some behavior issues can be associated with sleeping with your dogs, but if your dog is well-adjusted, it’s less likely.
When You Need to Get the Dog out of the Bed
Sometimes it is just not working out, and you need to shift the dog into their own bed. For greater success, take it slow and make the change gradual. Provide an alternate option that is similar.
Beds are high up and provide dogs a good lookout, so your dog may prefer something elevated or higher off the ground. A donut bed is a great option for dogs who like to burrow in the sheets.
If they prefer the warmth of their human, consider placing it near a (safe) heat source. Consult with a trained behaviorist If any behavior concerns pop up,
Tips if You Decide To Sleep with Your Dog
You can have a beautiful bedroom and sleep with pups. Here are few tips that will help to make it happen.
- Wash your sheets at least once a week
- Make sure pillows and duvet inserts are washable. Clean twice a year.
- To kill dust mites, toss pillows in the dryer on the highest setting for 20 minutes. The dryer must reach 130 degrees to kill dust mites. Check the care label to make sure this is safe for your pillow.
- Use a mattress cover or protective pillowcase to keep out dust mites and allergens.
- Buy tightly woven, low static sheets that stand up to frequent washing. Silk, linen, or cotton with 600+ thread count keeps the dog hair out. Silk and linen are low static but avoid synthetic sheets that attract dog hair.
- Consider getting bedding the same color as your dog. Your bed may still have a little dog hair on it, but no one but you will know!
- Keeping your pup clean will keep your sheets clean. You can’t bath them every day, but wiping their feet when they come inside will cut down on the amount of dirt and debris in your bed.
- An air purifier with a HEPA filter will trap particles like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Add one to your bedroom for allergy relief. Put a reminder on your calendar to change the filter. This is essential for your HVAC filters as well.
- Keep the dog on the top layer of the bed. This doesn’t work for us, but if you can train your dog to do it, you can contain the Pet-Pourri of dog hair on the top of the bed for an easier clean-up. Mort wishes you luck!
- Before you head to night-night, make sure your dog has a moment to do their biz to prevent accidents. Don’t forget to wipe their paws when they head inside.
- Consider a wood or metal headboard and bed frame over a fabric one. They are easier to clean. If you have a fabric headboard (like I do), vacuum it every time you wash your sheets. Pay attention to slats and crevices where pet hair can hide.
At the End of the Day
My activity tracker shows that I get more steps in when I am sleeping than when I am awake, and I am pretty sure it has something to do with the eight paws that sleep beside me. There are so many things that are impractical about sleeping with your dog, but at the end of the day, when you want to shut out all practicalities of life, snuggling up with a pet-dander infused pup can make you feel like everything is right in the world. With a few smart strategies, I can reduce the dog hair-factor and still pull off having a lovely bedroom. I am, however, reconsidering the activity tracker.