Sleeping with pets, pros and cons

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Sleeping with a dog or cat is, for many pet owners, or parents, as we prefer to describe ourselves, a no-brainer. For other people, it’s a clear boundary violation, not to mention one of the most divisive bedroom arguments some couples face.

“It’s one of the top three complaints I get all the time,” says psychologist Joel Gavriele-Gold, author of “When Pets Get Between Couples.” The other two? “You love the cat or the dog or the fish more than you love me. And the other one is usually who is the better father.” (In this case, it refers to human offspring.)

In some cases, the decision to sleep together is clear. It’s never a good idea, for example, to share a bed with a new puppy: Dogs must first learn to sleep alone in their crates, he says. steve brooks, dog trainer and dog behavior expert. “If I get a new dog, I want him to learn that it’s okay for him to sleep in a room away from me.” Brooks would also want to make sure the dog is potty trained, knows basic commands like “sit” or “lie down,” and understands that getting into bed is by invitation only.

Another case where co-sleeping is a no-no is if you have a dog that makes you “feel scared and scared,” says Brooks. If you turn around and irritate an aggressive dog, you risk being bitten by him. Brooks adds that beds are not a place to play with toys or wrestle, and suggests spreading a blanket or towel on the bottom of the bed to create a place your dog knows he belongs.

If you have an older dog with a balanced temperament, the conversation turns to the pros and cons of sleeping with your pet. Here they are, along with tips on what to do if you and your partner disagree on the matter.

Research shows that animals can improve our mental health; for example, studies suggest that human-animal interactions decrease depression weather lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and sleep medicine, thinks those interactions can also help overnight. Sleeping with a pet “can help with anxiety and depression, because a dog is like a weighted blanket. He gives you that snuggle and hug effect,” she said.

according to a small studio published in the journal Social Sciences, people who suffered from long-term chronic pain (and, as a result, trouble sleeping) found that dozing off with their dogs was overwhelmingly positive. The companionship and hugs “were a distraction, so they weren’t lying in bed worrying about what was going to happen,” says the study’s author. cary brown, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Alberta. Sleeping with their pets helped participants feel relaxed and increased their well-being, while counteracting the loneliness that often accompanies chronic illness.

Brooks, who has PTSD, has experienced similar benefits from sleeping with her dog, which is tremendously relaxing and gives her a great sense of security. “He is very healing. … When I get stressed, he just melts in my arms.”

According to a Mayo Clinic study, humans could sleep well when they had a dog in their room, but their sleep was slightly better if the dog was not in bed. So sleeping with your dog nearby, perhaps in a crate, is a good way to maintain restful sleep while benefiting from the presence of a canine.

Brown is so convinced of the benefits of co-sleeping with pets that she wants to normalize the practice, which she says some owners feel “guilty” because they suspect society at large disapproves of it. “Some people told me they were lying to their health care provider about it,” she says. “We shouldn’t make people feel guilty because their dog is in bed.”

Of course, there are some downsides to sharing your bed with another creature, be it a human or an animal. The most obvious is that your sleep could be disturbed. Cats are nocturnal and dogs are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they have about three sleep/wake cycles per hour during the night, he says. Jerry Klein, the veterinary director of the American Kennel Club. Plus, he notes, a natural watchdog tendency means your dog will remain alert to abnormal sounds and movements. And, as with any human bedfellow, he can also snore or hog your part of the bed.

A more serious drawback is that sleeping together could be dangerous for children or pets. “There is a chance that if a cat is startled or frightened, a baby or child could be scratched or bitten,” says Klein, noting that animal bites are one of the most common reasons children end up in the emergency room. The risk of injury goes both ways: When people roll over at night, small or fragile dogs, as well as puppies and kittens, “have been known to get hurt or even worse,” says Klein.

What about the germs? Although animals can transmit diseases to humans or spread parasites like fleas and ticks, ringworm or mites, that’s unlikely to happen if you take care of your pets and make sure they’re up to date on preventative and veterinary medications. checkups “The hygiene germ problem is really more of a theoretical risk,” says the vet. raw coryOwner of Feline Behavior House Calls and suggests wiping your pet’s paws with a towel before allowing them into your bed if you are concerned.

However, dander is more difficult to get rid of, and if you’re allergic to animals, sleeping with your cat or dog can irritate allergies that you can otherwise control with medication.

amy stone, clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, suggests talking to your doctor before making any decisions. Although she is allergic to cats and dogs, she has a dog and sleeps with him; in fact, she and her husband recently upgraded to a king-size bed to accommodate her greyhound. She runs a lint roller over her bed every day to remove fur, which helps keep her allergies under control.

If you and your partner disagree

If sleeping with your pet is a constant source of tension, and one of you is threatening to put the other in the doghouse, don’t panic. Couples can almost always find a happy resolution, says Gavriele-Gold. Here are some tips:

Find out what is the root of your emotion. Gavriele-Gold recalls a newlywed wife who wanted to sleep with her dog, but whose husband was adamantly against it. “I started asking questions and found out that she was an only child and yearned to have a brother her whole life. And before she married this guy, that dog was her brother.” Her husband, on the other hand, had always shared a bedroom with his brothers and valued having his own space. Tapping into the sources of each person’s desires helped the couple understand each other and agree on a solution about how often the dog would sleep with them. Speaking of which:

Make a commitment. Gavriele-Gold often coaches couples to negotiate a time that works for both of them. For example, maybe the dog sleeps in bed three days a week or only on weekends. For this to work, she’ll need to teach her pet to “accept the crate as a safe space, rather than a punishment.” She can place it in her bedroom, or just outside, she suggests.

Farrauto, the Canadian who likes to sleep with her golden retriever, has struck a deal with her partner: Riley, the dog, must stay on Farrauto’s side on an imaginary line that divides the bed lengthwise. If there is too much moving and spilling on the partner’s side of her, Riley is kicked out. (This happens often, because Riley is famous for stretching out and then “getting heavy, like a lump of concrete,” Farrauto says.)

A longer-term solution would be to upgrade to a roomier bed, but that would require moving to a larger house. Still, Farrauto says, doing so “has not been ruled out as an option.”

Consider a sleep divorce. Couples often prioritize sharing a bed, but that’s not one of the defining factors of a relationship, he says. Joshua Tal, psychologist specializing in sleep disorders. It’s an “archaic” way of thinking, she adds, and “it’s not a statement about the relationship.” If you prefer to snuggle up to your favorite furry friend at night and meet up with your human companion in the morning, that might be a new hack that works for everyone.