September 13, 2017

Should We Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (in the Bedroom)?

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine set out to answer the age-old question: Do dogs in the bedroom help or hinder a person’s sleep?
By Maureen McKinney
Dogs are part of 40 million American households today, with 63% of those households considering their pooches part of the family. In some homes, the dog is a welcome addition to the bedroom; in others, the boudoir is off limits to four-legged family members—at least at bedtime. That’s because many people believe their own sleep will suffer with a dog in the mix.

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” says Lois Krahn, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and one of the study’s authors. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”

Mayo Clinic researchers set out to determine once and for all whether sleeping with a dog or having a dog in the bedroom is beneficial or detrimental to their owner’s sleep.

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From August through December 2015, they evaluated the sleep of 40 healthy adults (88% of whom were women) without sleep disorders and their dogs occupying the same bedroom to determine whether this arrangement was conducive to sleep. Both dogs and owners were fitted with sleep trackers to monitor their snooze patterns for 7 nights.

The findings? People who slept with a dog in their bedroom did get a good night’s sleep—as long as Fido stayed off the bed. This finding held true regardless of the dog’s size. However, participants whose dogs slept in the bed with them experienced disrupted sleep.

The researchers noted that the study’s small sample size may have affected the results and suggest larger follow-up studies to confirm their findings. In addition, all the study dogs were older than 5 months, and the authors noted that results may have been different if the study included younger dogs.

“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” says Dr. Krahn. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

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