sleeping with dog

A Healthy Nights Sleep With Your Dog?

sleeping with dogWe all love our pampered pooch, but are we getting the healthy nights’ sleep we require when we share our bed with them?

Speaking from experience, my husband and I allowed our teeny cavoodle puppy to sleep on the end of our bed as she wanted to be near us during the night. This habit eventuated after many attempts to pick her up and put her back in her own bed on the floor.

These nights, she curls up at the end of the bed and falls asleep, allowing us to drift off, but we wake numerous times throughout the night as she has crept her way upwards, between us, snuggling in closer – and we wake in the morning with her head on the pillows. She has made herself queen of the castle!!

The following article by Dr. Jane Sadler,  a family medicine physician on staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland explains how our health may be suffering when sharing the bed with our beloved furry friend.

Of course, your pet is adorable. But should you let it sleep in your bed?

It began with cage rattling in the middle of the night. Shortly afterward, an eerie whimpering began that escalated into a horrible screeching howl. Oh, no! What were we to do?

It was obvious that our new canine acquisition, Jett, was not happy about being alone in the dark. Despite all my counseling to new parents about letting their babies cry themselves to sleep in their cribs, I caved and brought her into the bed with me.

Now a full-grown standard poodle, she takes up about as much space in our bed as an 18-wheeler. Like a Cirque du Soleil gymnast, I must contort my body to fit into the tiny space my dog has allotted me. Jett has occasional nightmares and restless legs that awaken my husband and me regularly.

It’s a story that might sound familiar to anyone who has a pampered pooch. It also could be a human health concern, primarily because of sleep deprivation.

The article, published on DallasNews.com discusses how sharing our bed with our pets can be detrimental to our health.

A 2006 report from the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 50 million to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep abnormalities that could impair health.

Sleep deprivation has been associated with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and alcohol use. There is a well-documented relationship between the lack of sleep and increased obesity.

Restorative sleep is required to clear out toxins from the brain that could impair brain health (Science 2013). This nighttime cleansing may be an important step in reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It is important that we rest our brains at night to ensure we recuperate well enough to continue performing high-level daily brain functions.

In a recent study presented at the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, 298 adults were surveyed about their pets and sleep quality. Of the 148 pet owners, more than half admitted they shared a bed with their pet. Approximately three quarters of those shared the bed with a single pet, and one quarter shared their space with two or more pets. While most (58 percent) were dog owners, almost as many (42 percent) had cats.
Nearly 30 percent of the 148 pet owners reported at least one episode of awakening per night, and 5 percent reported experiencing difficulty resuming sleep or maintaining sleep after having been awakened by a pet.

Snoring, whimpering, wandering or the need to go outside in the middle of the night are some examples of pet disturbances that interfere with our sleep. Other pet-related awakenings had nothing to with pets in the house but instead with noises made by outside pets such as barking, scratching or howling.

But, is it just the sleep deprivation that can create health problems for people who allow their pet to share their bed?

Some people question whether it is healthy for animals to be sleeping in the same room or bed as owners. Certainly if you have animal allergies, or your dog has a high likelihood of ticks, fleas or contagious skin disorders (such as ringworm), the answer is no.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has no formal recommendations about pets sleeping with their owners. However, veterinarians do recommend regular pet wellness exams that include parasite control and vaccinations. Cesar Milan, star of The Dog Whisperer, believes it is fine for dogs to be invited on the bed. He cautions, however, that dogs need to be reminded that you are still leader of the pack.

What can be done for people who prefer to maintain pets in the home or in the bedroom and want a good night of sleep? Really, few options exist. Much like teaching children they can no longer sleep on the bed, training a pet to sleep elsewhere may be difficult. Getting rid of that pet is usually not a reasonable option.

During routine exams, patients rarely consider reporting sleep problems related to pet disturbances. But reviewing a pet’s nocturnal habits with your medical provider is an important step toward improved sleep hygiene. Partner with your medical provider to devise methods to minimize sleep disruption. My husband and I have found that removing our dog’s jingling collar helps reduce disruptive nighttime noise.

Dr Sandler concludes her article by saying:

Our Jett eagerly waits for the word bedtime so she can jump on the bed, get comfortable and settle in for a good night of sleep. I hope to get one, too.

Consider whether sharing your bed with your pampered pooch is depriving you of a good nights’ sleep.

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