Should Your Dog Be Sleeping in Your Bed?

Sleeping with your dog in the bed can provide some health benefits, but can also have some risks, such as affecting your sleep quality. Here are the pros and cons of sleeping with your dog.

Of course you love your dog. Maybe yours socks feature their photo or they have their own Instagram account. You probably love nearly everything about the furry little creature. Who can blame you? Your dog really is the perfect companion: adorable, loyal, loving, and a great listener to boot. While there may be nothing better than cuddling with your pet, should you sleep with your dog in the bed?

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question and there are lots of strong opinions on both sides of the argument. It comes down to weighing the benefits (snuggling with your pet keeps you warm and content) versus the risks (your dog makes your partner sneeze and wheeze and tends to disrupt your sleep quality with all the noises and moving).

We asked a panel of experts including an allergist, a sleep expert, a relationship expert, and an animal trainer to weigh in on whether and when you should sleep with your dog in bed.

(Related: How a Pet Can Help You Master Mindfulness)

An allergist’s perspective

If you or your partner is allergic to your dog (and many people are), your dog should probably not sleep in your bed or even your bedroom, says Kanao Otsu, MD, an allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health in Denver. As many as three in 10 people with allergies react to cats and dogs, with cat allergies about twice as common as dog allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“Cats and dogs are the most common indoor allergens besides dust mites and cockroaches, and there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat,” she says. It doesn’t matter if your dog doesn’t shed, she says. “The allergens are in saliva and skin, and all dogs have skin and saliva.”

When your pet sleeps in bed with you, there is about an eight-hour window of continuous exposure to these allergens. “That is a high allergen load,” Dr. Otsu says. For some pet lovers, this may mean waking with sniffles, for others it may mean itchy, watery eyes, and for some, sleeping with your dog may cause wheeze and asthma symptoms. The decision on where your dog should sleep depends on the severity of allergies, she says.

In addition, sleeping with your pet could expose you to any fleas they may be carrying. It’s always a good idea to practice flea control, but that’s even more important if your dog sleeps with you. Although fleas can’t live on humans, they can certainly bite you if the opportunity arises. Flea bites may come in sets of three—sometimes called breakfast, lunch, and dinner—a bite pattern that can be mistaken for bed bugs.

Make sure to check your pet for fleas and ticks, see a veterinarian for the proper treatments and prevention, vacuum your home and wash bedding frequently, and wash your pet with soap and water, while also using a flea comb.

(Related: 5 Ways Your Pet Boosts Your Mental Health)

How to minimize allergen exposure

As for allergens, there are ways to minimize exposure if you absolutely must sleep with your beloved pet, she says. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can help remove animal dander from the air. “You can get rid of carpet, which is more likely to trap animal dander and hair, and opt for hardwood floors instead,” she suggests. Washing your pet weekly can also cut down on allergens.

The goal is to lower your allergen load, so you don’t have to do all of this all of the time. It’s also possible to become desensitized to your pet over time, she says. It’s a good call to see an allergist to find out exactly what you are allergic to as it may not be your dog, after all, she says.

(Related: 4 Times in Your Life You Should Definitely Be Using an Air Purifier)

A sleep expert’s perspective

Some research has shown that sleeping with one dog isn’t going to disrupt your sleep. In a study of 40 healthy adults without any sleep disorders and their dogs, both dogs and their humans slept soundly when they were in the same bed or bedroom. But humans slept slightly better when the dog was in the bedroom but off the bed. These findings were published in 2017 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Not only do we love sleeping with our pets, but our pets love sleeping with us too,” says sleep medicine expert Raj Dasgupta, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and a spokesperson for American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Dasgupta has a 40-pound goldendoodle named Clifford and a tiny Yorkie-poo named Ringo. A lot of factors affect the decision to keep pets in or out of the bed including your pet’s size, temperament, and how many people or pets are in the bed already.

Potential health benefits of the dog sleeping in the bed

There are many benefits to sleeping with your dog in the bed, says Dr. Dasgupta. “Sleeping with a pet provides comfort and security like a weighted blanket or favourite pillow,” he says. Pets decrease anxiety and one of the main manifestations of anxiety is insomnia, he says. “Anything that will help you sleep longer, get better quality of sleep and less arousal in the night is a good thin,” Dr. Dasgupta says.

Sleeping with your dog or cat in bed can affect your sleep quality in a not-so-good way too. Your dog may dig, slobber, growl, bark, or move around a lot, and this will impair your quality of sleep if you are a light sleeper, he says. At Dr. Dasgupta’s home, Ringo gets to sleep in the bed because he is small, quiet, and likes to nuzzle between him and his wife, while Clifford needs to sleep elsewhere because of his nocturnal habits.

(Related: 4 Sleep Hacks to Make Sure You Get Your Vitamin Zzz)

A relationship expert’s perspective

Another factor to consider is how having your dog in your bed affects your sex life, says Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and a relationship expert on the reality show Married at First Sight.

If your pet won’t let you get close to your partner, you have a problem, she says. “Your priority should be your partner,” she says. “If you are welcoming your animal into bed to avoid sex, you need to address it to see what you can fix and what is going on between you and your partner.”

You are not rejecting your dog, she stresses. “They are habit-forming animals, and you can create new habits for them by placing a lovely bed on the floor and rewarding them for using it,” she suggests.

(Related: How to Find the Best Sleep Aid for You)

A dog trainer’s perspective

Snuggling is one of the biggest perks of owning a pet, says Denise Herman, founder and head dog trainer at Empire of the Dog in New York City. If you don’t have allergies and there isn’t a real estate problem due to the bed size, it’s more than OK to sleep with your dog if you want to, she says.

Rules for letting the dog sleep in the bed

There are some caveats though to letting your dog sleep on the bed. “Wait until your dog is 9-12 months to start this because if you do it too early, there could be some issues,” she says. “Always invite them in after they pee and poop and not when they are in a rowdy stage,” she says. “You don’t want to make the bed a play or chew place.”

Your bed and bedroom should be a quiet place to unwind for you and your pet, she says. Start slowly by introducing snuggle time in the morning after a walk. If you decide to co-sleep with your pet, invest in a waterproof mattress cover, Herman says. “There will be errors and you don’t want your mattress to absorb the errors.”

It’s also important to have some variability so your dog doesn’t become anxious if you don’t want them in the bed for any reason, she says. Herman suggests an open crate or comfy dog bed placed elsewhere in the bedroom or just outside the door as an alternative.

(Related: 4 Reasons a Pet Is Good for You)

How to decrease allergens in the bedroom

To lower allergen load and also minimize any germs in your bed, wipe your pets’ paws before bed. Wet and ring out a microfiber rag and wipe your dog down each day, Herman suggests. “You can also put your pet in an onesie to prevent hair and dander in your bed,” she says.

Your dog’s temperament plays a role in this decision too, she says. Some dogs could become territorial over the bed. This can become an issue if, for example, you have a new baby who will also join you in the bed on occasion. Nip this in the bud by working with a skilled trainer.

The last word

If you or your partner has severe allergies and your pet is a trigger, it’s probably a good idea to keep your pet out of the bed or bedroom or take steps to lower your exposure to allergens. If your fur baby helps you sleep and isn’t interfering with your sex life or getting territorial, it’s the more the merrier.

Now that you know about your dog sleeping in your bed, read about what to know about hypnotherapy and insomnia

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Originally Published on The Healthy