sleeping with pets

Sleeping with pets worth the health risks?

Bun B in bed

For my wife and I, sharing our bed with our four pugs can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. So we can appreciate Dr. Jane Sadler’s struggles in sleeping with her own full-grown standard poodle, Jett.

Dr. Sadler, a family medicine physician on staff at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, writes this week in The Dallas Morning News that sharing the bed with your pets could pose health risks. Namely, sleep deprivation, which afflicts millions of Americans.

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

We know a good night’s sleep is key for good overall health. We also love our pets, especially the ones that let us spoon with them.

According to Dr. Sadler:

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.

There are other health risks, including “ticks, fleas or contagious skin disorders,” she wrote. Not to mention potential problems if you have animal allergies.

“Explore."

But as this 2011 piece in The New York Times says, there are also great benefits of sleeping with your pets. Among them, “touching, human or otherwise, raises levels of oxytocin in the body, creating feelings of contentment. And, of course, the comfort that an unconditionally loving animal provides in bed is a emotional balm, especially for the depressed, lonely or anxious.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association does not offer formal recommendations on this topic, according to Dr. Sadler. She adds that veterinarians do recommend regular exams, including parasite control and vaccinations.

Cesar Millan, of “Dog Whisperer” fame, doesn’t advise against sharing the bed. Of course, he does encourage you to make clear that you are the leader of the pack.

We’ll be sure to remind the pugs of that as we squeeze into our sliver of mattress space tonight.

About the author

Scott Goldstein
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Scott is a former Dallas newspaper reporter. His father and two brothers are doctors, so healthcare is his family business.

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Sleeping with pets worth the health risks?