Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they appear to be a woman’s best sleeping buddy. That’s the conclusion of animal behaviorists whose new study, published in Anthrozoös, a journal of human and animal interaction, found that women rate dogs as better sleeping partners than cats…or even other humans.
Study details: To assess home sleeping arrangements and perceived sleep quality, researchers from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, collected online survey data from nearly 1,000 women, ages 18 to 69, living in the US. The survey recipients had participated in previous studies conducted by the Canisius Canine Research Team, so the researchers knew that most of them had at least one dog or cat in the house.
Of the 962 women who responded to this survey, 57% shared a bed with another human…55% with at least one dog…and 31% with at least one cat.
The results: It’s no surprise that the survey results found that sharing a bed with a pet can indeed affect your sleep habits and sleep quality—but the effects weren’t all negative, as one might expect, when compared with a human sleep partner.
Dogs were less likely than either feline or human bed partners to disturb the women’s sleep, according to the survey. Dogs were also associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security.
Cats, on the other hand, were reported to be just as disruptive a sleep buddy as another human…and were perceived to be less comforting and protective than both human and canine bedmates.
Takeaway: The researchers believe that dogs make better bed partners than cats because their sleeping patterns are more similar to ours. (You’re nodding your head right now if you’ve ever owned a cat that had the midnight crazies!) What’s more, dogs have an advantage over human bedmates because they are more likely to accommodate their owners’ schedules—they never make you stay up and watch (or be disturbed by) one more episode of House Hunters when you want to go to bed!
Caveats: Earlier research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that tracked the movements of both humans and their canine bedmates showed that cozying up to Fido can result in more nighttime awakenings for the person and negatively impact his/her sleep quality (but not the dog’s). However, simply having the dog sleep in one’s bedroom but not on the bed had no detrimental effect on the humans’ sleep quality.
To better understand the full impact of sleeping with a pet, the Canisius researchers have started using activity-monitoring devices that are sensitive to human and pet movement. This will provide additional information on the ways in which pets affect human sleep and vice versa.
Important: Even though sharing your bed with a pet can bring comfort to both of you, sleeping with your furry friend can aggravate allergies if you have any. And if you enjoy spending the night snuggled up with your dog or cat, but they exhibit any behavior problems that you are concerned may be worsened by co-sleeping, keep Snoopy and Kitty off your bed while you work with a certified animal behavior professional or a veterinary behaviorist to help resolve the issue.
For additional advice on healthy ways to share your bed with a pet—including the one item that may help your pet rest more peacefully—read here.