Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.
Allergy triggers, sleep disruptions, and hygiene are just a few of the reasons why co-sleeping with pets is often discouraged. However, a new study from the Healthy Heart Project shows quite the opposite—your four-legged may be the key to children getting a better night’s sleep.
Pet companionship is often correlated with an increase in health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved cardiovascular functioning. For many people, especially in times of global crisis, the relationship between individuals and their pets is more pertinent than ever. According to the study, 75% of households have a pet, and roughly half of those households report a regular co-sleeping routine with their pet. Sleeping with pets is proven to reduce chronic pain in adults and also provide a greater sense of security in the home.
Throughout the course of the Healthy Heart Project, researchers tracked sleep quality among 188 children, ages 11 to 17, for two weeks. A third of those children were sleeping with a pet—a unique test group due to the fact that most studies on the subject were conducted with adults. In addition to comparable nighttime awakenings, sleep duration, and sleep quality, those subjects who were co-sleeping with a pet did not report any difference in bed or wake times. Not only does this study debunk the theory that your pet is disrupting your sleep, it also suggests that those co-sleeping with pets often reported higher perceived sleep quality. Children may view their pets as close friends or trusted companions, seeking comfort from them while sleeping. It’s possible that children and dogs may even fall into similar REM cycles, since mammals dream just like humans do.
This study not only challenges prior assumptions about pet co-sleeping, but it proves that it could have long-term benefits. These benefits vary across children, and variables exist in each case—some of which are the type of pet and attachment level between the animal and child. Most adolescents need up to 10 hours of sleep a night, and the decision on a sleep environment is crucial to the child’s success. A good night’s rest is also crucial to your pet’s health, since dogs sleep as much as most adolescents, but just in smaller bouts of time. Studies also show that households with pets feel a greater sense of companionship with the animal than some people, as well as considering the pet part of the family. With the importance of sleep coupled with the modern relationship between humans and their pets, this study sheds light on why letting your pup sleep with your child may not be so bad afterall.