By Juliann Scholl
Updated March 17, 2021
Nearly 57% of American households include a pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (1). Dogs are the most popular pet, present in about 38% of American households, and cats come in at a close second at 25%.
Since dog and cat owners often consider their pets to be part of their family, it’s not surprising that many of these pet owners report co-sleeping with their pets. While sleeping with pets has benefits, there are also potential drawbacks to consider. We’ll highlight the main pros and cons of sharing the bed with your pet.
What Are the Benefits of Sleeping with a Pet?
While many experts warn against co-sleeping with animals, an increasing number of studies suggest that the benefits of co-sleeping with a pet could outweigh some of the potential health risks.
Sense of Security
Historically, humans co-slept with their animals (2) for several practical reasons, including warmth, pest control, and security. While warmth and pest control are no longer common reasons for co-sleeping with a pet, a sense of security is. In fact, women report that they gain more comfort and security from sleeping with a dog than with a partner or cat (3).
Human-animal interactions can reduce stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and lessen loneliness and depression (4). People have also shown decreased levels of cortisol (5), a stress hormone, after interacting with a dog.
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping with a pet doesn’t always mean less rest. One human-animal co-sleeping study found that on average, dogs spend about 12.4% of the night moving, and humans only 4.5%, concluding that most of the dog’s nighttime movements did not adversely affect their human bedmates (6).
Possible Allergy Prevention
It’s generally recommended that people who suffer from allergies should not have their pets in their bedrooms to lessen exposure. After all, approximately one-third of our lives (7) is spent asleep, or trying to fall asleep.
In some specific cases, however, exposure to pets can reduce allergen sensitization in infants (8) who may be predisposed to allergies.
What Are the Risks of Sleeping with a Pet?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps track of diseases that can pass between humans and animals (9), though many are uncommon. These diseases, along with the following concerns, are worth considering if you're trying to decide whether or not to sleep with your pet.
If you have been diagnosed with a pet allergy, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (10) recommends you keep pets out of your home. But if you want to keep your pet indoors, keeping them out of your bedroom is a logical way to reduce exposure. Also, since animal dander can collect on any surface and can become airborne, selecting the right mattress might help relieve allergy symptoms.
If you share a bed with your pet, they can more easily transfer unwanted diseases and infections (11), such as cat-scratch disease, fleas, and hookworms. Although these health risks are uncommon with healthy pets that make regular trips to the vet, transmission through close contact with people is possible. Injury from being bitten is another risk of having a pet snooze by your side, especially if there are infants or children around.
Increased Separation Anxiety
Spending lots of time with your pet increases your special bond, but spending all your time with them — including nighttime — could potentially make it harder on them should they need to be left alone, particularly overnight.
There’s a good chance your pet spends time outside (or in their litter box) getting their paws into things you may not be aware of. Dirt and microorganisms can then be tracked back into your home, and bed. Fecal matter may be unintentionally carried in, exposing you to Salmonella or E. Coli.
Should I Sleep with a Pet?
The decision to co-sleep with a pet should be made on an individual basis. If you are a light sleeper or have allergies, it’s probably better to sleep without your pet. If you have nighttime anxiety, however, you could find it beneficial to invite your pet onto your bed.
While there are some significant, but unlikely, physical health risks involved in co-sleeping with a pet, the psychological benefits may outweigh them.
- https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2019-01-15/pet-ownership-stable-veterinary-care-variable Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28639123/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354 Accessed March 7, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22866043/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29081760/ Accessed on March 15, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32054077/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21056174/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14767447/ Accessed on March 7, 2021.
- https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/index.html Accessed on March 12, 2021.
- https://www.aafa.org/pet-dog-cat-allergies/ Accessed on March 12, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21291584/ Accessed on March 12, 2021.