Good news, dog lovers: Letting your four-legged friend into the bedroom does not worsen your sleep, according to a new Mayo Clinic study—and it may actually help you rest easier. But before you cuddle up too close, know this: Researchers still caution against snoozing in the same bed.
The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, included 40 adults, all of whom slept with a dog either in their bed or elsewhere in their bedroom. Both humans and canines wore motion-tracking devices for seven nights, and humans answered questions about their quality of sleep and where their dogs spent the night.
The researchers found that having a dog in the bedroom did not necessarily compromise sleep quality, as had previously been suspected. On average, people with dogs in their rooms (but not on their beds) maintained 83% sleep efficiency—a comparison of time spent asleep to total time in bed. (80% is generally considered satisfactory.)
Sleeping with a dog in the bed, however, was linked to a slightly lower sleep efficiency: an average of around 80%. Though that is considered a satisfactory score, people with dogs in their beds woke up more throughout the night than those whose dogs slept elsewhere.
Human sleep companions, on the other hand, did not cause similar disturbances. Those who slept two-in-a-bed had better sleep efficiency than those who slept alone. “Presumably, humans accommodate the needs of their bed partner in an effort to promote sleep in a manner that even the most well-trained dog does not,” the authors wrote in their paper.
Lead author Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, says that for some owners, sleeping with an animal companion in the room can be comforting.
“To have a purring cat or a well-behaved dog nearby may be very relaxing and conducive to sleep,” she said in a 2014 video interview after conducing a previous similar study. “Provided everyone sleeps well, it can be a benefit.”
But when people have multiple pets, she cautioned, it multiplies the chances for disruptions—like when dogs snore, move around or act out their dreams. That’s important, she says, because the number of people who have more than one pet has increased over the last decade. (In the current study, only single-dog households were included.)
The new study was small, did not contain a control group, and most of participants were healthy, middle-aged women—so the results may not apply to other populations. Because of the small size of the study, the researchers also weren’t able to determine whether the breed or size of the dog made any difference. But the findings are still welcome news to anyone who loves snoozing with a pet but doesn’t want to sacrifice sleep.
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“My main recommendation is for people to take a look at their setup and carefully consider whether it is truly working or not,” Krahn said, “and not allow loyalty to their pet to blind them to consequences that aren’t desirable to their sleep.”
And if you’re wondering how your pup feels about all this, don’t worry too much. “Regardless of location or an additional human bed partner,” the authors wrote in their paper, “dogs seemed to rest well.”