Does Sleeping With Your Dog Interfere With Your Sleep? The Verdict Is In

sleeping with dog

Story at-a-glance -

  • Researchers set out to determine whether having a dog in the bedroom is conducive to sleep
  • To monitor sleep, researchers used fitness trackers, which allowed them to accurately gauge sleeping time for both the dogs and the humans
  • During the seven-day study, sleep efficiency, which is a measure of how much time is actually spent sleeping while in bed, was high — 81 percent for owners and 85 percent for dogs
  • There was a slight variance depending on whether the dog slept on the bed or elsewhere in the bedroom, with owners sleeping a bit better when their dogs were off the bed; the dogs, however, slept largely the same in either location

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Whether or not dogs should share their humans’ bed is a hotly debated topic, with fierce supporters (and opponents) on both ends of the spectrum. There are those who could not imagine drifting off to sleep without their furry companions snuggling under the covers, and even those who say their dogs help them to fall into a peaceful slumber. Then there are pet owners who feel their sleep is disturbed if their pets share the bed and feel both they and their dogs sleep more soundly in separate spaces.

To be clear, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Where your dog sleeps is a personal decision that only you can make for your family. However, if you’re wondering what the experts say, a recent study that objectively assessed whether a dog in the bedroom or bed disturbs sleep is an interesting read.

At the very least, if you’re planning to bring a new dog into your home, it may give you some insight into where you’d like to set up your dog’s sleeping area from the get-go (so you don’t have to worry about making a change later).

A Dog in Your Bed Doesn’t Affect Your Sleep Quality

Researchers set out to determine whether having a dog in the bedroom is conducive to sleep. The study included 40 adults (without sleeping disorders) and their dogs — one per bedroom and at least 6 months old).1 To monitor sleep, researchers used fitness trackers, which allowed them to accurately gauge sleeping time for both the dogs and the humans. While the owners wore an Actiwatch 2, which monitors movements and sleep, the dogs wore a FitBark.

The FitBark is a device you attach to your dog's collar, which then monitors activity levels and sleep quality, along with other factors like distance traveled, calories burned, and overall health and behavior. During the seven-day study, sleep efficiency, which is a measure of how much time is actually spent sleeping while in bed, was high — 81 percent for owners and 85 percent for dogs. A sleep efficiency score of 80 percent or higher is considered to be indicative of a good night’s rest.

There was also a slight variance depending on whether the dog slept on the bed or elsewhere in the bedroom, with owners sleeping a bit better when their dogs were off the bed. The dogs, however, slept largely the same in either location. Study author Dr. Lois E. Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, told The New York Times, “This goes against the lore that you should have the dog sleep elsewhere [as opposed to in the bedroom].”2 The researchers concluded:3

“Humans with a single dog in their bedroom maintained good sleep efficiency; however, the dog's position on/off the bed made a difference. A dog's presence in the bedroom may not be disruptive to human sleep, as was previously suspected.”

What Do Pet Owners Say About Sleeping Next to Their Pets?

The featured study was unique in that it used fitness trackers to gauge sleep quality — an objective measure. Other studies have relied on owners’ opinions and recollections of their sleep, but as Krahn said, “[W]e can’t quite trust people to have an accurate report or even be able to accurately observe their feelings for their pets.”4 Still, in a separate study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 41 percent of pet owners perceived their pets as unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep.5

Many of those surveyed said they felt secure, content and relaxed when their pet slept nearby. On the other hand, 20 percent of pet owners found their pets to be disruptive to their sleep. In another study, meanwhile, researchers questioned 300 patients visiting a sleep disorders center about pets in their bedrooms. It turned out that close to 60 percent of the patients with pets allowed them to sleep in their bedroom, often on the bed.

In this case, 53 percent of pet owners said their sleep was disrupted by their pet on a nightly basis, although only 1 percent said the disruption lasted for more than 20 minutes nightly.6 In many cases, pet owners will tolerate some level of sleep disruption in exchange for cuddling with their pet at night, but if the disruptions begin to interfere with sleep to the point that it’s affecting your daily life, some changes may need to be considered.

Where’s the Best Place for Your Pet to Sleep?

Only you can answer this question, but no matter where it is it should be a comfortable, cozy place for your pet. Whether you enjoy having your pet in your bed may be a matter of your pet’s personality and sleeping habits. Some pets sleep soundly through the night while others move around frequently. Some dogs are oblivious to an accidental nudge from your elbow or knee, while others may react aggressively, especially if it wakes them up from a sound sleep.

If you enjoy having your pet as a sleeping companion, and it doesn’t interfere with your sleep, then by all means keep your sleeping arrangement as is. However, if you’re feeling your sleep is suffering, try moving your pet to a different space — even to a cozy pet bed next to your own bed. Overall, pets who are active during the day will sleep more soundly at night, so increasing daytime activity for your pet is one way for a more restful night’s sleep to be had by all.

Sticking to a set schedule of feeding and bedtime will also help your pet to get into the routine and be less likely to try to wake you at night for food, water or a potty break. If you’re trying to transition your dog from your bed to a new sleeping location, adding pillows, blankets and special nighttime toys to his dog bed can help him warm up to the idea.

And remember, reinforcing good behavior is how dogs learn. If you wish to break the habit of sleeping on your bed, give your pup no attention while he’s on your bed and lavish attention on him when he is on his own bed on the floor.

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