Over 60 percent of American households have a pet. Of those, nearly half let their pet sleep on or in their bed. Before you invite your pet in the bed, there’s a lot to consider. After thinking through the pros and cons, you should be able to come to a decision that works for everyone in your household!
Safe and Secure
Many people, especially those who live alone, choose to co-sleep because it helps them feel safe. Domesticated animals still maintain survival instincts that are far more attuned than humans. Pets can alert you to an intruder or fire before an alarm goes off. However, a highly sensitive pet can also alert you to a squirrel in the tree outside or a passing car. You have to take the bad with the good.
Less Anxiety, More Compassion
The act of touching your pet or even having him nearby can cause your body to release oxytocin, the “love hormone”. Oxytocin causes a number of different reactions in the body that increase bonds between people and pets. According to Paul Zak of The Atlantic, “When your little daughter runs to hug you, your oxytocin could increase 100 percent. When a stranger shakes your hand, it might be 5 or 10 percent.” That love and bond can happen with your pet too, which can help relieve stress and anxiety.
Another body in the bed means more warmth. It’s like having your favorite stuffed animal with you when you were a kid. Sharing a bed also makes everyone feel like a member of the pack. The extra body heat and fur can keep you cozy and comfortable all night long.
All is not rosy when you share a bed with your pet. Dander and fur get stuck on everything, from the sheets to the bed frame. If you or your partner suffer from allergies, you should skip co-sleeping. Even keeping your pet in the bedroom at night (but out of the bed) may leave too many allergens behind. Your health must come first!
Pets dream, toss, and turn just like we do. Both you and your pet are likely to get less sleep if you’re sharing a bed. Large and medium-sized dogs can be especially disruptive. Soft mattresses with motion absorption can help disperse movement, but even then, you’re likely to be awakened at least once or twice a night.
Illness and Disease
Your chances of getting an illness or disease from a healthy pet with up-to-date vaccinations are small. However, pets will bring extra dirt and germs into your bed. Young children and people with compromised immune systems probably shouldn’t share a bed as their chances of infection are higher. If you do choose to co-sleep, you’ll have to be extra vigilant about washing your pet and sheets to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
How to Make It Work
If you’re ready to make co-sleeping work, there are a few things you can do to make the transition successful.
- Make sure everyone who shares the bed agrees to the arrangement.
- Establish boundaries from the start. If your pet gets the foot of the bed, make sure he stays there. The rules won’t be followed if you don’t enforce them.
- Regularly treat your pet for fleas and ticks and keep him up to date on all vaccinations.
No matter what you choose, everyone (including your pet) should get the rest they need.