Want Better Sleep? Replace Your Man With Your Dog


Want to improve your sleep, ladies? Kick your man out of bed and invite your dog in instead. Researchers at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, surveyed 962 U.S. women and found that women who slept with a dog in their bed, and no human partner, got a better night’s sleep.

“Compared with human bed partners, dogs who slept in the owner’s bed were perceived to disturb sleep less and were associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security,” the study authors wrote in the Journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology.

 55 percent of the women studied slept with a dog, 31 percent slept with a cat, and 57 percent slept with a human

55 percent of the women studied slept with a dog, 31 percent slept with a cat, and 57 percent slept with a human

“It is true that whenever my dog hears a noise he looks toward its origin, which makes me feel very secure and protected from the radiator,” Kelly Conaboy writes in the Cut. In addition, touching a dog can boost can boost oxytocin levels, which may promote relaxation.

Cats, however, were just as detrimental to sleep as human bedmates. “Conversely, cats who slept in their owner’s bed were reported to be equally as disruptive as human partners, and were associated with weaker feelings of comfort and security than both human and dog bed partners,” the authors wrote. The dog-sleeping women also went to bed and woke up earlier than the women who slept with humans.

A 2015 study by the National Institutes of Health came to the same conclusion as the Canisius College team. NIH researchers asked 150 consecutive Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine patients whether they had pets and whether their pets were allowed in the bed. Nearly half had pets and more than half of those people’s pets slept in their bedrooms. Of the people who shared a bedroom with their pets 41% perceived their pets to be unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep while only 20% described their pets as disruptive.

One limitation is that the study’s findings are based on self-reported data, as opposed to objective measures of sleep quality and duration.

“We can’t quite trust people to have an accurate report or even be able to accurately observe their feelings for their pets,” said Dr. Lois E. Krahn, the study’s senior author and a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “It’s sort of like a parent’s feelings for their child.”

A 2017 Mayo Clinic study used objective and subjective measures to determine the impact of a dog in the bed on human sleep. The 40 dogs who slept in their owners’ bedrooms got Fitbarks, activity trackers that attach to the collar. The people, who didn’t have existing sleep issues, wore Actiwatch 2 activity monitors. The humans also kept sleep diaries. Researchers found only a slight increase in the humans sleep quality and duration when their dogs weren’t on the bed. Dogs slept the same whether they were on the bed or somewhere else in the room.

“This goes against the lore that you should have the dog sleep elsewhere,” Dr. Krahn said. The study also contradicts the later study, showing that co-sleeping with a partner increases sleep efficiency.

Want to know, objectively, how your dog impacts your sleep? Download the Biomarker app to join our new study.

In general, the big drawbacks to co-sleeping with man’s best friend are allergies, dog hair, and scent.

“I’ll admit it is non-ideal that my bed is full of dog hair and smells like a dog nearly 100 percent of the time,” Conaboy writes.

While understudied, there is evidence that allergic rhinitis impairs sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following habits to reduce the impact of pet allergies on sleep:

  • Wash your bed sheets in hot water once per week (and blankets and pillows regularly)

  • Vacuum regularly

  • Consider using an air purifier with an allergen-removing filter

Another upside, or downside, depending on your perspective, of co-sleeping with your canine is that dogs are effective bed warmers. Their bodies run three to six degrees warmer than humans’. While this might feel nice, especially on cold nights, it might also be a sleep saboteur. Turning down the temperature in your bedroom at night may improve your sleep, as most people sleep in bedrooms that are too warm.

LeBron James’ trainer Mike Mancias told Tim Ferriss that he makes sure to keep James’ hotel room temperature in a sleep-optimal range. "For LeBron [James], probably 68 to 70 degrees is probably optimal,” Mancias said.

Read next: Does bringing a dog into bed lead to better sleep?