Does bringing a dog into bed lead to better sleep?

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At a glance …

  • A new study claimed that a dog is better for sleep, compared to a human or feline sleeping companion.

  • For me, bringing my dog into bed decreased the amount of time I spent awake in bed.

  • Co-sleeping with my canine increased deep and light sleep time, but decreased REM sleep time.

Background

Last week, a new study out of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York made claims that sleeping with a dog would improve sleep quality. Read more: Want Better Sleep? Replace Your Man With Your Dog

We wanted to put these claims to the test, powered by the data science team at Biomarker.

As I was the one in the office who had just adopted the best dog in the world, I volunteered for the sleep challenge via the Biomarker App.

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Methodology

To perform the sleep study, we used seven days of baseline data from a previous sleep study I took and compared it to seven days sleeping in bed next to Bonejamin Franklin. The study began right after I adopted him, so I didn’t include the first couple nights of sleep data because a new dog in a new place is often nervous and wakes often in the middle of the night.

There are lots of caveats to the Canisius College study, a few of which we mentioned in a previous blog post: self reporting data is not always reliable and people tend to make very biased judgments about their pets (see the above best dog in the world comment). Plus your dog’s age and activity level in your bed is going to make a significant difference in overall sleep quality. Puppies are notorious for wanting to play in the middle of the night, and older dogs need more sleep than younger dogs. In my case, Bonejamin Franklin is a 12 year old Pekingese who has a very low activity level, so if any dog could increase sleep quality, it was him.

Data for both time periods was captured using the same Garmin Vivosport.

To calculate the totals, our data science team found the average time I spent asleep, in each type of sleep, how long they were awake, and how many times they woke up. They subtracted the averages for each data point for the days I slept in bed with my dog from the days I did not.

Example:

Light Sleep duration change = Average time spent in light sleep on baseline days for me - average time spent in light sleep for me with Bonejamin in bed.

To make results easier to understand, our data scientists flipped the signs of any numbers where a positive is actually a bad thing or a negative is a good thing, like “awake minutes” which most people want a lower number of.

Results

From subjective sleep journaling data, we were able to see a general increase in mood. There was a perceived energy and focus going up and perceived anxiety and irritability going down. This could be from sleeping better, but this also may be due to the presence of a dog increasing happiness and reducing anxiety.

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From objective sleep data collection, total sleep increased by about a half hour - it’s hard not to sleep in with a snoring furball in your bed. With this increase in sleep time, there were corresponding increases in light minutes: 17.6 minute increase, and deep sleep: 17.7 minute increase. Both times waking up and time being awake in bed decreased, with the minutes awake each night decreasing by about 5.6 minutes.

While there were positive sleep changes, REM, a crucial portion of sleep for learning and memory, decreased by about 5.2 minutes each night.

With an N of one, we can’t definitively say if dogs sleeping in beds helps with overall sleep quality. What we can definitively say though, is that Bonejamin is pretty darn cute.

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