We get it. It’s hard to beat snuggling up in bed with Buster, your big, fluffy, cuddly collie. But you can’t help but wonder: Is canoodling with your pup at nighttime sabotaging your sleep?
It’s hard to say no to those puppy dog eyes when they’re begging you to let you share the bed. But should you? According to a September 2017 study, having a dog in your bedroom while you’re sleeping probably isn’t going to screw up your snooze much at all. It was previously suspected that even just letting your dog sleep in your bedroom might compromise your own sleep a bit, but the study found that people who slept with dogs in the room maintained 83 percent sleep efficiency (which is a comparison of time spent asleep to total time in bed — 80 percent is considered acceptable.)
Okay, but let’s take things to the next level. Actually letting Buster sleep in bed with you was linked to an average of around 80 percent sleep efficiency in the study. Not great, but certainly nothing to freak out about either. However, although 80 percent sleep efficiency is still satisfactory, people with dogs in their beds woke up more during the night than those whose dogs slept somewhere else in the room. And more interruptions at night mean lighter sleep and the potential for morning crankiness. Thanks, Buster.
The conclusion? Letting your dog sleep in your room won’t disrupt your snooze much, if at all, and may even provide a little psychological comfort. Having your dog in bed with you, however, will likely give you less sound sleep, but it’s not the worst thing you could be doing at bedtime.
Sometimes, sharing the bed comes with upsides. Compare sleeping with your dog versus having a human companion, which different studies have shown may actually improve your sleep, for various reasons. “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.
It’s important to note that this study was small, only looked at healthy, middle-aged women, and didn’t take into account the size, age, or breeds of the dogs hoppin’ into bed. Still, this isn’t bad news for those who like to snuggle with Buster every now and again. “My main recommendation is for people to take a look at their setup and carefully consider whether it is truly working or not,” Dr. Lois Krahn, a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus, tells TIME. “and not allow loyalty to their pet to blind them to consequences that aren’t desirable to their sleep.” Oh, and in case you’re wondering: “Regardless of location or an additional human bed partner,” the authors wrote in their paper, “dogs seemed to rest well.” Aww.
Check out my related post: Can old dogs learn new tricks?