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Nose to Nose-Is it a good idea to share a bed with your pet?

29-09-2010

There are both advantages and disadvantages of sharing a bed with a pet. Many are divided on the issue and are only able to accept the positive aspects, while others only the negative. Depending on preference and perspective, a pet can provide much needed comfort when an owner is at their most vulnerable, as opposed to an irritating presence that invades restfulness.

A study released by the Mayo Clinic Disorders Centre found that 53% of pet owners studied, had pets that disturbed their sleep in some way. This could be due to snoring, moving or hogging the covers, which can lead to a loss of valuable sleep. This percentage reveals how the subject sees more or less of an even divide, as others may simply regard a cat’s purr as lulling reverberations and a dog’s snoring as an endearing quality that signals a comforting presence.

The obvious drawback of letting a pet share a bed is the issue of maintaining a hygienic retreat. However, for many this is counteracted by the comfort and warmth they provide, especially during the cold, dark nights of winter. The therapeutic effects associated with animals are often reported, as stroking and spending time with them offers effective stress relief and is thought to extend life expectancy. The sensitive hearing of a dog or cat reassures a sleeper at night, especially if they live alone, so they are secure in the knowledge that their pet will alert them to danger and protect them if a situation presents itself.

The rhythmic breathing of a pet can also induce slumber, coupled by a general sense of presence that instantly produces a sense of calm. It is also thought that minds subconsciously interact when they are asleep, so that peaceful waves bounce back and forth between owner and pet to influence a sense of well-being. Having a pet in the bedroom may actually act as an effective pacifier and reduce the need for insomnia medication. However, it is more likely that a cat or dog will have the desired effect, rather than nocturnal animals, such as hamsters that notoriously run in their wheel and break the silence of the night.

Although, sharing a sleeping space with a pet can introduce restful qualities, it can also cause a host of disturbances, such as territorial battles, jealousy and aggressive behaviours. Once a pet is allowed to share a bed, it can be hard to reverse the habit. It is therefore important to establish a hierarchy within the pack before a bed is shared, so if problems do occur the dog will respond accordingly when an owner wants some space.

Because dogs are pack animals, sleeping next to them cements a bond. Although, a compromise can be reached, with a pet sleeping in their own bed, whilst still in the bedroom to avoid allergies and a nightly fight for bed space, so that the owner still benefits from a feeling of security, as the pet remains as a solacing presence within the room.

Ultimately, the decision to welcome a pet into the bed is entirely up to the individual. Each owner has to weigh up the pros and cons and apply them to their own set of circumstances. It is true to say that a pet has equal power, in which to enhance or detract from a night of serene slumber.


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