A new study has upended common beliefs about kids sharing the bed with four-legged family members. The study revealed that the sleep quality of the surprisingly high number of children who share a bed with their pets* is indistinguishable from those who sleep alone.
There is a long-held belief that having your pet sleep on the bed is a bad idea. Aside from taking up space, noisy scratching, or triggering allergies, the most common assertion averred that your furry companion would disrupt your sleep. But a new study tells a different story…
“Sleeping with your pet does not appear to be disruptive. In fact, children who frequently slept with their pet endorsed having higher sleep quality.”
-Hillary Rowe, PhD student and lead author of the study
The data the researchers used was found amid the findings of the larger Healthy Heart Project, a longitudinal study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which explores the links between childhood stress, sleep and circadian timing. Children and parents answered questionnaires about bedtime routines and sleep hygiene: keeping a consistent bedtime, having a relaxing pre-sleep routine and sleeping in a quiet comfortable space. For two weeks, children wore wearables (wrist actigraphy) and filled out daily logs to track their sleep. Children were also fitted with a specialized home polysomnography device for one night to allow the researchers to record their brain waves (EEG signals) while they were sleeping.
The researchers categorized the children into one of three groups based on how often they sleep with their pet: never, sometimes or frequent. They then compared the three groups across a diverse range of sleep variables to see if there were any significant differences between them.
“The findings suggest that the presence of a pet had no negative impact on sleep. Indeed, we found that children who slept with their pets most often reported higher perceived sleep quality, especially among adolescents.”
The researchers concluded that children are more likely to consider pets as their friends and derive comfort from sleeping with them.
*One in three children participating in the study sleeps with their pets.
Journal Reference: Hillary Rowe, Denise C. Jarrin, Neressa A.O. Noel, Joanne Ramil, Jennifer J. McGrath. The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime: The effects of pet-human co-sleeping and bedsharing on sleep dimensions of children and adolescents. Sleep Health, 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.sleh.2021.02.007