Out of the Doghouse, Into the Bed

Apr 2, 2018

Mayo Clinic researchers say with a dog in the bedroom, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well

For most Americans, dogs are no longer relegated to the doghouse. According to the American Pet Products Association, an industry trade group, almost 60 percent of dog owners say they regard their pet as a child or member of the family. And many let their dogs snuggle up to sleep right in their human owners’ beds, often alongside their owners.

But is sleeping in the same bed with your dog a good idea? Wouldn’t they be disruptive to our sleep? According to a recent study, not really. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix studied 40 dogs (none were puppies) who slept in the bedroom with their owners. The humans were all generally good sleepers, with no known sleep disorders.

The dogs wore a device called a Fitbark, an activity tracker that attaches to the collar and records whether an animal is at rest and sleeping or active and at play. The people wore an Actiwatch 2, an activity monitor that records people’s movements and whether they are sleeping soundly or not. Both monitors were set to sample movement every minute, while the humans also kept a sleep diary.

Over seven days of testing, the researchers found that with a dog in the bedroom, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well. Humans had a mean sleep efficiency, or the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed, of 81 percent, while dogs had a sleep efficiency of 85 percent. Levels over 80 percent are generally considered satisfactory. People slept slightly better when the dog was off the bed; dogs slept the same whether they were on the bed or in another location in the bedroom.

“This goes against the lore that you should have the dog sleep elsewhere,” and not in the bedroom, 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. Her 6-year-old golden retriever, Phoebe, routinely sleeps on the floor in the bedroom — and in the colder months joins her and her husband on their bed. Both the dog and the people, she said, sleep fine.

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