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Bad Night’s Sleep? Blame It On the Dog

Bad Night’s Sleep? Blame It On the Dog
13 November 2020 James Brooke

TEMPUR® sleep expert and chartered psychologist delves into the do’s and don’ts of sharing a bed with our pets.

As a nation we are known for our love of animals, with 45 percent of British households having at least one pet . Pets bring so much joy to our lives and it’s widely known that interacting with them can relieve stress, reduce loneliness and boost your mood. So, it’s no surprise that we want to spend as much time with them as possible. But when it comes to sharing our beds with them, could their presence be doing more harm than good?

TEMPUR® sleep expert and chartered psychologist, Suzy Reading, says “Physiologically sleep is our most vulnerable state, so it’s not surprising that sleeping with our pets can make us feel safer, both emotionally and physically.

“In fact, many people who suffer from insomnia and related mental health issues such as stress, depression or anxiety, often find that the emotional challenges of these disorders makes it difficult to fall asleep at night. As a result, a furry companion like a dog or a cat at bedtime acts as a source of comfort and can help those suffering with these disorders enormously.

“However if our pets end up disturbing us during the night – needing to go outside to the toilet, moving around, or just taking up too much room on the bed – it can cause us to wake up feeling more irritable, short-tempered and vulnerable to stress.

“As with most things in life it’s all about finding the balance and in this case, a routine that works for you and your pet.”

Read on for Suzy’s insights.

Different sleep patterns

If you have a pet, it will come as no surprise to hear that we have very different sleep patterns.

Dogs are the most popular pet, residing in 26 percent of British households (1). They sleep for 12 – 14 hours per day, depending on their breed, size, age and overall health.

Cats occupy 18 percent of UK households and sleep for an average of 15 hours a day, however this can increase to 20 hours depending on their age. It’s therefore more common for our cats to curl up for a snooze with us at any point of the day.

Set clear boundaries

It’s important to be consistent with your pet and set clear boundaries; namely, whether they are allowed on your bed or not. If your pet fights for space on your bed in the night, try offering a dedicated bed on the floor. If they wake you too early wanting to play, asking for food or needing to be let out, they ideally need to sleep in a separate room.

If your pet wakes you during the night, try not to indulge them as this will reinforce their behaviour and make them more likely to wake you again.

A few simple boundaries and consistency will help your pet learn what they should or shouldn’t be doing, which will ultimately lead to improved behaviour and better quality sleep for you.

Pets need exercise too

One of the most common reasons for pets not sleeping well during the night is a lack of exercise. Just like us, animals need to enjoy adequate physical exercise throughout the day before being able to settle down for the night.

If you find that your pet’s sleep routine has altered, seemingly for no reason, make sure that you set aside some time to play with them before they eat dinner to help burn off any excess energy. If you have a dog, take them for a walk or throw a ball for them in your garden. If you have a smaller pet like a cat or a rabbit, try engaging them in play with their favourite toys.

And if you’re really concerned, there’s no harm in speaking to your vet or even asking in your local pet supply store where staff are trained to help with common problems such as this.

A clean environment promotes better sleep

Have you considered if pet hair is the culprit behind your poor-quality sleep? Allergies to pet-hair are common and there are also links between pet saliva, eczema and asthma.

If you suffer from allergies, stick to enjoying snuggles in places other than your bed just to be on the safe side.

But if you can’t bear to part with your pet for the night, ensure you wash your bed linen frequently and try encouraging your pet onto their own comforter which will help contain their fur and keep it off your bed sheets.

Find out what works for you

Some people love the comfort of sleeping with their pets cuddled up next to them – the rhythmic breathing and warmth of a pet’s body while you sleep can have a soothing effect. And as we have a lower body temperature than our pets, they can also act as a natural heater now that we’re heading towards winter.

But – it’s okay if you don’t. If you’ve tried all of the above but find that they are still disturbing your sleep, don’t stress. Your sleep is more important than co-sleeping with your pet; after all, you’re the one that has to wake up refreshed and ready for a full day’s work.

Just before you go to bed, move your pet to another room, making sure they have a soft bed or blanket to curl up on and plenty of water. If you have a dog, it might also be a good idea to give them a chew to keep them occupied whilst you drift off.

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Notes to editors:

  • (1)
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