Let sleeping dogs lie…with your children! Kids get better quality shut-eye when they sleep next to their pets, study suggests

  • Researchers analysed the sleep quality of 188 people aged between 11 and 17
  • They also looked at whether they had a pet at home and if they slept with them
  • The authors found a clear link between higher sleep quality and a pet in the bed
  • This link applied to children and teenagers but not so much in the case of adults
  • The authors say children are smaller and pets may help lessen nighttime fears 

Letting children sleep next to their pets can help them get a better night’s rest, according to a new study.

Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal analysed 188 people aged 11 to 17 about sleep habits and whether they have pets at home.

About half of children with a pet ‘regularly share their bed’ with the animal, say the authors, who wanted to find out what impact this has on sleep quality. 

They found that of those involved in the study who ‘frequently’ shared a bed with their pet dog, cat or rabbit enjoyed a better quality of rest than those who didn’t have a furry friend to slumber alongside.

The researchers suggest this may be because children see their pet as a ‘close friend’ and having it with them could help calm nighttime fears.

Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal analysed 188 people aged 11 to 17 about sleep habits and whether they have pets at home. Stock image

Previous, more limited studies have appeared to show a ‘detrimental link’ between sleeping with animals and quality of slumber. 

This was thought to be due to noises made by the animal, or the risk of exacerbating respiratory problems in the child, but the Canadian authors say this isn’t true.

They found that many pet owners found co-sleeping with a furry friend ‘comforting and relaxing,’ although their study focused primarily on children.

As part of the research they had youngsters take part in a sleep study for a single night, measuring their brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing and eye and leg movements. 

The children also had a wrist tracker on to record their rest-activity cycles and they had to keep a sleep diary for a fortnight. 

Compared to children who either sometimes or never slept with a pet, those who shared a bed with an animal had ‘the highest overall subjective sleep quality,’ the team found. 

Overall, children who shared a bed with an animal had a generally better sleep profile than those who didn’t.

The authors said: ‘Altogether, these preliminary results suggest bed-sharing with pets may not adversely affect sleep of children and adolescents.’

The researchers predict this may be due to the fact children may see their pet as a ‘close friend’ and having it with them at night could help calm nighttime fears. Stock image

The authors say that adults may have their slumber more negatively affected as they are generally larger and so occupy more space than children. 

‘The presence of a pet may be less intrusive to children who are smaller and have more space available in their beds,’ the team wrote in their paper. 

‘It is possible the practice may be positive or negative depending on strength of attachment to the pet, presence of anxiety or sleep problems, consistency of sleep routine, or pet characteristics.’

The findings have been published in the journal Sleep Health. 

Pet your stress away! Stroking a dog on a regular basis can ‘significantly’ reduce anxiety and enhance thinking skills in stressed students, study finds 

Spending time regularly petting a therapy dog can ‘significantly’ reduce anxiety and enhance thinking skills in stressed-out students, an investigation has concluded.

Experts from Washington State University found that stress management programs focussed on therapy dogs were more effective for struggling students.

After completing a four-week-long program with animal therapy, students were found to have improved cognitive skills that persisted for at least four weeks. 

The investigation was a follow-up to a 2019 study that showed that petting animals for just ten minutes could reduce students’ stress in the short-term.

‘It’s a really powerful finding,’ said paper author and human–animal interaction expert Patricia Pendry of the Washington State University.

‘Universities are doing a lot of great work trying to help students succeed academically, especially those who may be at risk due to a history of mental health issues or academic and learning issues.’

‘This study shows that traditional stress management approaches aren’t as effective for this population as programs that focus on providing opportunities to interact with therapy dogs.’

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