Sleep Better with Your Pet

Sleep Better with Your Pet

Do Fido and Felix paw at the bedroom door when they're shut out at night? If you let them back in, you might all be better off.

Sleeping with your pet can reduce stress and put you in a relaxed frame of mind for more restful sleep. "It's a comfort to have a pet there with you," says Roger Valentine, D.V.M., a holistic veterinarian in Santa Monica, Calif.

Just spending time with your pet has mind-body benefits. Pet owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, fewer minor health problems, and better psychological well-being. Want relief from mental distress, anxiety, and imbalance? "Pets are like emotional sponges that soak up our issues," says Valentine.

There's a bonus benefit this time of year, especially for dog owners. Snuggling up with your pooch will keep you warm on chilly winter evenings. Australian aborigines first adopted dogs as companions thousands of years ago and slept side by side with them on cold nights in the outback. Cats, too, have healing powers. Studies have found that a cat's purr strengthens its bones, and Stony Brook University researchers are investigating whether proximity to similar vibrations may improve bone mass in humans.

There are drawbacks. Staying in very close contact makes it easier to pick up fleas, ticks, or skin mites your pet may carry, and can worsen allergies, says Valentine. And the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center reports that about half its patient population with pets are awakened nightly by their animals.

But these pet peeves take a back seat to the advantages. "Most people prefer to share their bed with an animal for the comfort and companionship," says Jill Fineberg, author/photographer of People I Sleep With. "It means everything to end your day knowing your animals are going to end up in bed with you."