We know that owning a pet can make you healthier and happier, but can they also boost the quality of your sleep? Here's what a recent study found out.

By Dan Nosowitz
Updated March 12, 2019

We’re going to take a guess here: at some point, you've probably shared your bed with a pet cat or dog at night. Researchers at Canisius College, in upstate New York, wanted to see if sleeping in the same bed as a pet affects the quality of your sleep. The answer is a little more complicated than you might think.

Image courtesy of Getty.

The researchers surveyed 962 adult American women, 93 percent of whom had a pet dog or cat. To figure out whether their sleep quality was being affected by a pet, they gave the subjects the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which since the late 1980s has been the de facto survey to gauge sleep quality. Over a one month period, it asks a series of questions to try to learn how long it takes to fall asleep, how long a subject spends in bed without sleeping, whether there are sleep disturbances, that kind of thing. Considering it’s a fairly new and self-reported survey—usually those aren’t all that accurate—it seems that it’s actually pretty effective at the task.

The results of the PSQI test of these pet owners is a little strange. From the study’s abstract: “Our findings did not show a strong relationship between pet ownership status or bedsharing conditions and sleep quality.” In other words, the PSQI didn’t much change based on whether someone owned, or slept with, a dog or cat or both or neither. (The authors did note that pretty much everyone is sleeping poorly in general; join the club, right?)

Related: Drinking Coffee or Tea During the Day Might Help You Sleep Better

The PSQI wasn’t the only thing the researchers did; they also asked some other questions, specifically about pets, which the PSQI wasn’t really designed for. They found that dog owners tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than cat owners, possibly due to the need for early morning dog walks.

There was also a difference in perception. Dog owners reported that dogs who sleep in their bed provide fewer disturbances, and a stronger feeling of comfort and security, than cat owners reported for themselves. Considering that the PSQI numbers didn’t actually indicate that sleeping with pets changes sleep quality at all, this might be more of an indication of the therapeutic effects cats and dogs can have on their owners. A previous study found that a single dog in the bedroom didn’t change the quality of that night’s sleep—but that people generally slept better if the dog was somewhere else in the bedroom besides the actual bed.

The researchers say they’ll do some more work to figure out if those self-reported differences are real or not.


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