The health pros and cons of sharing a bed with your dog trends now
They are known as man's best friend. But do dogs really make the best sleep companions?
Do YOU share your bed with your pet?Yes, always 3 votes Sometimes 2 votes Rarely 1 votes Never 0 votes
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The issue remains highly controversial, with about a third of dog-owning Americans allowing their pooch to get into bed with them at night.
The mere thought of sharing a bed with a shedding dog repulses a similar share of people.
Some anthropologists have speculated that the idea of dogs sleeping with humans is an ancient urge encoded in our DNA.
But others warn that co-sleeping with a pet is unhygienic or even hazardous to your health — disrupting your sleep and raising your risk of worms.
Experts at the Washington-based Sleep Foundation say sleeping with your dog is a 'personal decision,' and they have set out a list of pros and cons to help people make an informed decision.Pro - comfort and security
Having a dog wrapped in bedsheets can boost feelings of security and protection, experts say.
Sleeping with dogs can boost feelings of comfort and security, experts say
In a 2018 study, researchers surveyed 962 American women — half of whom shared their bed with a dog — on how they felt while in bed.
Those who reported being with a dog reported higher feelings of protection compared to those sleeping with a cat, a partner, or alone.
Researchers suggested dogs may boost these feelings because they are seen as 'guard animals' and are well-known to protect owners.
They may also have gotten a dog in order to protect their home and deter crime.Pro - reduced stress
Many studies showing how cuddling up to or stroking a dog can reduce someone's stress levels.
Although few have been done in the bedroom, researchers say there is no reason why the calming effects of being with a dog don't reach there.
There may also help to lower feelings of stress
Many studies show that simply petting a dog reduces cortisol levels — the human stress hormone.
One study from 2017 looked at 10 female dog owners who interacted with their labradors for an hour, with blood samples taken before and after.
Measuring hormones, they found boosted levels of oxytocin — associated with stimulating social bonding, relaxation and trust — and lower levels of cortisol after the interaction.
Another study from the same year involved 101 children aged seven to 12 years old who were left with a dog, alone, or with a parent.
Results showed that those with a dog had a buffered stress response compared to children who were alone or with their parents.
Experts at the Sleep Foundation said: 'Most of the studies conducted on the mental health benefits of having a pet were conducted when participants were awake, so it is unclear whether these benefits apply when people sleep with their pets.
But they added: 'If sleeping with dogs involves snuggling up and making direct physical contact, it might result in less stress and increased relaxation.'
Exposure to a diverse array of germs helps to strengthen immunity. Sharing a bed with a dog boosts this, although there are also risks
Many adults order dogs out of the bedroom for fear of the germs, parasites and worms they could bring in.
But experts at the Sleep Foundation say that exposure to germs can benefit the human immune system — especially at a young age.
Sharing a bed with your dog exposes you to a wider variety of germs. But it can also raise the risk of a serious infection or catching worms.
Coming into contact with a wide variety of germs early in life programs immune cells to recognize which are dangerous and which are not — boosting protection and reducing the risk of misfires that trigger allergies.
The Sleep Foundation says: 'Researchers hypothesize that exposure to a diversity of microorganisms benefits human health and immunity, while a lack of diversity might be to blame for a rise in allergies and autoimmune disorders.
'Past research shows that petting a dog increases an immune response, so the close contact of sharing a sleeping space may benefit the immune system more than simply having a dog in the house.'
Previous research has shown that living with a cat during the first year of life reduces the risk of developing allergies by age 18.
The costs of poor exposure to microorganisms early in life are coming to light this year, in the wake of successive lockdowns.
Children have faced outbreaks of common illnesses including flu and RSV — after stay-at-home orders robbed them of contact with these early in life, and how to protect against them.
People who share a bed with a dog may have lower blood pressure
There is a growing body of research showing owning a dog can reduce your blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health, benefits that experts suggest can be extended to the bedroom.
They cite a study from 1988 that found that simply petting a dog or talking to one triggered a reduction in blood pressure among participants.
And a University of Missouri study from 2004 found that human blood pressure dropped by ten percent after just 15 to 30 minutes of petting a dog.
The Sleep Foundation suggests that just touching a dog before going to sleep could help someone reduce their blood pressure.
They write: 'If touching your pet is part of the key to gaining health benefits, cuddling up together at night might help.'
Experts at Harvard University add, on the general benefits dogs have on blood pressure: 'Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise.
'The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this "pet effect". Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.'
Sharing a bed with a dog raises the risk of an allergic reaction to pollen, if it is brought in on a dogs' coat from outdoors
About 10 to 20 percent of Americans are allergic to cats and dogs, while nearly one in ten have an allergy to pollen.
Experts warn that sharing a bed with a dog raises the risk of suffering an allergic reaction, and that those with allergies should think twice before inviting a dog into the