Having pets in the bedroom and actually allowing them to share a bed may cause changes in sleep environment in ways that can affect sleep positively. In a new study, researchers found that for some people, those changes may lead to better sleep outcomes.
Sleep is affected by an array of factors such as sounds, room temperature, odors and allergens, among many others. Because of the complexity of things involved, experts think sleep environment is one of the least investigated aspects of sleep research.
In North America, pets usually have access to their owner's bedroom and bed. Despite the lack of investigations, the presence of pets in the sleep environment can easily be attributed to sleep disruptions and subsequent poor sleep quality.
In a new study conducted by researchers from Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, 150 patients seen in the facility's Center for Sleep Medicine were asked to fill up an in-depth sleep questionnaire. In the said survey, the participants were asked about details of their pets, such as the kind, number and sleeping habits.
Due to a recent national survey that demonstrated the rising number of households with multiple companion animals, the researchers also asked about their pets' sleeping location, presence of remarkable behaviors and whether or not each participant's sleep was affected by his or her pets.
The findings of the study showed that among the participants with pets, 56 percent share a bed or bedroom with their companion animals.
Disrupted sleep due to the presence of pets was reported by 20 percent of the participants. According to them, the closer their pet is to the area of sleep, the higher their risk of having a disturbed sleep is.
Meanwhile, 41 percent of pet owners said that the presence of their animal companions in the bedroom does not create any negative issue and in fact, brings an advantage.
Some participants in this group, specifically the single sleepers, said that pets accompanying them in the bedroom or on the bed during sleeping time actually provides a sense of companionship, security or relaxation, which helps them sleep. The value of this report cannot be taken for granted because sleep is determined by the relaxation of both the physical and mental states.
In the end, the authors said pet owners should be counselled regarding the advantages and disadvantages of allowing their pets to sleep with them inside the bedroom or on the same bed. People should give utmost priority to their own needs before making decisions.
"The decision to bring a pet or pets into the bedroom or bed should come only after a close examination of the implications for their sleep environment," the authors wrote.
In the future, the researchers said experts could investigate whether or not pet owners who underwent counselling were able to have improved sleep. The use of objective tools to assess sleep of people with pets in the bedroom should also be employed.
The study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings on Oct. 15, 2015.
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