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Sleep expert offers pros, cons of sleeping with pets

Tue, 07/20/2010 - 11:34am
Baylor College of Medicine
HOUSTON -- (July 20, 2010) -- When man's best friend wants to hop into bed at night, there are conflicting opinions about whether it should be allowed for those already having sleep troubles. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, deciding whether to let a pet sleep in bed with you depends on you and the pet.

"Many times when you tell someone that they need to sleep without their pet, they get very protective," said Dr. Mary Rose, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at BCM. "So it's important to determine what works best for them to optimize their lifestyle with a pet."

Weigh pros, cons

Rose says that there are pros and cons to sleeping with a dog or cat, and each individual must weigh these to determine what will help them to sleep best at night.

Pets can create a sense of safety, security and comfort, and the rhythmic beating of their heart as well as the release of bonding hormones such as oxytocin may aid the owner with their own sleep, said Rose.

Assistance dogs may also be useful in the bed or bedroom for those who have trouble with sleep walking. They are commonly being trained to keep those who sleep walk safe at night.

For children who have night fears or nightmares, an animal may provide a sense of security and make the child less likely to wander into other rooms in the middle of the night and to return to a sense of safety and reassurance more rapidly after an arousal.

However, there are some other considerations for allowing a pet in the bed.

Good night or nightmare

If the animal provokes allergies, the owner must review the situation with an allergist to see if it's safe to sleep with the pet. If the pet is not well trained and wakes the owner in the middle of the night, it would be disrupting to have the pet in the room. However, this type of behavior can be modified through training.

Because cats are nocturnal animals, they tend to walk around more during the night, which can also be disruptive.

Rose says to always have an animal evaluated to be sure it's safe, especially if the pet sleeps with a child. She also warns that it's never a good idea to have a pet in the same bed as an infant.

"At the end of the day, use common sense to determine what is best for you and your pet," said Rose.

Rose will speak about this topic Thursday, July 22, from 7 to 8 p.m. at Rover Oaks Pet Resort in Houston, 2550 West Bellfort. All proceeds of the seminar will benefit Schnauzer Rescue of Houston, the Poodle Rescue of Houston and Canine Companions for Life. For more information or to sign up for the seminar, call Rover Oaks Pet Resort at 713-662-2119.

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