HomeUS News updateHaving a pet may take a toll on your sleep, study suggests

Having a pet may take a toll on your sleep, study suggests

Your beloved pet may be ruining your sleep, found research published Thursday.

According to the study published in the journal Human-Animal Interaction, although pets can have many positive effects on health, pet ownership was linked to poorer sleep.

The researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which asks questions on a variety of health topics. They adjusted for factors that could affect sleep, including race and income, as well as age, sex, and BMI, and focused on whether a person had a sleep disorder and whether a person had has a cat or a dog.

Sleep quality was measured by looking at reported bouts of snoring or sniffling during the night; being diagnosed with a sleep disorder; having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep; waking up during the night; waking up too early; feeling restless; not getting enough sleep; needing medicine to sleep; or having tremors or cramps in the legs. Taking more than 15 minutes to fall asleep and regularly getting less than six hours of sleep were also indicators of poor sleep.

The findings showed that having a dog was associated with a higher likelihood of having a sleep disorder and overall sleep disturbance, while having a cat was associated with a higher likelihood of nocturnal leg jerks.

The study was observational, meaning the researchers couldn’t say with certainty that pets cause poor sleep, but the results were consistent with previous studies that found pet ownership negatively affected sleep quality. influenced by

Lead study author Lauren Wisniewski, assistant professor of public health and research at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, said the study didn’t look at where people’s pets slept. For example, is the dog taking up all the space on the bed? Is a cat lounging right next to the pet owner’s head?

It would be a good direction for future studies, she said, “to ask owners where their pets sleep and how those pets are disrupting their sleep.”

how to sleep better with a pet

Liv van Egmond's cat.
Leeuw van Egmond noticed that his sleep changed when he brought his cat, Beko.Courtesy of Leev van Egmond

Leev van Egmond, a sleep researcher at the Uppsala Sleep Science Laboratory in Sweden, noticed that his sleep changed when he met his kitten, Beko. While pursuing her doctorate, she looked into the relationship between pets and sleep quality. She was not involved in the new study, but she led a separate study that also used self-reported data to examine how having a pet can affect sleep.

In that study, published in 2021, van Egmond and his team found that having a cat was associated with fewer nights of sleep, but having a dog was not associated with changes in sleep. Still, she noted that more research would need to be done to establish whether the findings were a coincidence, or whether the pets were actually causing the sleep issues.

She said the association found in the new study has more to do with owning a pet — and many different factors associated with that unique cat or dog — than with where the pet sleeps.

“The age of the pet has a big influence on whether or not they keep you up at night,” van Egmond said. “If you have multiple pets, they can pass eggs to each other.”

With dogs, she said, it depends a lot on the breed and activity level. Making sure a pet gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation during the day and working with its natural instincts can help animals – and their owners – be better rested.

Unlike dogs, cats have bursts of energy at night, van Egmond said. That was certainly the case for Beko, who would run circles around her apartment and even if her bedroom door was closed, he would wake her up by scratching to let her in, she said.

She eventually consulted a cat behaviorist and learned that if she played with Beko before she was ready for bed, it would activate the cat’s hunting instincts. After that when fed, Beko will feel that he had successfully hunted his food and gets a good meal in return. After this his natural instinct was to dress himself and go to sleep – just as Van Egmond was getting ready to sleep himself.

The new study “indicates that pets can affect your sleep, but we really need to keep in mind that pets are much more than a facilitator or inhibitor of sleep. They are part of the family,” she said.

Still, people can use this information to evaluate why they may not be getting enough rest, she said.

“If they have pets and they have bad sleep, they should look at where it’s coming from,” Van Egmond said. If it’s a pet, “see where the hitch is and how you can make it so the cat or dog won’t interrupt you when you’re sleeping.”

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