Does Bunking with Fluffy Affect Your Sleep?

October 21, 2014 Providence Health Team

Pets are warm and cozy, and they love you more than life itself. So, why not let them hop on the bed and sleep with you? As many as 60 percent of American pet owners say they do. And, they like it. Or, they did – before it started affecting their sleep.

In fact, according to a Mayo Clinic sleep study, nearly half of pet owners with sleep problems confess their pet is the cause. Letting your pet share your bed could disrupt your sleep in more ways than you realize.

Typical Scenarios

The “up-close-and-personal” sleepers. If your pet sleeps right next to you, you’re subconsciously aware of it all night – especially if multiple furry friends share the space. If you’re worried about rolling over on Fido or Fluffy, you can’t sleep soundly. And, you pay the price the following day.

Your pet can spread fleas and ticks and can transmit some illnesses, too, such as:

  • E. coli
  • Giardiasis, an intestinal parasite
  • Salmonella
  • Staph infection
  • Worms (ringworm, roundworm, tapeworm)


Close to half of all cats get infected with cat scratch disease, which is transmitted by fleas. It passes easily to humans through a bite, scratch or even a friendly lick on an open wound.

The “on-top-of-you” sleepers. If pets aren’t allowed (or dislike being) under the covers, they may sleep on your legs, your body, or on top of your head. Even when your pet wakes you, you remain still – because, ironically, you don’t want to disturb your pet’s sleep. Sounds pretty silly when you see it in black-and-white, doesn’t it?

Waking the 120-pound Rottweiler who’s cutting off your circulation, or the purring kitty whose tail is tickling your nose, may be inconceivable. But, who suffers most tomorrow? You.

The snorers. Not all pets sleep as quietly as their angelic napping photos on social media would lead you to believe. A third of sleep-deprived pet owners claim they live with a snoring dog or cat.

And, if you have a real snuggler, you’ll likely awaken to a face-full of heavy, loud breathing several times a night.

Repeatedly breaking your sleep cycle is tough on your health. Eventually, your immune system, work performance and emotional state of mind will suffer.

The midnight tinklers. Some pets get thirsty at night, and need to relieve themselves more frequently than others. Or, an elderly pet may have bladder control issues. Either way, it disrupts your slumber.

Once you’re up in the wee hours (taking your pet outside or changing the sheets), you may find it impossible to fall back asleep – even if you’re exhausted. Exposure to light (like a back door lamp or bright moon) can halt melatonin production and keep you awake the rest of the night.

Like people, animals that don’t get enough sleep can be irritable and sluggish the next day. So, it behooves both you and your pet to get the rest you need – a full 8 to 9 hours, uninterrupted.

Finding a Solution

You’ve made (or are seriously considering) the decision not to allow your pet to occupy your bed any longer. How do you make the change as painless as possible for your furry friend?

If you shut them out of your room entirely, expect a few nights – or maybe a week – of whimpering, scratching on the door and even “accidents” as punishment for your perceived disregard of Fluffy’s feelings. But, a few clever tactics can help him or her transition to a new nighttime routine.

Make it inviting. Your pet is looking for comfort, plain and simple. Whether it’s a fluffy mattress (yours) or a bona fide dog bed, he wants a warm, soft sanctuary when it’s time to call it a day.

Introduce your pet to his or her new bed or crate. To help with the transition, maybe throw in a blanket or t-shirt with your scent. You might be surprised at how quickly Fido gets accustomed to his new digs. And, you’ll feel less guilty about having banished your sleeping partner to lower ground.

Cats are nocturnal, and can be active throughout the night. Ensure Fluffy has a place to play (like a cat tree) and plenty of toys available, far from your bedroom. Also, if your cat tends to eat sparingly throughout the day, have food and water accessible – so she doesn’t come to you looking for a midnight snack.

Adjust the feeding schedule. Move up dinner time if your pet needs to “go out” during sleeping hours. A minor shift in schedule will help get him into a timelier potty routine. Make sure he “does his business” right before bedtime. And never get up in the night to take him out, or you’ll set a whole new precedent.

Stick to it. Sleeping in your bed is a learned behavior, and old habits die hard. So, you have to teach your pet the new normal. Remain firm and consistent – and remember to close your bedroom door. Temptation can be overwhelming.

Allowing your pet on your bed again – even just once – will (unfairly) confuse him or her. In doing so, you’re effectively granting permission to resume the negative behavior. So stick to your rules, and you’ll both catch up on your sleep in no time.

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