Sleep is the best medicine, but is sleeping with a pet just as beneficial? It’s natural to have second thoughts about letting your child share a bed with your dog as a parent because it may impact their sleep.
Having a four-legged bedfellow does have effects — and they’re therapeutic. Here are eight reasons you should let your little one co-sleep with a pet, according to science.
Benefits of Sleeping With a Pet
Co-sleeping with a dog can be as effective as counting sheep and then some. Here are some advantages to snoozing with your pet.
1. Improve Sleep Quality
Spending time with a loving animal promotes oxytocin release — the love hormone that harmonizes alpha and theta rhythms in the brain when resting. Theta activity kicks in when your kid is relaxed or in a light sleep stage, so more of it can induce drowsiness. Theta is the dominant brainwave during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This fourth stage of sleep is vital for memory consolidation, so bedsharing with a pet can help your child sleep like a baby and develop cognitively properly.
2. Strengthen Bond
Oxytocin plays a role in relationship building and trust, too. A 1-year-long study about interactions with emotional support animals revealed that month 12 marked the highest jump in oxytocin levels. This finding suggests that time and repeated interactions forge bonds. Sleeping with a pet can help your young one feel closer to their furry friend and experience a more significant release of the cuddle chemical.
3. Aid Relaxation
“Pawrents” who think about the pros and cons of sleeping with dogs fear their kids might become physically active before bedtime. On the contrary, pets help little ones loosen up.
Some first-year students at the Wharton School who were on edge during exam season experienced this benefit firsthand. Playing with a therapy dog for a few minutes to an hour was enough to decompress and forget their worries. That’s why giving your child a bed buddy may do the trick if they need help calming down and preparing for sleep.
4. Minimize Stress
Canines are lovely anxiety relievers. Pooches can sniff when humans lose sleep over something nearly 97% of the time and express empathy. The emotional support animal research discovered that people feel more positive and less negative emotions after interacting with a dog.
Another study confirmed that a pet canine’s company — even for 10 minutes — can significantly make stressed individuals feel less anxious. Brief interactions with a pet do wonders emotionally, and bonding during bedtime is more so.
Furthermore, doggies can benefit children with reading anxiety. Kids who practice with pets are 12% better readers than those who only read to adults.
5. Maximize Comfort
Does your kid have nightmares frequently? Distressing dreams can reflect your little one’s fears and concerns. People with wild imaginations are more likely to experience night terrors. Regardless of the reason, nightmares may disrupt your child’s sleep and keep them awake. Bad dreams in childhood can also have life-long consequences — like a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease in adulthood.
Tucking your kid in with a pet on their side can help them have sweet dreams instead of scary ones. Having a companion in a room can give your young one a sense of security and feel more confident going to bed alone. It can explain why many adults still self-soothe using plushies.
6. Ease Insomnia
Pediatric insomnia is detrimental to your child’s development. Not getting enough shuteye chronically or transiently may impair their attention, concentration and memory. Fatigue will cause your little one to feel tired and dozy in the daytime. Unchecked insomnia in childhood can result in behavioral problems and health issues.
Understanding the root of this condition requires medical attention. However, maintaining a routine — like keeping wake-up and bedtimes within one to two hours of each other — and sleeping with a pet can make a noticeable difference. Developing healthier habits and being roommates with an affectionate mutt that can assuage their negative emotions are keys to a good night’s sleep.
7. Decrease Loneliness
Childhood loneliness can stem from belonging to a single-parent household, growing up without siblings and having no friends. Whatever the root cause, it’s unhealthy. A lonesome pre-adolescent will likely have a drinking problem and develop various health issues — like dementia — later in life.
Fortunately, having a dog and sleeping with it can provide much-desired companionship. Famously devoted breeds, such as the Golden Retriever, the Pug, the Great Dane and the Jack Russel Terrier, are huggable bed warmers and loyal friends your young one can hang out with day and night.
8. Boost Immunity
Developing allergies would worry any parent weighing the pros and cons of sleeping with a dog. However, several studies found that pet ownership in childhood can beef up kids’ immune systems.
Being exposed to pets early — from inside the mother’s womb to the age of 18 — helps protect children from allergy sensitization. Seven-year-olds who lived in houses with pet allergens as infants are less likely to get asthma.
That said, you should implement bed etiquette. Using a mattress protector, bathing your pooch regularly, taking it out before bedtime and making it sleep above the covers are best practices to keep your little one’s room clean and in good shape.
Sleeping With a Pet Has Science-Backed Benefits
Stop sleeping on bedsharing with pets if you’re apprehensive about it. It’s worth considering as long as your canine is healthy and trained unless your kid has a pet allergy.