Half of U.S. dog owners and 62 percent of American cat owners share the sheets with their pets, a practice that sleep experts warn can lead to sleep deprivation.
In fact, a 2014 Mayo Clinic study found that more than half of the patients seeking consultations at its sleep clinic were pet owners whose sleep was disturbed by their cats or dogs.
However, a 2015 study reveals that snuggling up to your furry friend can actually lead to improved sleep.
Researchers from Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, recently surveyed 150 of the patients who visited the facility’s Center for Sleep Medicine. Participants answered questions about their sleeping habits, their pets’ behavior and sleeping locations, and how their pets affected their nightly sleep.
The researchers found that 56 percent of the study participants shared their bed or bedroom with their cat or dog. However, while 20 percent reported disrupted sleep because of their pets, 41 percent said that their pet’s presence in bed actually helps them sleep better.
Those who reported sleeping more soundly when their pets were present said that having them in the bedroom or on the bed aided with relaxation and provided a sense of companionship and security. Single sleepers were especially likely to report that sharing a bed with a cat or dog helped them get some shut-eye.
“Respondents described feeling secure, content and relaxed when their pet slept nearby,” the study authors wrote. “The value of these experiences, although poorly understood, cannot be dismissed because sleep is dependent on a state of physical and mental relaxation.”
Better sleep and easing anxiety
A similar small study published by University of Alberta researchers found that having pets in bed can help people with chronic pain sleep better, while also easing feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
“They liked the physical contact with their dogs—cuddling before bed, and how it distracted them from feeling anxious about being alone at night," researcher Cary Brown told Folio. "They felt more relaxed and safer so they weren’t anxious as they were trying to sleep.”
Not sure if you should be sharing your covers with your kitty? Here are a few things to consider.
Need a little help sleeping comfortably with man’s best friend? We’ve got nine tips for sleeping soundly beside your pooch.
Editor's note: This story was written in December 2015 and has been updated.