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Should we let our dogs sleep with us at night?  Research shows that almost 50% of dog owners let their dogs sleep with them either in bed or in their bedroom.  But is this a good idea?  Recent studies suggest that co-sleeping with your dog can provide many benefits.

Humans have been co-sleeping with dogs for centuries.  The Egyptian pharaoh Ramses the Great allowed his hound to sleep with him.  Other royalty who co-slept with their dogs includes Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria, Peter the Great – Czar of Russia, and Frederick the Great of Prussia.  The Aboriginal people of Australia often slept beside their dogs for warmth and protection from evil spirits. There are countless other examples of cultures who have co-slept with their dogs.

The benefits of sleeping with your dog are numerous.  Dogs can provide considerable warmth during a cold night – a dog’s average body temperature is higher than humans, around 104 degrees.  In addition, having your dog in bed with you can ease anxiety and provide you with a feeling of safety and security. People who suffer from PTSD have found that sleeping with their dogs helps to reduce nightmares.  Other research has found that sleeping with your dog causes the brain to release oxytocin which promotes theta brainwaves found during REM sleep.  The same research that determined petting your dog can lower blood pressure also found that the physical contact with your dog during sleeping has the same effect of lowering your blood pressure.  One study even found that infants who slept with their dogs were less likely to develop allergies in later life.

However, co-sleeping is not for everyone.  Your quality of sleep can be compromised.  This may be caused by the difference in sleeping patterns between humans and dogs.  Dogs have a polyphasic sleep pattern (sleep several times a day) while humans have a monophasic pattern (sleep once a day).  This means that your dog is likely to wake up a few times during the night which may disturb your sleep.   Further, dogs are much lighter sleepers than humans and will alert if they hear the smallest disturbance.  Also, if you suffer from allergies these can be triggered by having your dog in bed with you.

While there are some drawbacks to having your dog sleep with you, the overwhelming benefits of waking up with tails wagging are hard to beat.  For those of us who share our beds and bedrooms with our dogs, having them co-sleep with us makes perfect sense!!