Sleeping With Pets May Benefit Chronic Pain Sufferers

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A new study from the University of Alberta suggests that sharing a bed with your dog may improve quality of sleep if you are a chronic pain sufferer.

Even though many medical experts often advise against sharing your bed with your dog (though no one bothered to ask your dog, we bet!), new findings from a study done by the University of Alberta may make a big difference for chronic pain sufferers. In fact, the researchers believe that those with chronic pain may get better sleep if their fur family member is sharing the sheets with them.

Related: Should My Dog Sleep in My Bed or on the Floor?

Cary Brown is with the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and said that it’s common for people who have pain to have sleep problems, and doctors often advise them to get their dogs out of the bedroom. Brown says that may actually damage a chronic pain sufferer’s sleep.

Brown says that when people who suffer from long-term chronic pain get into their beds with their dogs snuggled by, the effect is positive. They like the contact they have with their dogs and the cuddling from bed distracts them from their pain and their anxiety they may have about being alone at night.

When they slept with their dogs, they felt more relaxed and safe and positive hormones that helped them sleep better were released in their bodies. Brown said that often, those with chronic health issues feel lonely and their dog in bed helps them feel less lonely. He believes asking someone with a chronic pain issue to keep their dog out of their bed may not take into account the total health benefits the dog (or cat) would bring. Brown equates doctors telling chronic pain sufferers to keep their pet out of their beds with telling them to keep their partners out of their bed.

Additional benefits the study found were that dogs give humans routine and structure, which is important for good sleep, and often lacking in those who suffer from chronic pain and catch what they can, when they can. Brown says the routine of getting to bed and up in the morning at the same time is often due to pet bathroom needs, but can give a pain sufferer’s circadian rhythm regularity.

Related: Why Does Your Cat Like Sleeping on Your Head?

Brown believes it may not be best practice for health-care providers to take a blanket approach when it comes to sleep and pets in the bed for their patients, and believes that more research needs to be done to look further at benefits and not just risks. A 2017 study found that humans were more likely to disturb another human’s sleep in the night than the person’s dog, and that many prefer snuggling their pet for just that reason–better sleep.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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