Did you know that sleeping with your dog can help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life, according to studies? Read on to learn more! Plus check out some other ways owning a dog makes your life better.
Sleeping with Your Dog Can Help You Live a Happier & Healthier Life
I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a pretty neat study that says that sleeping with your dog can bring lots of health benefits. I missed the tail-end of the conversation, so I went looking for the study on my own to learn more about it.
Turns out, there’s more than one! In fact, several studies tout the benefits of sleeping with your dog. Let’s look at a few of the most intriguing. Then we’ll look a other science-backed ways our dogs make our life better.
Dogs make us feel safer at night”
A recent study from the Canisius College in Buffalo, New York found that sleeping with dogs may fulfill a psychological need to feel safe. Researchers discovered that while women were more likely to “to transition from an inactive state to an active state if their dog moved,” they rarely recalled it the next day.
Lead researcher Christy L. Hoffman, PhD, wrote, “This discrepancy suggests that despite the disturbances canine bed partners create, they may be fulfilling a psychological need for feeling safe and secure during sleep periods.”
I was talking to a friend about this. She’s a single mom and up until last year, she slept with a dog either in her room or bed. Right now, she only has one dog that sleeps with her son. She said, “I never realized how much safer I felt with a dog in my room until I had to sleep without one.”
She noted that before, she knew that if anyone (or thing!) tried to “get her,” her dog would react and protect her. “Now, every little noise jars me awake,” she added. “What was that?? A burglar? A ghost? The monster under the bed??”
So, if you’re living alone (or a single mom), consider at least letting Fido into the room at night to help you feel safer.
Sleeping with your dog can trigger relaxation hormones
While the last study focused mostly on the benefits for women, this one by the Mayo Clinic applies to everyone. Researchers found that sleeping with your dog can actually trigger relaxation. Casper (the bed company) explains that dogs in the bed increase our oxytocin levels, which in turn trigger theta brainwaves.
Dogs also increase our serotonin and decrease our cortisone levels, according to a 2015 study. For those who don’t know, cortisone is a stress hormone. We all know how much havoc stress can wreak on our sleep cycles, right?
Serotonin, on the other hand, is a “feel good” chemical. Too little of it can cause depression. On the flip side, increased levels not only help us feel better mood-wise, but also help us sleep better. Notice how you zonk out after Thanksgiving dinner? That’s serotonin at work!
Eases anxiety-induced insomnia
If you suffer from anxiety-related insomnia, this study found that a dog just might be the cure for what ails you. Researchers found that support animals like dogs help ease chronic nightmares in people with PTSD and other types of anxiety. Researchers wrote,
“Dogs are also used to mitigate anxiety, which is often associated with insomnia, and to modify hyperarousal and hypervigilance, which in turn creates a more amenable mood state for sleep initiation, as well as a greater sense of safety in those who are uneasy in the dark and/or night and who tend to phase-reverse to dodge nighttime sleep.”
Coupled with the studies above, this basically confirms that dogs help us sleep better by making us feel safer and boosting the right hormones.
While more and more studies find that sleeping with your dog is really quite good for you, there are reasons to keep Fido out of your bed. If you’re a super light sleeper, for instance, an active dog can disrupt your snooze cycle. Certain sleep disorders make it challenging to get a good night’s rest with a dog by your side as well.
Don’t worry, you can still reap the health benefits of having a dog! Let’s see what they do for us even when they’re not sleeping in our beds.
More Amazing Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
Last year, I wrote about how dogs help us live longer by lowering our risk of heart attack (especially for those who have already had one) and by helping us stay active.
I also talked about how children growing up with dogs are less likely to suffer mental health issues. What other benefits are there, though? Turns out, a lot! Among them:
- Dogs make us feel less lonely, especially for those who live alone.
- Multiple studies show that even just owning a dog can lower our stress levels.
- For single people looking for love, this study found that having a dog can make you more attractive to others (and not just in the physical sense).
- Feeling shy? Owning a pooch can help you socialize more and have an easier time making friends.
- For older people, dogs help improve cognitive function, especially in seniors with mental illnesses.
- Dogs just plain make us happy, according to a Japanese study.
Dogs make our lives better in so many ways, whether they’re in our bed, our room, or just our home. If you can’t adopt one, though (maybe you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow them), even just spending some time petting a friend’s pup can help you feel better. So go on and go hug a pooch! Your whole body, mind and soul will thank you for it.