Dog Science: Research Shows That Dogs Are Healthy Bed Partners

Woman and dog sleeping in bed

(Picture Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images)

Some dogs sleep on dog beds, some sleep in their crates, and some sleep on an old, comfy couch or chair. But for a lot of fur parents, there’s no other place to let dogs sleep than on the bed with their humans.

However, if your pup doesn’t join you on the bed and you’re the type to be anxious or experience nightmares, you may want to start cuddling your dog at night.

According to a study on PTSD symptoms and anxiety, service animals may play a key role in a unique therapy to overcome nightmares. And even non-service pet dogs can help people get better sleep.

Researchers Mary Rose, Colleen Lance, and Carlos Schenck studied various sleep disorders and arrived at the conclusion that even a dog’s light paw touch can be a comforting force to master your nightmares and achieve more efficient, restful sleep.

Stopping The Nightmares

Service animals get more specific training than your average house dog, especially in using techniques to mitigate nightmares or, in some cases, PTSD symptoms.

Nightmares are a common occurrence for PTSD and some anxiety-related conditions. While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment to get rid of symptoms, specialists use the imagery rehearsal technique (IRT) to help patients gain some control.

IRT involves confronting the imagery patients experience in their nightmares in a non-threatening environment, like when they are awake and in the daylight. According to the research, individuals need to experience some level of discomfort during IRT. This helps them master the physiological symptoms of a nightmare.

However, experiencing too much distress can ruin the effects of the reassuring environment. So when service dogs’ owners experience heightened or extreme distress when doing IRT, that’s when the dogs step in.

To do this, some service dogs train to get a feel of when they should rouse their human bed partners when they have a nightmare.

This method is also effective for controlling and overcoming nightmares among children. Children can go through the experience of creating stories that involve their pets. Their pets can have superpowers in their dreams to protect them from the terrors of the nightmares.

Satisfactory Sleep For You And Your Pet



Apart from nightmares, pets can alleviate anxiety just by being there beside you at night.

“Dogs are also used to mitigate anxiety, which is often associated with insomnia, and to modify hyperarousal and hypervigilance,” the researchers affirm. This results in a better mood for sleep among dog owners.

Pet owners who have no history of sleep disorders can still benefit from a dog bed partner. Another study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that dogs and humans who slept in the same bed had a good night’s sleep.

The human participants had around 81 percent sleep efficiency, measured by the percentage of the time they spent asleep. In dogs, it was a little higher at 85 percent. Sleep achieves “satisfactory” levels at around 80 percent sleep efficiency.

So the next time your pet comes scratching at your bedroom door for the night, it might be a good idea to let them in. This way, both of you can sleep soundly through the night.

Does your dog sleep on your bed? Are you thinking of trying out this unique sleep arrangement? Let us know your thoughts below!

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