BY JAMES MAAS, BRIANNA C. BELL
Healthy sleep is the most important thing you can do for your brain and body to maintain a healthy life. While nutrition and exercise are also key, sleep is the best predictor of lifespan. Proper sleep raises our body’s immunity against viral infection and protects against higher risks of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), Type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, irritability, stress, and anxiety. Restful sleep also will enhance cognitive performance, including memory, creativity, reaction-time, critical thinking and even athletic performance. That is a pretty good bargain for a pleasurable healthy experience with little effort on our behalf!
How many of us enjoy sharing our bed with a 4-legged family member? Statistics show around 41 percent of surveyed pet owners who allowed their pet to sleep in the bedroom or on the bed said that they did not find their pet disruptive, and they even reported sleeping better, due to the feelings of security, companionship, and relaxation that their pet offers.
You and your partner need to agree about an animal sleeping with you; if one of you isn’t for it, don’t do it!
A big advantage of sleeping with your 4-legged family member is they help with your emotional well-being. For example, it decreases loneliness, lowers your stress level, and eases depression. Sleeping with your best friend promotes coziness and warmth, and not just for humans. Our pets love to be next to their human companions and it reduces their anxiety that might be triggered by seeing animals on your TV screen (scores of tv commercials show pets), hearing environmental noise and having reactions to thunder and lightning. Win-win for both you and your faithful animal companions.
A disadvantage of sleeping with your fur baby is that it could negatively affect your love life, so you will probably want to have an alternative plan in place for them to sleep where they feel safe and you aren’t distracted. Thank god most animals can’t talk (beware the smart observant parrot!)
While some people sleep better with a dog or cat because they feel calmer and more secure, others might have their sleep interrupted by pets moving around or snoring. Some cause disruptions to your rest just by simply taking up a large space in your bed or trying to sleep on top of you.
The ideal bedroom temperature for you and your pet is between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, your sleeping quarters should be quiet and dark. A white noise generator can be peaceful and mask a noisy environment, but make sure the gadget is one that generates white noise rather than just playing a tape recording (which can interrupt sleep). The Dhome is one such product. Keeping an air purifier in the bedroom will cut down on dust, dander and dog hair. Spraying lavender on pillows and sheets will aid your sleep and mask pet odors. While there some sleep disturbances to humans, dogs and cats are just as much at risk when it comes to co-sleeping with their owners. People readjust and move around in their sleep without fully waking, so it could be dangerous to your 4-legged friends if you were to roll over on them or smother them with your blankets and comforters.
If your dog has some jerky leg movements, eye movements and maybe even some whimpering or barking, and cats show whisker twitching, rest assured they might be in REM sleep, the stage in which dreams most often occur in humans and animals. Sleep well and sweet dreams!
Dr. James B. Maas is a sleep educator/researcher who helped develop the Dr. Maas Sleep for Success line of pillows and comforters for United Feather and Down. He served for 48 years as professor, chair of Psychology and Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University. He lectured about sleep to more than 65,000 undergraduates, several of whom are now sleep doctors.
Brianna C. Bell is VP of marketing, writer and sleep reporter for Sleep for Success.