Ninety-eight percent of pet owners, consider their furry friend family. Those furry friends aren’t just a nice face to come home to. They are actually having a positive psychological impact on their owners.
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A study conducted by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found that positive human-animal interaction reduces psychological stress and increase levels of oxytocin in the brain (aka the feel good or ‘love’ hormone that creates a calming effect when released). Pets also improve feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
Here’s why this is a big deal – seven out of ten adults in the US say they experience stress or anxiety that interferes with their sleep daily. If you fall in this category of people, here are four reasons you might consider sleeping with your pet.
1 – Stress keeps you up at night. Pets take that stress away.
Oxytocin counteracts the effects of stress. When experiencing a positive bond with your pet, such as cuddling in bed, oxytocin levels increase. The release of oxytocin the brain reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels – aka the stress hormone.
At night, cortisol levels should naturally decrease. However, if you are experiencing chronic stress, cortisol levels stay elevated. The result? Your body fails to relax so you can’t fall asleep.
One benefit of sleeping with your pet is that their presence calms you, literally. If you have had a stressful day, sleeping with your pet can decrease cortisol levels which will allow you to relax and fall asleep easier at night.
2 – Pets alleviate anxious thoughts.
Physical contact goes a long way when it comes to anxiety. Research shows that your blood pressure actually drops when you scratch your pet. Sleeping and cuddling with your pet helps calm your nerves and racing thoughts before bed. One reason for this is it takes the focus off you.
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Even something as simple as your pet’s presence can ease anxious thoughts. Loneliness is a common result of anxiety; yet, being alone only amplifies your anxiety. Having your pet nearby helps soothe anxious feelings because they give you a sense of belonging and meaning.
A cuddle sesh with your furry friend may just be the remedy for anxiety that keeps you up at night.
3 – They help you feel safe.
Speaking of loneliness, for individuals that live alone, sleeping with your pet can help you feel safe. A study by the Mayo Clinic found that people who sleep with their pets actually improve their sleep quality because they feel safer and more secure.
The opposite of safety is fear. Anytime we feel fear, our body naturally triggers our fight or flight response. The sympathetic nervous system then releases neurotransmitters that increase our alertness. When levels of these neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline, dopamine, and noradrenaline, are high, it is harder to fall asleep.
Having a pet around to help you feel safe decreases the presence of these stress hormones.
4 – It reduces anxiety in your pet.
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Not only do we benefit from sleeping near the pet we love, but our pet do too. Animals experience many of the same benefits as humans when it comes to sleeping with their owner: a decrease in anxiety and increase in safety. If not for yourself, do it for your pet!
What to Watch Out For
It’s safe to say, sleeping with your pet isn’t for everyone. If you have allergies, you’ll need to be cautious. Additionally, if your pet isn’t fully trained, you may find your sleep more disruptive than peaceful. No one wants to wake up at 3 am to the smell of an accident.
The final tip is to make sure you have the right sleeping arrangements to experience the benefits of sleeping with your pet. Make sure have enough space to stay comfortable and undisturbed all night long.