Dogs were domesticated long ago, when beds were merely boughs stretched out on the ground near a fire. In those days, dogs provided a much-needed warning system. If their acute noses picked up on a predator nearby, a few barks would alert their owners to the danger, perhaps scaring the predator away and avoiding an altercation in the first place. Accounting for these long-held bonds, sleeping with your dog can create a sense of safety and comfort even to this day.
A dog’s usefulness stretched into the daytime, too. In hunter-gatherer societies, humans and dogs bonded together while hunting or fishing, as well as sharing the spoils from the catch of the day. Once agrarian communities formed around large-scale farming, dogs helped their owners by herding animals.
Humans may have long given up our hunter-gatherer ways but dog ownership has stuck. The bond between dogs and humans has been solidified. More often than not, the companionship they offer has replaced the work they used to do for their owners.
Dr. Froma Walsh, in a study called “The Relational Significance of Companion Animals,” states that “the vast majority of pet owners regard their pets as their friends (95%) and/or family members (87%).” Bonding with your dog goes beyond calling them a part of the family. Walsh writes, “Simply stroking a dog significantly reduces blood pressure in both the person and the animal!” The bonds go beyond the physical, as more frequent interactions with animals can help with feelings of loneliness as well as anxiety and depression.
Yet for all the good that a dog can do, sleeping with your dog can make your bed feel a little cramped. A little less your bed. A lack of sleep, studies have found, can increase anxiety and depression, negating some of the positives bonding with your dog might offer.
A paper by Bradley Smith, et al. published in 2018 in Anthrozoos studied the sleep patterns of dog owners who shared a bed with their dogs. Both the humans and their dogs wore activity monitors for a week straight while they slept—or tried to. The researchers found that when a dog started moving, it often indicated human movement to follow directly after the dog started jostling about.
Their jostling was not a rare occurrence either, Smith found that dogs were active for one-fifth of the night, “with humans 4.3 times more likely to be awake during dog activity than dog inactivity.” Smith found that sharing your bed with your dog caused “measurable, but relatively mild, reductions in overall sleep quality.”
Is that mild reduction in sleep quality worth the comfort of having your dog nearby? It’s a personal choice. One dog owner might fall asleep quicker in the beginning of the night if they are warm and cozy, snuggled up to their dog, but if their dog wakes them up enough throughout the night, they might actually lose more sleep than they gain.
If you are groggy in the mornings and remember your dog waking you up a few times throughout the night, it may be worth it to lay out a dog bed on the floor next to your bed and see if the comfort of having a dog nearby remains without the disturbances that come from sharing a bed.
However, if you are a deep sleeper and soundly slumber through your dog shifting or snoring, kicking your dog out of bed might do more harm than good. Many dog owners would sacrifice a small amount of sleep in order to be near the pet they consider family.