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Study: Chronic Pain Sufferers Sleep Better With a Dog in the Bed

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For chronic pain sufferers, sharing the bed with a dog actually improves the quality of sleep, a University of Alberta study suggests.

Chronic Pain

Despite medical advice against sharing the bed with a dog, a study by the University of Alberta suggests that those living with chronic pain actually get a better night’s sleep with their best furry friend by their side.

“Typically, people who have pain also have a lot of sleep problems, so usually if they ask their health-care provider about a pet, they’re told to get the pet out of the bedroom. But that standard advice can actually be damaging,” researcher Cary Brown of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine explained to Phys.org.

The study concluded that of people who suffered long-term chronic pain, crawling into bed with their dogs by their side was “overwhelmingly positive” for them, Brown said.

“They liked the physical contact with their dogs—cuddling before bed, and how it distracted them from feeling anxious about being alone at night. They felt more relaxed and safer so they weren’t anxious as they were trying to sleep. A sense of relaxation and caring are emotions that release positive hormones in our bodies that will help us sleep better.”

Brown added that having a dog in the bed also helped to ease the feelings of loneliness so common in those living with a chronic health issue.

“When you ask people to remove an animal they are in the habit of co-sleeping with, it could have consequences the health-care provider hasn’t considered,” Brown said. “For some people with chronic pain, their relationship with their pet could be the only one they have and the comfort that dog or cat produces would be lost. It’s equivalent to kicking their partner out of bed.”

The study also showed that dogs provide their human companions with a regular bedtime routine and daytime activity. “Those are two key things for sleep—you get up at the same time every day and you are active. If you take the pet out of the equation, you lose that,” said Brown.

The researcher also suggested that the recommendation to remove pets from the bedroom as part of good sleep hygiene isn’t evidence-based and needs more research.

Similarly, a 2017 study by Australian researchers at Central Queensland University showed that humans are far more likely to be awakened by another human partner during the night than by their dog. With nearly 70% of participants regularly awakened in the night, when given the option of sharing the bed with your partner or with your dog – your best bet is to snuggle up next to your four-legged friend.

What do you think? Do you share your bed with your dog? Do you sleep better with him next to you? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below.

More information: Cary Brown et al. Undercover Dogs: Pet Dogs in the Sleep Environment of Patients with Chronic Pain, Social Sciences (2018). DOI: 10.3390/socsci7090157

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar Of Leigh Coker

    Leigh Coker

    says:

    I didn’t know there was proof that it would help before now, but I’ve had my lap dog in the bed and everywhere I go for a couple of years now. It’s true, it does help.

  2. Avatar Of Pat G

    Pat G

    says:

    I have slept with pets for decades, both dogs and cats. Our schnauzer sleeps at my feet and crawls up between us at bedtime and waking. If she’s not on the bed, I know it and don’t sleep as soundly. My husband also notices his sleep is not as sound if she’s not with us.

  3. Avatar Of Hazel

    Hazel

    says:

    Been sleeping with my dog for 10 years, I suffer from chronic back pain and sacroiliac joint pain, he keeps me warm and distresses me

  4. Avatar Of Johnny

    Johnny

    says:

    I’ve suffered from extreme chronic pain and sleep problems for a decade and I can absolutely tell you my life and sleep are better with my German shepherd and lab in bed with my wife and I.

  5. Avatar Of Justine Groves

    Justine Groves

    says:

    I sleep with my two pugs and I always have. When one passes another pug usually finds me. I have chronic pain and sometimes can barely get up, but I know they need to get up and eat and go potty so I get up and feed them and take them outside or if I feel well enough we go for a walk. My husband has given up the bed situation and sleeps in the spare room.

  6. Avatar Of Jrg

    JRG

    says:

    I love having my dog on the bed sleeping alongside me . He also stays with me if I’m sick; he doesn’t leave my side. My dog, however crazy, gives me balance in life.

  7. Avatar Of Maria

    Maria

    says:

    My 3 dog sleep with me and is true there are my security blanket I love them

  8. Avatar Of Drrm

    Drrm

    says:

    I sleep with my Labrador and cat. My lab cuddles up and helps with the pain of lipoedema and my cat has been known to wrap himself around the top of my head when my pressure is high from intracranial hypertension (pseudotumour celebri). I don’t sleep as well when they aren’t with me.

  9. Avatar Of Starr'S Mom

    Starr's Mom

    says:

    No studies needed! Dogs AND cats are good for better sleep.

  10. Avatar Of Charmaine Warren

    Charmaine Warren

    says:

    Our dog sleeps in between us every night. I suffer with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, having Sasha there beside me to provide warmth and companionship when I’m in pain is very soothing for me. She is great therapy for me, both physically and mentally.

  11. Avatar Of Suzyq

    SuzyQ

    says:

    So our two Rottweilers may continue to sleep on our bed? Well thanks – but they were always going to. It takes cooperation with but all of us fit nicely. It’s a bit like Tetris.

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