Your friend, sleeping.
Photo: Michelle McMahon/Getty Images
Most nights, my dog puts himself to bed around 11 p.m. He’ll hop off the couch and trot into my room, wiggling his little butt all along the way, to plop himself down on my bed in the dark. Sweet boy. I assume this is a habit formed by the fact that 11 p.m. is generally my own bedtime, and, because it is my bedtime, typically I’ll follow him there. While in bed we sleep apart until the morning, when I sometimes wake to find him with his little doggy head on the pillow beside me, like a tiny person. At this point he is usually sleepy enough for me to force-cuddle him until wakeup time. I tell you this because I love talking about my dog and will do it for however long you’d like me to — please email me and I will continue — but also because according to a new study sleeping with a dog in your bed (exclusively, no other humans allowed) is the way to go (for women).
The study, published this month by researchers at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, surveyed 962 women living in the U.S. It found 55 percent slept with a dog, 31 percent slept with a cat, and 57 percent slept with a human. The women with dogs, according to the study, were more likely to have a restful night. Incredible.
“Compared with human bed partners, dogs who slept in the owner’s bed were perceived to disturb sleep less and were associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security,” the study says. It is true that whenever my dog hears a noise he looks toward its origin, which makes me feel very secure and protected from the radiator. The study continues, “Conversely, cats who slept in their owner’s bed were reported to be equally as disruptive as human partners, and were associated with weaker feelings of comfort and security than both human and dog bed partners.” Ha-ha to cats.
On top of that, the study found women who slept alongside their dogs typically went to bed earlier and woke up earlier. I can attest to this, as my dog does not yet know how to use the toilet, so waking up to take him outside is necessary, and, like I mentioned, he has a fairly strict, self-enforced bedtime of 11 p.m.
Are there downsides to sleeping with your sweet dog who you love so much that it makes you want to die every day of your life because your heart is going to explode? Of course. I’ll admit it is non-ideal that my bed is full of dog hair and smells like a dog nearly 100 percent of the time. And throughout the night my dog will wake me up by nudging me with his little wet nose to let me know he’d like to burrow under the covers, and could I please lift them up so he might do so, which is somewhat disruptive to my sleep, though I can now complete the task while remaining mostly asleep. And he’s not as responsive as a human might be when I tell him my daily troubles. Plus there is always the worry that I might crush him during the night. And it is sometimes hard to fall asleep, as I have never before more related to the Aerosmith classic “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
Still, I highly recommend the practice. A little warm friend next to you all night, breathing so sweetly. Sometimes letting you spoon him. Crawling onto your legs when your alarm goes off, all but forcing you to hit snooze not to fall back to sleep but to, instead, stay half-awake and sleepily enjoy his soothing presence. It is very nice.
And plus, science says.