Millions of Brits struggle with sleep problems. And the problem is reportedly on the rise. Insomnia—the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep—is particularly troubling, because it’s often linked to pain and other health problems.
Experts have many theories to explain the growth of this public health threat. Possibilities include a banquet of choices: exposure to light from our digital devices at night, growing light pollution in our cities, the rapidly evolving 24/7 connectedness of society, falling levels of physical fitness, poor diets, rooms that are too warm—or not dark enough—at night…
But now there’s another possibility to add to the list: sleeping with a dog or cat in the room. According to new research from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA, a surprising number of patients who seek consultation for sleep problems allow their pets to share the bedroom at night. That’s not so surprising. But John Shepard, M.D., medical director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, wondered if these pets were contributing to his patients’ sleep disturbances. As it turns out, in many cases, they were.
A significant number of patients allowed pets to sleep on the bed. A majority of dogs, for instance, were allowed this privilege. When the pet happened to be a dog, the chances that it snored were about one-in-five (if you own a Bulldog, then we’ll call in five in five).
Now, it’s probably common sense, but let’s state the obvious: Unless you typically sleep like a stone wall, trying to sleep next to someone who snores is often challenging, at best. At worst, it’s difficult, if not downright maddening.
While cats were granted bedroom access more often, they were, mercifully, considerably less likely to snore than dogs. Only about seven percent of cat owners reported problems with cat snoring. Getting up to let a pet out—probably after being roused from a deep sleep by raucous snoring from Sherlock the family dog—was not uncommon. This interruption in sleep cost some pet owners up to 20 minutes of sleep per night.
"I suspect that the degree of sleep disruption experienced may be significantly greater than the owners admit, but I have no objective data," says Dr. Shepard. "Every patient has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with pets and make a personal decision about the sleeping arrangements in the household. Some people are very attached to their pets and will tolerate poorer sleep in order to be near them at night.”
So now we know. If your pet snores, then bunking down with them in the same room is probably not your best move if you’re struggling with sleep problems.
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