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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is it OK for your pets to
sleep in bed with you?
a professor of
surgery at University of Chicago
a science writer,
with Rob Knight,
of Dirt Is Good.
Dr. David C.
Chang is a board-certi;ed sleep
at The Polyclinic
UNLESS YOU’RE allergic, there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t let dogs
sleep on your bed. In fact, exposure to their microbes—canine bacteria, viruses
and fungi—could benefit your health.
Physical interaction with dogs before a child’s first birthday significantly
reduces the child’s odds of developing allergies and asthma. This is because dog
microbes stimulate the immune system, keeping it primed and healthy. Indeed,
when Jack’s colleagues isolated bacteria from dogs and gave these bacteria, as
a probiotic, to mice made allergic to a food allergen, the mice lost their allergy
and regained their health. The dogs’ microbes were up to something good!
While pet ownership is broadly associated with a significant decline in the
likelihood of developing allergies or asthma, the relationship is much stronger
for dogs than for cats. This observation is not all that surprising for people of
Eurasian or African descent. Their ancestors had well-defined relationships
with dogs, both as companions and for hunting. So people with an immune system that responded well to dog microbes thrived, and we are their descendants.
However, bear one thing in mind. This advice is predicated on one simple
assumption: that you have been vaccinated. No vaccination means you are susceptible to nasty infections; if you or your child are not vaccinated, then we
don’t recommend that you interact extensively with pets. Contact with the associated pathogens could harm or kill you and your child.
In a similar vein, make sure your dog has had its vaccinations and anti-parasite medications. This will not only benefit your dog but also ensure that
your furry bedmate doesn’t pass along any parasites to you.
Jack: Just so you know, I let my dog sleep in bed with me and my wife, as
long as he doesn’t get in my way. I am still top dog.
Sandra: I have two dogs, one of whom always sleeps on my bed. The other
prefers her bed on the floor. Also, my cat sleeps on the bed most nights. It’s
GETTING A good night’s sleep is vital for your overall well-being. This includes
physical, emotional and metabolic health. Sleeping in bed with your pet may
not be good for your quality of sleep. It may even be harmful.
Dogs, especially, may track pollen, dirt and grass into bed, causing continuous exposure while you are sleeping. If you suffer from allergies or asthma,
this can lead to worsening allergic symptoms both day and night. Ideally, the
bed should be free of allergens. Avoiding pets in bed can be a first step. Skin
sensitivities can worsen with fur and dander exposure, especially if your pet is
the snuggling type, which can lead to irritation of your exposed skin throughout
the night. Though it’s rare, pets can transmit infections, as well as fleas and
ticks (less rare).
If you suffer from insomnia or fragmented sleep, your pet may be playing
a part. Pets jumping or moving in bed can pull you out of a deep sleep. Large
or multiple pets can also limit the amount of space in bed, causing cramped
conditions. A snoring pet doesn’t help either. Your pet can easily make up for
lost sleep. Unfortunately, you might have a harder time making it up as you go
through your busy day.
Sleep deprivation or fragmentation, even for one night, may adversely
affect your daytime functioning. This includes concentration, mood and overall lack of energy. In addition, your overall metabolism can be compromised,
which can lead to challenges in losing weight. Furthermore, two hormones that
impact appetite, ghrelin and leptin, are affected negatively by sleep deprivation. This can lead to weight gain, as a result of increased caloric intake.
If you sleep with your pet, you are in good company. However, it may not be
in your or your furry friend’s best interests. As much as you may want to comfort
and snuggle with a pet, it’s best to avoid sleeping in the same bed. C
Is too much con;dence
a bad thing?
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