Are Fido & Fluffy disturbing your sleep?

Aug 30, 2015

Sometimes, no matter how well trained a pet might be, it simply doesn’t want to sleep at any convenient time, keeping you up throughout the night.

This week on “Take Care,” Linda Lowen and Lorraine Rapp speak with Dr. Lois Krahn, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist at their Sleep Disorders Center in Arizona, on why some pets might be disturbing their owner’s sleep.

Of the people coming in to the Sleep Disorders Center with concerns about their sleep, a shocking 51 percent were pet owners.

“But what was unusual is increasingly, people have more than one pet. So instead of having one dog or one cat, they have multiple,” said Krahn. “And that raises the question [of] what happens at night? Where do the pets sleep? What is the best arrangement for all involved to get a good night’s sleep?”

Letting pets into the bedroom, and even sleeping on the bed might be the cause of these disturbances.

The most commonly owned pets are dogs, followed closely by cats. But a person's sleep can be interrupted by pet birds and various rodents as well.

“I would say that birds are almost the most difficult from a sleep standpoint, because they have an inner clock,” said Krahn.

There are many things that factor into allowing a pet to sleep in the bedroom, like bed size and possible allergies.

“You have to be careful,” said Krahn. “The cat or the dog is not entitled to sleep in the bedroom or sleep on the bed. You do have to look at how clean the animal is, for example you do not want an animal with fleas anywhere near your bed. Do either of the people in the bed have allergies? If one person has allergies [pets] shouldn’t be near the bed.”

When it comes to the classic rivalry of cats vs. dogs, it seems that dogs might have the advantage when it comes to being quiet through the night.

Credit Daniele Pieroni / Flickr

“Cats can be quite noisy at night just as a part of their natural lifestyle and many people appreciate that cats are not as quick to learn and to adapt as, let’s say, a dog,” said Krahn. “It does seem that dogs can understand that when it’s dark and quiet and people are sleeping, that they need to do the same. Cats are another matter.”

That doesn’t mean that pets should be completely banned from the bedroom.

“I do think that you can consider having pets in the bedroom or on the bed because it can be a source of relaxation or security, but you can’t start at that point,” said Krahn.