If you struggle with insomnia you may well envy your pets, for whom sleep tends to come really easily. For some troubled sleepers, sleeping close to pets can be a surprisingly effective solution to insomnia. For others who already habitually sleep this way, it may be part of the problem. How can you work out which applies to you?
Pets and Warmth
In cold weather, it’s natural for animals to huddle together for warmth. Sleeping beside warm blooded pets is a far more effective way to stay cosy than simply using more blankets. Most pets have slightly higher body temperatures than humans, meaning that their natural warmth will compensate for the way your body temperature falls during sleep.
The problem with this, of course, is that you can find yourself getting too warm in the summer months, when pets may still expect to sleep close to you to show affection. Simply throwing them out will confuse and upset them, so instead try to make it clear through your body language what the problem is.
Increasingly, trained animals are used in therapy for a wide range of diseases. Their primary purpose is to help with relaxation and they can be especially helpful to people who are having difficult getting to sleep because of stress or emotional issues related to illness.
Other therapy animals have special training to enable them to watch over people with complex health problems. If you have a young, intelligent pet, you may be able to find a specialist who can teach it how to do this. This type of assistance can include things like warning you if you are about to have an epileptic fit or asthma attack, making it easier for you to set aside worries that may interfere with sleep. Therapy animals can also help by waking you if you have a nightmare
Pets and Allergies
Unfortunately, for some people, there is a major downside to sleeping beside pets. This is caused by pet allergies. Not all allergies manifest in dramatic ways and it’s often the subtler ones that cause the most trouble, because you may not notice they’re there. If you suspect you have symptoms, your doctor can run a test to see if allergies are the problem.
Pet allergies can cause problems with breathing, sweating and clamminess, itchy skin or eyes and a general feeling of mild physical discomfort. It is possible to develop an allergy to your pet even after being fine with it for years. Though they may not interfere too much with your activities together during the way, problems like this can seriously disrupt sleep.
Most of the animals we keep as pets have very strict social hierarchies with just one dominant animal. It’s important to them to know their places within these hierarchies as this helps them to avoid fights and makes them feel secure. Sleeping close to their owner, however, is an important status symbol and may lead to competition over what they consider the best position.
If you have several pets, the best way to avoid being woken up at night by scuffles between them is to position them yourself when you go to bed, always favouring the dominant animal. This clear signal will help to preserve order. Don’t try to do meek pets a favour by giving them more attention as this can easily lead to chaos.
Although most cats are happy to doze for long periods and older dogs like to sleep for several hours at a time, not all pets have natural sleep cycles that fit in with those of humans. For this reason you may have problems if a pet who has helped you to get to sleep wakes up during the night and wants to be active.
Leaving the bedroom door ajar so that your pet can quietly leave can help to stop you from being disturbed. Alternatively, place toys that your pet can play with quietly close to the bed. Some pets take guarding you whilst you sleep very seriously and will not feel comfortable leaving the room until you are ready to get up and start your day.