Your beloved pet may be interfering with your sleep, according to research published Thursday, March 16.
Although pets can have many positive health effects, owning a pet was linked to poor quality sleep, according to the study published in the journal Human-Animal Interactions.
The researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, which asks questions about a variety of health topics. They adjusted for factors that may affect sleep, including race and income, as well as age, gender and BMI, and focused on whether a person had a sleep disorder and whether a person had a cat or a dog.
Sleep quality was measured by examining reported episodes of snoring or snoring at night; being diagnosed with a sleep disorder; having difficulty sleeping or falling asleep; waking up during the night; waking up too early; not resting; not getting enough sleep; need medication to sleep; or have twitches or cramps in the legs. Taking longer than 15 minutes to fall asleep and consistently sleeping less than six hours were also indicators of poor sleep.
The results showed that having a dog was associated with a greater risk of having a sleep disorder and having trouble sleeping overall, while having a cat was associated with a greater risk higher jerking in the legs at night.
The study was observational, meaning researchers couldn’t say for sure that pets caused poor sleep, but the results were consistent with previous studies that found pet ownership negatively affected sleep quality. sleep.
The study’s lead author, Lauren Wisnieski, assistant professor of public health and research at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, noted that the study did not examine where pets slept. For example, does a dog take up all the space on the bed? Does a cat curl up right next to the pet owner’s head?
It would be a good direction for future studies, she said, “to ask owners where their pets sleep and how these animals disturb their sleep.”
How to sleep better with a pet
Lieve van Egmond, a sleep researcher at the Uppsala Sleep Science Laboratory in Sweden, noticed that her sleep changed when she had her kitten, Bacco. She researched the relationship between pets and sleep quality while earning her Ph.D. She was not involved in the new study, but conducted a separate study that also used self-reported data to examine how pets can affect sleep.
In this study, published in 2021, van Egmond and his team found that having a cat was associated with a shorter night’s sleep, but having a dog was not linked to changes in sleep. Still, she noted that more research would be needed to determine if the findings were a coincidence or if pets really caused sleep issues.
She said the association found in the new study likely has more to do with pet ownership — and the many different factors tied to that unique cat or dog — rather than where. sleep these animals.
“The age of the animal has a big influence on whether or not it keeps you up at night,” van Egmond said. “If you have multiple pets, they can encourage each other.”
With dogs, she says, it really depends on the breed and the level of activity he needs. Ensuring a pet gets plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation during the day and working with their natural instincts can help pets – and their owners – rest better.
Unlike dogs, cats tend to have bursts of energy at night, van Egmond said. That was certainly the case for Bacco, who circled around her apartment and, even though her bedroom door was closed, woke her up by scratching to let her in, she said.
She eventually saw a cat behavior specialist and learned that if she played with Bacco before she was ready for bed, she would activate the cat’s hunting instinct. Upon being fed after this, Bacco would appear to have successfully hunted his food and was rewarded with a good meal in return. Her natural instinct after that was to groom herself and go to sleep – just like van Egmond was getting herself ready for bed.
The new study “indicates that pets can influence your sleep, but you really have to consider that pets are much more than a facilitator or an inhibitor of sleep. They are part of the family,” she said.
Still, people can use this information to assess why they may not be getting enough rest, she said.
“If they have pets and they’re sleeping badly, they should look at where it’s coming from,” van Egmond said. If it’s the pet, “see where the bottleneck is and how you can make sure the cat or dog doesn’t interrupt you while you’re sleeping.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.