When Liv Arnold welcomed her Maltese-shih tzu cross, Groot, into her life five years ago, she never imagined how much comfort she’d gain from letting her dog sleep in her bed.
As a young puppy, he slept in his crate. But once he was fully toilet-trained and a little older, Arnold had no qualms letting Groot into her bed. “I like feeling him move around and I can hear him make squeaking sounds when he stretches,” says the 35-year-old author of the romance novel Stepping Stone.
Arnold is far from the only pet owner to open her bedroom to her pooch, with the 2022 Great Australian Dog Survey, conducted by a dog food company, finding 65 per cent of dogs sleep in their owner’s bedroom.
That figure doesn’t surprise Dr Moira Junge, a sleep psychologist and CEO of Sydney’s Sleep Health Foundation, who says it’s common. And for the likes of Arnold, the experience can be joyful. “Lots of people say, ‘Sleeping with the pet helps my sleep, I feel more comfortable, I feel more secure,’ ” Junge says.
Dr Kate Mornement echoes those sentiments. The animal behaviourist and consultant at Melbourne’s Pets Behaving Badly says pet owners gush about the sense of security, safety and companionship offered by having their beloved animal in the bedroom.
But it’s not all smooth sailing. Junge’s biggest concern is that pets can disturb their owners’ sleep. They certainly can, Mornement confirms, saying that dogs can bark at outside noises, all animals can wriggle, and larger ones may “hog” the bed.
Even relatively small animals can hog the bed, Arnold says, explaining that Groot (who she refers to as “only a little fluff ball”) spreads out so he “takes up all the room”. But she regards that as a minor negative which is far outweighed by the upsides.
If having your pet in bed with you is ruining your sleep, Junge recommends implementing firmer boundaries so Fido learns to sleep elsewhere. But if your pet snoozes soundly and you’re keen to have them share your sleeping space, Mornement says there are things owners can do to make it a safer, more hygienic experience.
Firstly, she recommends ensuring that your furry friend is up to date with both their flea and worming treatments. “It’s also a good idea to regularly groom them so they don’t bring dirt or mud into the bed.”
So should you allow your pet into your bedroom in the first place? Junge says there are no hard and fast rules about it. “From my point of view, I just want everyone to have the best sleep quality they can.”
That, Junge says, has a ripple effect. “It will improve your quality of life, including your alertness, energy levels, mood, concentration and memory.”
Sleeping well can also reduce the risk of chronic health conditions. Plus, Junge adds, “there’s some lovely research that shows that … if we get better sleep, we have better relationships”. In other words, if letting your pet share the bed improves sleep, then Junge says there’s no reason to shut the door on the idea.
As a life-long sufferer of anxiety, Arnold says having Groot curl up with her at night reduces her stress levels, offers comfort, and floods her with warm and fuzzy feelings. And when she nods off, she sinks into a deeper slumber and sleeps like a dream.