According to a recent study published in Human-Animal Interactions, owning a dog increases the likelihood of experiencing a sleep disorder and difficulty sleeping while owning a cat raises the risk of experiencing leg jerks.

The research, led by Lauren Wisnieski, PhD, assistant professor of public health and research and affiliation at Lincoln Memorial University, focused specifically on pet ownership in the US and drew upon data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2005 to 2006.

While the causal nature of pet ownership on sleep quality and sleep disorders was unable to be established, the results of the study are consistent with previous studies that found that pet ownership has a negative impact on sleep quality.

“Prior studies on the association between pet ownership and sleep quality and sleep disorders have varied results,” says Wisnieski in a press release. “On the one hand, dogs and cats may be beneficial for an owner’s quality of sleep due to the social support that pets provide; pets offer a sense of security and companionship, which may result in improvements in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. Yet, on the other hand, pets may disrupt their owners’ sleep.”

According to Wisnieski, the cross-sectional study aimed to determine if there is an association between dog and cat ownership and sleep quality and sleep disorders, while taking into account factors such as snoring, waking up during the night, reliance on sleep medication, and leg jerks.

The research built multi-variable logistic regression models that also included sleep quality factors such as feeling unrested, feeling sleepy, not getting enough sleep, taking longer than 15 minutes to fall asleep, and getting less than six hours of sleep on average.

Wisnieski suggests that the differences in the association of sleep quality and cat versus dog ownership may be because cats tend to be more active at night. Furthermore, she found that there were fewer differences in sleep quality indicators between cat and non-cat owners compared to dog and non-dog owners.

“If the causal relationship is established through further investigation, the results will have implications for clinician recommendations for treating patients with poor sleep quality,” says Wisnieski in a release. “Additionally, educational resources can be developed to inform pet owners about the risks of sleep disruptions and offer potential solutions, such as crating the pet or restricting access to the bedroom at night.”

The study concluded that there may be potential positive aspects of co-sleeping with a pet, but the data obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey did not state whether owners indeed slept with their dogs or cats.

“In the future, studies would benefit from measuring the human-animal bond so that we can understand how the strength of it affects quality of sleep,” Wisnieski says in the release.

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