Any pet parent knows that our fuzzy companions are more than just animals —they’re truly part of the family. On the plus side, that means shared love, affection, and companionship. But just like our other relatives, our favorite furballs can do their fair share to wreak havoc on our sleep.
How pets can disrupt your sleep
“Of course a pet can disrupt your sleep,” says Russell Hartstein, pet expert and CEO of Los Angeles celebrity dog training company Fun PawCare. “A dog can snore, or dream—or if you’re a light sleeper, you can wake up if your dog is tossing and turning.” Hartstein adds, “Some dogs are quiet as a mouse and you don’t hear them, but it’s like a partner: Your partner might be tossing and turning and stealing the covers from you. Same goes for a pet.”
My own little guy, a three-year-old rat terrier named Sonny, has done his fair share of kicking me during a nap while dreaming or burrowing in the blankets at 4 a.m. until he gets into his preferred position. Fortunately, with the help of my very patient vet and suggestions about getting him into his own bed (more on that later), my pup and I are both getting our rest these days. (Learn about melatonin for dogs and if it’s safe.)
How to keep your pet from ruining your sleep
Is your furry friend getting in the way of your own sleep? Here are some expert-approved suggestions for how to improve both your nights.
Analyze your sleep
Feeling more groggy than usual? You may have to evaluate whether your four-legged family member is to blame. “Only you can tell how the quality of your sleep is,” Hartstein says. “Are you tired throughout the day? Waking up constantly due to your pet snoring, dreaming, repositioning, or farting?” It might be time for rethink Fido’s sleeping arrangements.
If you’re seriously struggling with sleep, or getting less than the ideal amount of rest due to noises like barking or a jingling bell collar, it’s probably best not to sleep with your pet.
Related: The case for sleeping with dogs
Set new boundaries
Just because you opt not to cuddle with your pet at night doesn’t mean you have to go to the most drastic option of kicking them out of the bedroom too. You can initially take the less extreme step of moving your dog or cat to another bed right next to yours instead, Hartstein says. Worried you’ll step on Spike in the middle of the night? Maybe a corner of the bedroom is a better bet.
To make the shift, you first want to buy an uber-comfortable bed for your dog or cat. Then you’ll either want to cuddle with him or her on it or place an item of clothing, like a shirt or sock, that has your scent on it on the bed to ease the transition, Hartstein says. “Often a parent’s scent will make your dog or cat much more comfortable there,” he says. You can work with training to cue them to sit or go to their “comfortable spot” and reward them with treats for doing so.
Don’t encourage bad behavior
If your pet has made a habit of waking you up at inconvenient hours to get what he wants, only for you to cave, you’ll likely have to do some course correcting. For example, if a cat is rousing you because he wants food or attention—and he’s getting enough during the day—you’ll have to resist the temptation to give in and start a habit. This type of boundary setting can go a long way to nixing the offending behavior, Hartstein says. Of course, more extreme behavior issues or any health concerns that wake you up may mean a larger conversation with your vet or expert instead.
Related: Why does my dog sleep like that?
Keep it clean
Inviting your pet into bed might mean that some other unwelcome stuff ends up there too. “Dogs don’t exactly wear sneakers when they go outside—the same goes for outdoor cats,” Hartstein says. That means dirt and germs from the outdoors might inadvertently make their way into your sheets alongside your pet. You can partly combat this by wiping your pet’s paws and/or backside after they come in from outdoors, designating a separate blanket just for your furry family member, or keeping up with a more frequent sheet-washing schedule.
Protect others’ rest too
If it’s not you, but others in your family, who are missing out on sleep because of your pets, employing some ingenuity could make sure they’re not disturbed. To try to cut down on dogs barking when they hear a doorbell and potentially rousing a sleeping baby, place a sign on your door asking guests to text or call rather than buzzing. If an elderly relative is regularly awoken by a playing dog or cat, try keeping them in another part of the house, or put a white noise machine or fan in the snoozing person’s bedroom. For those who are old enough, earplugs can also go a long way.
Bottom line: Your sleep tolerance and your pet’s personality will ultimately dictate what works best for you—and you can fine-tune from there. “[Your sleep situation] depends on the individual human and the individual pet,” Hartstein says. “There is no right or wrong answer. The dog or cat is an individual just like a human is.”
Next, learn how one woman overcame insomnia by making a few key lifestyle changes.