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Brandon Peters, M.D.

30 Days to Better Sleep: Lock the Pets Out of the Bedroom

By January 3, 2013

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In order to continue the advances made to create an ideal sleep environment, there is one additional heart-wrenching task: lock the pets out of the bedroom.

Many people insist that they wouldn't be able to sleep without their faithful cat or dog nestled amid the covers. In fact, some might even suggest that this favored pet would be unable to sleep without their human companions. If this sounds like a dependent relationship, it probably is, but it doesn't have to be.

You have been able to sleep without your pet and, much to your personal chagrin no doubt, your pet can sleep without you. In fact, you will probably sleep better without each other's presence. Why might this be so?

First, you are bound to awaken more in the night with a pet present in your bed. It is natural to have awakenings from sleep. Unfortunately, when there are more people or animals in a small space, these awakenings will become disruptive and the causes can run the gamut. Your dog may start scratching its ear. Your cat may walk across your pillow to get to the other corner of the bed. A noise may provoke barking or meows. There may even be pleas for food or a trip outside. If you have multiple animals, a fight may even break out in the night! Bottom line: it is a disturbance that you don't need.

Animals also inevitably introduce pet dander into the sleep environment. If you are prone to allergies or asthma, this fur may disrupt your breathing. You may have worsened snoring or even breathing problems such as upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) or sleep apnea as a result. Though you may not be able to sneeze during sleep, it may keep you awake.

Depending on the size of your pets, they may also restrict your movement during sleep. If you feel like you can't change positions without disturbing your companion animal, you may subconsciously be still. If you are sleeping on your back, you may put yourself at risk of sleep apnea as well.

You will have to consider your own needs. If you sleep soundly, it may not ultimately bother you to have your pet in the bedroom. However, if you suffer from difficulty falling or staying asleep (a condition known as insomnia), then you should make your bedroom a space that is best for sleep.

If you are seeking ways to sleep better, put your pets outside the bedroom door and close it tight. They will sleep more soundly - and so will you.

Check out the entire series, "How to Sleep Better in 30 Days."

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