Dogs increase your risk of a sleep disorder – while cats boost the chance of leg jerks, study finds 

Struggling to sleep? Your PET could be to blame! Dogs increase your risk of interrupted slumber – while cats boost the chance of leg jerks, study finds

  • Although pets can provide a ‘sense of security’, they negatively affect sleep
  • The largest sleep differences were seen between dog and non-dog owners 
  • Snoring, abruptly waking up and a need for sleeping pills were factored in

Your beloved pets could be to blame for more restless nights, leg jerks and even sleep disorders, experts have claimed.

New research has shown that dog owners are more likely to have sleeping disorders than those without a pup, while cat owners are associated with more leg jerks throughout the night.

Snoring, abruptly waking up and needing sleeping pills were among the factors considered in the study by US scientists at Lincoln Memorial University.   

Although it was recognised that pets offer ‘a sense of security and companionship’ that may relax owners, results clearly showed they worsened sleeping quality overall.

While pets can provide a ‘sense of security’, scientists say they negatively affect sleep overall (stock image)

How your pet can disrupt your sleep 


  • More trouble with sleeping
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Sleep apnea
  • Feeling unrested
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Needing pills to sleep
  • Having leg jerks 


  • Snoring
  • Trouble with falling asleep/ sleeping
  • Leg jerks

Dr Lauren Wisnieski, who led the study, said: ‘Prior studies on the association between pet ownership and sleep quality and sleep disorders have varied results.

‘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.’ 

For its analysis, the study drew upon data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted in 2005-2006.

Around 5,500 perspectives were examined, 51.7 per cent of who were females and 48.3 per cent males.

Sleep quality differences were shown to be most drastic between dog and non-dog owners compared with cat and non-cat owners. 

Overall, dog owners were shown to have more trouble with sleeping, sleeping disorders, sleep apnea, feeling unrested, feeling sleepy, not getting enough sleep, needing pills to sleep, and having leg jerks compared to non-dog owners.

Meanwhile, cat owners were more likely to snore, have trouble with falling asleep/ sleeping, and leg jerks compared to non-cat owners. 

Snoring, abruptly waking up and a need for sleeping pills were factored into the study conducted by scientists at Lincoln Memorial University in the US

Snoring, abruptly waking up and a need for sleeping pills were factored into the study conducted by scientists at Lincoln Memorial University in the US

Dr Wisnieski suggested that this could be down to cats being more active at night, but the true cause was not established. 

She added: ‘If the causal relationship is established through further investigation, the results will have implications for clinician recommendations for treating patients with poor sleep quality.

‘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.’

Despite its findings, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona previously found that letting pets rest with you in the bedroom may help sleep.

Study author Dr Lois Krahn from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said: ‘We found that many people find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.

‘Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that.’

Tips for sleeping with your pet dog: 

The Sleep Foundation has released a list of tips for sleeping with a dog for those that choose to do so.

They say whether or not someone shares a bed with a dog is their personal decision, but they should be aware of the pros and cons.

How to share a bed with your dog:

  • Use a properly sized mattress – to avoid disturbances, make sure your mattress is large enough for both yourself and your dog;
  • Wash sheets and bedding regularly – This good hygiene will help ensure there are no unwanted germs in the bed. Should your pet spend time outside, it may also be worth wiping down their paws to keep dirt and pests out of the bedroom;
  • Keep up to date on vet visits – Keep your pet free from disease to protect yourself. Ensure they have the necessary vaccinations;
  • Do not let them lick your face – Licks on the face can be a major way that potentially dangerous illnesses are transferred;
  • Walk your pet before bed – this is recommended as it gives the animal one last chance to use the bathroom and burn off excess energy. This avoids the risk of them defecating in the bedroom, and may lead to fewer sleep disruptions;
  • Consistent bedtime – Just like humans, animals also have a circadian rhythm. Ensuring you go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day may help you and your pet stay in a relatively similar sleep pattern and avoid restless nights. 

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