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The prevalence and implications of human–animal co-sleeping in an Australian sample
journal contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Bradley SmithBradley Smith, Kirrilly ThompsonKirrilly Thompson, Larissa ClarksonLarissa Clarkson, Drew DawsonDrew Dawson
Sleep research is characterized by an interest in humans, with the realm of animal sleep left largely to ethologists and animal scientists. However, the lives of sleep-study participants and those with sleep problems frequently involve animals. For the majority of the population in developed countries who own pets, their waking lives are impacted by the duties of animal care and ownership. For many, their sleeping lives are also impacted through sharing their bedrooms or their beds with pets. Yet, little is known about the prevalence of human–animal co-sleeping relationships or their impact on sleep. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and implications of human–animal co-sleeping in an Australian sample. The study uses data collected from the 2012 Sealy Sleep Census, a national online survey of sleep wellness that included a sample of 10,128 after data cleaning. The population of respondents (aged 18–74) who co-slept with pets (n = 1,018 or 10% of the sample) was then matched to a sample of respondents who did not co-sleep with pets, according to gender and age. Those who co-slept with pets took longer to fall asleep (p = 0.029), were more likely to wake up tired (p = 0.025), and although they were not more likely to wake up due to a disturbance, those who did had a greater chance of being disturbed by dog barking/animals making noises (p < 0.001). However, there were no significant differences found in total self-reported sleep length or feelings of tiredness during the day. The continued practice of co-sleeping with pets suggests that there may be some benefits such as social support and social interaction, and increased feelings of personal security. The survey provides a preliminary understanding of the prevalence and implications of human–animal co-sleeping, and highlights areas for further examination of its implications on sleep research and clinical practice.