For the best sleep of your life, tell your partner to hightail it to the couch and cuddle up to Fido instead.
A recent study by researchers at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, suggests that women tend to sleep better next to dogs than they do next to members of their own species. (Or pet cats. Sorry, cat people.)
Led by associate professor Christy L. Hoffman ― a self-professed dog person (sure, go ahead, call out her blatant canine bias) ― the researchers surveyed 962 women living across the United States. Of this sample, 55 percent reported sharing their bed with at least one dog and 31 percent with at least one cat. Of those women, 57 percent also slept with a partner.
The participants filled out a questionnaire about their quality of sleep and how safe they felt as a result of their dog or cat’s presence. Those with partners were asked how the other person affected their sleep and their feelings of security at night.
After analyzing the data, Hoffman and her team found that human partners and cats were equally disruptive to a woman’s sleep, whereas dogs were less likely to wake their owners up.
Why’s that? Hoffman told HuffPost it might be because dog owners tend to have better sleep habits and stricter daily routines than than people who don’t have dogs: On the whole, dog owners had earlier bedtimes and wake-up times than women with cats.
“Dog owners have to adjust to their dogs’ needs to toilet each morning, and this helps keep dog owners on a relatively strict wake-up routine,” she said. “And dogs’ major sleep periods tend to coincide more closely with humans’ than do cats.”
Plus, Hoffman said, dogs as bed partners may adapt a bit more to their owners’ schedules than human partners do. (Such good boys.)
Pups also may provide women with a greater sense of safety than a cat would when sleeping.
“Some dog owners may take comfort in the thought that their dog will alert them in the case of an intruder or other type of emergency,” Hoffman said. “A cat is less likely to take on this role.”
Right. Good luck trying to train your kitty to meow aggressively if a stranger barges in.
If you’re scratching your head as to why women felt more safe with a dog on watch than a human partner, you’re not alone: It surprised Hoffman, too.
“I had thought participants would have rated their dogs and human partners similarly in terms of the comfort and security they provide, but surprisingly, the women rated their dog bed partners as better sources of comfort and security than human partners.”
Why focus on women alone for this study? A previous study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Arizona already found that all people who slept with a dog generally got better sleep. For this one, Hoffman and her team wanted to home in on women’s experiences because as a whole, the group tends to have poorer sleep quality than men.
There was a logistical reason, too: Though the study was open to everyone, less men were willing to participate than women. (The guys were probably too busy disrupting their partners’ sleep. Ahem.)