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The Health Benefits of Owning a Cat or Dog as Proven by Science

A new study published in the journal Human-Animal Interactions shows that your pets may be to blame for sleep disturbances and leg cramps during the night.

The study, led by Dr. Lauren Wisniewski of Lincoln Memorial University in the US, focused on pet ownership in the US. It was based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) conducted in 2005–2006.

The studies included data on 5,000 people, 51.7% of whom were women and 48.3% men.

Dr. Wisniewski, assistant professor of public health, research and communications, found that having a dog was associated with a higher risk of disturbed sleep and sleep problems, and having a cat was associated with a higher risk of leg cramps.

While it has been recognized that pets provide a “sense of security and camaraderie” that can be comforting to owners, the results clearly show that they impair the overall quality of sleep.

Although a causal relationship of pet ownership to sleep quality and sleep disturbances has not been established, the results of the study are consistent with previous studies that have shown that pet ownership negatively impacts sleep quality.

Dr. Wisniewski said: “Previous research on the relationship between pet ownership, sleep quality, and sleep disturbances has yielded mixed results. On the one hand, dogs and cats may be beneficial to owner sleep quality due to the social support that pets provide. Pets provide a sense of security and camaraderie, which can lead to “it can reduce levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. However, on the other hand, pets can disturb their owners’ sleep.”

“This study aims to determine if there is an association between dog and cat ownership, sleep quality and sleep disturbances, including consideration of aspects such as snoring, nocturnal awakenings, need for sleeping pills and leg tremors.”

The study built multivariate logistic regression models that also included sleep quality factors such as feeling restless, feeling sleepy, not getting enough sleep, falling asleep for more than 15 minutes and averaging less than six hours of sleep.

Dr. Wisniewski suggested that the differences in sleep quality and cat ownership versus dog ownership could be because cats tend to be more active at night.

What’s more, the team found that there were fewer differences in sleep quality scores between cat owners and non-cat owners compared to dog owners and non-dog owners.

Overall, dog owners have been shown to have more sleep problems, sleep disturbances, sleep apnea, anxiety, feelings of sleepiness, lack of sleep, need for sleeping pills, and leg cramps compared to non-dog owners.

Meanwhile, cat owners were more likely to snore, have trouble sleeping and have leg cramps than non-cat owners.

Dr. Wisniewski added: “If further investigation proves a causal relationship, the results will be relevant to medical recommendations for treating patients with poor sleep quality. In addition, educational resources can be developed to educate pet owners about the risks of sleep disturbances and offer solutions, such as restricting access to the bedroom at night.

In conclusion, the study acknowledges that co-sleeping with a pet may have potential benefits, but the data from NHANES does not say whether owners actually slept with their dogs or cats.

Dr. Wisniewski added: “In the future, it will be useful for research to measure the human-animal bond so we can better understand how its strength affects the quality of sleep.”

Source: Medical Express


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