I’m sure a lot of parents with pets love the idea of their kids cuddling up at night with a beloved furry family member. But as an insomniac I’m always concerned on the impact on the child’s sleep, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
In fact I’m definitely not alone because a study recently published in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation, led by Jennifer McGrath was undertaken to see if there was any impact on children’s sleep by having a pet in the bed. It seems to have been quite an exhaustively undertaken study involving wrist-worn sleep monitors, an in-home sleep study and a sleep journal kept by the children and it seems like the jury is in.
There is no negative effect on the quality of the child’s sleep and in fact the presence of their furry friend could provide better sleep quality as well as providing emotional and psychological benefits by being a comforting presence.
Dr. Carol Rosen, a professor emertus in pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine said she commonly sees kids in her practice who are having trouble falling sleep, staying asleep or having a poor quality of sleep. Bedtime fears and separation anxiety can be concerns. For older children, bullying or lifestyle issues, including late nights because of homework, sports or socializing may hamper sleep, Rosen said.From the article
“There’s a range of things that are a little bit different, why someone might have those problems if they’re toddlers, preschoolers, school age, [or] teenagers,” Rosen said.
Though it might be OK to let a child who needs comfort bring Fido or Fifi to bed, Rosen said if a “child’s really fearful or crying at night, then you probably want to talk to your paediatrician or think about seeing a sleep medicine specialist.”
So yes, feel free to allow your child to cuddle up with their beloved cat or dog, but of course the presence of your pet isn’t a substitution to proper intervention if they have more serious difficulties.