My cat, which is a very large breed of cat (8.5kg, the size of a small lamb), has slept at the foot of the bed for eight years. In the months leading up to “the event”, I noticed he had been making his way up the middle of the bed, which didn’t worry me as he slept between myself and my partner, which was kind of cute.
Then one night I was awoken by a massive weight on my head. I screamed and jumped up, but he remained on my pillow. I pushed him off the bed; and not long after he was back on the top of my pillow again trying to mount my head. Many months and fights later, I’ve now made him a spot between the pillow and the wall where he nestles and purrs me to sleep, thankfully accepting the compromise.
I’m just one of the estimated 54 per cent of pet owners who allows their pets to sleep with them. But a new study presented at the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in the US has declared it’s unhealthy and should be avoided. There are allergies that fester over time and there’s a high level of sleep disruption for close to 70 per cent of those with furry bed partners, which can lead to lower performance at work, lowered immunity and even depression.
Apparently, we are often woken unknowingly as a result of their dreams, shuffling, snores and jerks. (Sounds like some of my exes, really.)
I concur that head-sitting isn’t conducive to sleep, especially since my cat has started chewing my hair at 2am, but what makes up for the disturbances is that sleeping with him gives me a profound sense of peace and connection.
To have a loving, gentle creature near you as you sleep, making deep noises of appreciation, is bliss. Sometimes when I wake in the night, I drag my big baby under the covers and cuddle him, both of us purring till we go back to sleep. It’s a spiritual experience. And waking in the morning to his beautiful face makes me happy.
To love and be loved by an animal has been scientifically proven to have a curative effect. A landmark Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial in 2009 found that people who had owned a pet at some recent stage were 37 per cent less likely to die of a heart attack than those who hadn’t.
Pets lower blood pressure. The Mayo clinic recommends pet therapy for cancer sufferers, the aged, and in children’s hospitals to aid healing.
While scientists battle it out, we millions who sleep with animals know the truth: the benefits far outweigh the cost.
ruthostrow.com; Twitter @OstrowRuth
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