Sleeping With the Enemy: Pets, Kids, and Partners

dogs on the bed

Those big puppy dog eyes are begging for a snuggle. It’s almost impossible to say no to your cozy little dog, all curled up next to you under the covers—almost as hard as it is to say no to your 5-year-old who’s scared in the middle of the night. And very few of us can deny a spouse who has just as much of a right to the master bed as you do. But sleeping companions can dramatically reduce the quality of your sleep in myriad ways. Each time they move, you’re disturbed. Every snuffle or snore, chortle or blanket snatch interrupts your precious sleep. If you happen to be a light sleeper or suffer from any form of insomnia, those disruptions can rob you of hours of sleep every night as you lay there staring at the ceiling, worrying about bills or work. Long-term, that can have serious implications for your health. So what do you do? How do you reclaim your bedroom sanctuary? Here are some ideas.

Give pets a cozy bed of their very own. Pets may love sleeping next to you, but in this relationship, you’re the boss. Set up a special area for pets where they can feel comfortable. It might take some getting used to, but, despite that old dog cliché, animals can learn new habits. Use food rewards to sweeten the deal. Like in business, positive reinforcement works with pets and with kids (more on that below).

kids in bed with parents

Help kids understand where you’re coming from. Older kids can be reasonable people if they’re given a chance. Tell your children that sharing a bed is affecting your sleep and your health. It may help to describe how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep—that you’re more irritable and less reasonable (read: less likely to say yes to a sleepover or a candy bar). If your kids are younger, try to get them into the habit of going to sleep in their own beds. Like with the pets, there may be an adjustment period, but it’s healthy for kids to have their own space, and to feel safe there. As always, a good mattress will help.

Your spouse loves you and wants to protect your health. It may feel scary to sleep in separate beds but it doesn’t have to mean you have a problem with your relationship. In fact, many couples who sleep separately report that they enjoy more intimacy than co-sleeping partners. If you’re worried, schedule in some cuddle time.

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