House Pets May Cause Insomnia

Patient Expert

There are many positive reasons to have a pet. Pets become part of the family and are much loved. They also can bring a sense of safety and security to your home. But if you are dealing with insomnia and/or interrupted sleep and you have pets in your home, they may be the culprits that are causing your lack of sleep. At least that’s what John Shepard, M.D. found in a 2001 survey of 300 of his patients.

Shepard is the Medical Director at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. After working with countless individuals with their sleep problems, he was curious as to how having pets in the home, more specifically in the bedroom and/or in the bed with their owners, affected sleep.

His survey found that nearly 60 percent, of his patients that had either cats or dogs allowed them to sleep in the bedroom. Of this 60 percent, 57 percent of them allowed the pet to sleep on the bed.

Of those surveyed, 53 percent reported that their pets disturbed their sleep each night. Pet owners reported that 7 percent of their cats snored and 21 percent of their dogs snored.

As living creatures, animals grow to have their own individual sleep/wake cycles. Your feline does not think it odd to be walking along your dresser as you are just beginning to fall asleep. She does not wonder if she is disturbing your sleep as she chases things only she can see around the house at 3am. Likewise, Fido doesn’t think it’s odd that his collar and tag jingle, his nails click on the floor, or that returning a neighboring bark he hears from a block away is annoying at 2am. Since pets are so individual, for some, having a pet in your room or bed while trying to sleep can be likened to having a child with you.

In addition to nightly activities, when pets do settle down and sleep, they also go into REM sleep just like humans. This means they may yelp, whimper, move, twitch, or even bark at different intervals during the night.

If you have pets and are dealing with insomnia, interrupted sleep, or you just never feel rested, take note of what is going on around you. Within a week or two of monitoring what is keeping you from sleep, you may be surprised to learn that it truly is your pets that are causing the issue. If so, you must do what you can to alleviate the issue.

When it comes to sleep, you must make decisions that are in your best interest so you can feel healthy and rested. No one should feel they must get rid of a beloved pet simply because it snores or because it likes to prowl at night. However, changes should take place. At the very least, the pet should not be allowed on the bed.

The best scenario is to keep your pet out of your bedroom at night. This could mean moving your pet’s bed to another location in the home and confining him there, or simply shutting your bedroom door and letting the pet sleep where he wishes – even if it is right outside your door. With these changes in place, perhaps you and your pet will rest easier at night.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free two week online sleep training for insomnia. Over 2,500 insomniacs have completed his course and 98% of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.


"Dog Tired? It Could Be Your Pooch." ScienceDaily, February 15 2002. Accessed May 14, 2015.

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