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Here’s How Pets Can Help Reduce Stress for Better Rest

By: SleepScore Labs  |  April 8th, 2019

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” – Bernard Williams  

Fluffy and Fido can truly make our lives go round. They provide companionship, undeniable loyalty, and often put smiles on our faces even on the worst of days. Pets are not only fun to have around, research shows thathey can help us feel our best just by being there for us. But first, let’s look at the relationship between stress and sleep. 

How does stress impact sleep? 

You can probably relate to what’s called the sleep-stress cycle. You feel stressed out, and as you’re mulling things over in your mind before bed, you have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep. The next day, you feel exhausted, which only compounds your already stressed mind. Rinse and repeat, and soon you’re stuck in a bad cycle. Sound familiar?  

By finding healthy ways to de-stress, like playing with your pet or however else you find relief, you’ll be able to get the quality sleep you need to feel great each day, no matter what life throws at you! 

Do pets help relieve stress? 

When was the last time you came home from work and immediately went in for a cuddle and some play time with your pet pal? It’s probably not just because you love them. You may have also been looking for a way to relieve some stress and feel happy! In a 2016 survey from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. 

There’s also been an uptick in therapy dogs being utilized for stress and anxiety, and for good reason.  

“Dogs are very present,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving. Their attention is focused on the person all the time.” 

How do pets help us relieve stress? 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that humans actually show biological responses during human-animal interactions. These include reduction in stress, fear, and anxiety, and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.  

Our four-legged companions not only help with stress and anxiety, they can also help us cope with other mental health problems. A 2016 study found that animals as companions can help us with our social relationships. Pets appear to be a catalyst for getting to know people, forming friendships, and building general social interactions.  

It looks like they really do make us feel pawesome! 

Should I share the bed with my pet? 

According to a recent Pillow Talk Poll, 35% of SleepScore members say they sleep with their animal companion.  

While they do provide a great deal of comfort and relaxation, SleepScore experts recommend keeping Sparky out of your sleep sanctuary and in a space or bed of his own.  

Pets can cause too many awakenings and sleep disturbances through the night, leaving you feeling groggy in the morning. Plus, they tend to be bed hogs and could leave you feeling cramped or without blankets in the wee hours of the morning.  

As we celebrate and recognize Stress Awareness Month in April and National Pet Day on the 11th, we encourage you to take the time to value the happy feelings your pet brings you.  

If you don’t have a pet at home, you can visit a local shelter to get your puppy fix, or borrow a friend’s pal for a few hours. They might be just what you need to de-stress and feel better mentally!  

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