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How having a dog or cat causes sleep problems

It can be as bad for you as noisy neighbors, living on a busy road or having a baby.

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By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Having a dog or cat causes sleep problems, according to new research.

It can be as bad for you as noisy neighbors, living on a busy road or having a baby.

Owners have more restless nights than those who don't keep an animal companion, say scientists.

A study of around 5,000 Americans found dog owners were linked with disorders such as snoring that disrupt peaceful shut-eye.

Cat owners were associated with a higher chance of having leg cramps and spasms.

It opens the door to potential treatments for insomnia. The UK is among the most sleep-deprived nations in the world.

Three-in-four adults don't get the required seven hours a night - with many falling well short.

Over half of British households own at least one pet - mostly dogs or cats.

Lead author Dr. Lauren Wisnieski, of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, said the causes were unable to be established.

But the differences in symptoms may be due to cats tending to be more active at night.

The findings are consistent with previous studies that have identified a similar phenomenon.

Wisnieski said: "Prior studies on the association between pet ownership and sleep quality and sleep disorders have varied results.

"On the one hand, dogs and cats may be beneficial for an owner's quality of sleep due to the social support that pets provide.

"Pets offer a sense of security and companionship, which may result in improvements in levels of anxiety, stress and depression.

"Yet on the other hand, pets may disrupt their owners' sleep.

"This cross-sectional study aimed to determine if there is an association between dog and cat ownership and sleep quality and sleep disorders – including consideration of aspects such as snoring, waking up during the night, needing pills to sleep and leg jerks."

The study in Human-Animal Interactions drew upon data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted in 2005-2006.

It was based on computer models that took into account factors such as feeling unrested, sleepy, not getting enough sleep, taking longer than 15 minutes to nod off and getting less than six hours of sleep on average.

There were more differences in the indicators between dog and non-dog owners than their cat counterparts.

Wisnieski added: "If the causal relationship is established through further investigation, the results will have implications for clinician recommendations for treating patients with poor sleep quality.

"Additionally, educational resources can be developed to inform pet owners about the risks of sleep disruptions and offer potential solutions, such as crating the pet or restricting access to the bedroom at night."

In conclusion, the study recognizes that there may be potential positive aspects of co-sleeping.

But the data obtained from NHANES did not state whether owners indeed slept with their dogs or cats.

Wisnieski said: "In the future, studies would benefit from measuring the human-animal bond, so that we can understand how the strength of it affects quality of sleep."

Recent research found cat owners lose around 728 hours of sleep in the first year of having the pet.

Another study revealed that during the first two weeks of bringing a new pup home, more than a third (35%) of 'pawrents' lost at least three to six hours of sleep each night.

The findings for parents with an infant was similar - with an average of three hours lost a night for both "pawrents" and new parents.

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