Letting dogs onto the bed could help people living with chronic pain sleep better and ease feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
A new study from the University of Alberta reveals that letting a dog sleep with chronic pain sufferers can help them. The findings are contrary to the commonly-held advice prescribed by doctors.
“Typically, people who have pain also have a lot of sleep problems, so usually if they ask their health-care provider about a pet, they’re told to get the pet out of the bedroom. But that standard advice can actually be damaging,” researcher Cary Brown of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine told Folio.
A small study published earlier this year of people who suffered long-term chronic pain found that getting some shut-eye with their dogs was “overwhelmingly positive” for them, Brown said.
“They liked the physical contact with their dogs—cuddling before bed, and how it distracted them from feeling anxious about being alone at night. They felt more relaxed and safer so they weren’t anxious as they were trying to sleep.”
This, in turn, helped people sleep better.
“A sense of relaxation and caring are emotions that release positive hormones in our bodies that will help us sleep better,” said Brown.
Pets also created a bedtime and daytime routine that was beneficial for an individual’s activity and for social connections. Brown said that people with long-term pain often have a lot of “losses in social circles” and adds that a pet can take on “a very significant role”.
Brown said that the study challenges traditional advice and that further study is needed.
“We shouldn’t jump to simplistic thinking, that getting rid of the pet will make everything fine. We need to think more carefully about helping the patient weigh the pros and cons and make that decision for themselves, instead of being told. They shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about prioritizing a pet relationship over the professional advice they’ve been given.”
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