Whether you always sleep with your pet, or only warm to the idea on a cold winter’s night, your furry water-bottle may be giving you more than just a cuddle. Studies indicate that there are a great number of health risks related to sleeping with pets, ranging from the irritating through to the potentially deadly.

Zoonotic diseases are transmitted directly from animals to humans. Two diseases of some concern are H1N1 influenza (or swine flu) and MRSA skin infections (a type of staph infection). While these sound impressively scary, the chance of contracting them is very low — in fact, you are more likely to catch a serious disease from a human. However, if your immune system is already compromised, it is advised that you should keep all pets out of the bed.

Asthma and allergies are the conditions that pose the greatest risk. Pet dander and saliva cause allergic reactions in many people. Dander also sticks to surfaces, making it extremely difficult to remove. If you suffer severely from such an allergy, you probably already know about it. However, many people suffer from milder levels of allergy and have no idea. Allergies often cause or exacerbate bouts of asthma.

If you think you might have an allergy, one way to find out is to thoroughly clean your bedroom. This might require a professional cleaning of your mattress, or buying a new mattress altogether. Then banish all pets from the room for a week or so. If still in doubt, see your GP.

A 2014 study concluded that 63 percent of people who slept with their pets for more than four nights per week experienced interrupted sleep. Short-term fatigue, drowsiness, and poor concentration can, in the longer term, lead to heart disease, diabetes or stroke. Removing the pets from the bedroom is always a good thing to try. A pet in the bed may help you get to sleep, but they may also be disturbing your REM sleep during the night. If you feel better the next day without them being in the bed, there’s your answer. But only you can be the judge.

Article Source; 1. What to do About Allergies, Harvard Health Publications, October 2009. 2. SLEEP 2014 28th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Duthuluru S, Krahn L. 2014