"Children view their pets as close friends and seek comfort from them when trying to sleep," scientists from Concordia University explain.

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Parents know that anything from a lullaby to a bedtime story can help kids drift off to sleep for the night, but these aren't the only things you can do to ensure your little ones are logging quality shut eye each night. According to a new study from Concordia University scientists, both small children and teenagers can benefit from falling asleep next to the family pet; doing so is said to help them calm their "nighttime fears."

sleeping dog in bed with young boy
Credit: ipolonina / Getty Images

Before starting their experiment, the team of researchers initially thought that kids sleeping with the family pet, particularly a cat or dog, would experience the ebb and flow of calming sleep because of the animals' "nocturnal activity, the noises they emit, or by exacerbating respiratory problems." As it turns out, though, pets don't inhibit quality sleep at all: Animal owners actually had the opposite impression, as they found the noises and presence of their pets to be "comforting and relaxing."

To truly decode how this co-sleeping impacted children, the scientists sent questionnaires to the parents of 188 participants between the ages of 11 and 17. The kids also had a hand in the experiment when the team measured their brain waves, blood oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing, and eye and leg movements for one night. Plus, the volunteers wore a wrist tracker to record rest-activity cycles and noted their sleep patterns each day for two weeks. The researchers found that their sleep wasn't disrupted from the animals since "children who reported sharing their beds with their pets had sleep profiles similar to those who did not." This type of sleep routine with pets could also be beneficial for kids and teens since "the presence of a pet may be less intrusive to children who are smaller and have more space available in their beds" than adults.

"Children view their pets as close friends and seek comfort from them when trying to sleep," the scientists said. "It is possible the practice may be positive or negative depending on strength of attachment to the pet, presence of anxiety or sleep problems, consistency of sleep routine, or pet characteristics."

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