--Original published at Emily's college blog
Many Americans believe their pets play a significant role by being part of their family, but perhaps large numbers of people do not realize their pets can also play a role in positively affecting their sleep quality and sleep routines. Researchers from the Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation at Canisius College conducted a survey to explore the impacts pets have on human sleep quality. They restricted their online survey to female participants who resided in the United States and sent the survey to previous participants who had volunteered for their other experiments while also posting the survey on their Facebook page.
The researchers collected data from 962 adult women who were living in the United States and found 55% of participants shared their bed with at least one dog, while 31% of participants shared their bed with at least one cat, and 57% of participants shared their bed with a human partner.
Through the survey questions, the researchers were able to measure the sleep components tied to sleep quality deficits, the components that show signs of sleep deprivation. If the participant’s score exceeded five of the twenty-one components, an indication of sleep quality deficits was noted. Measurements of the average wake times and bedtimes, as well as the levels of comfort, security, and disturbance from pets were also noted.
In the results, the researchers found women who shared their bed with dogs had fewer sleep disturbances, as well as stronger feelings of comfort throughout the night than women who did not share their bed with their dog. It was also found that having a dog bed partner strengthens circadian rhythms, the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle which influences important bodily functions. The researchers explained that this could be due to dogs getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time every day.
Although dogs were found to have positive effects on pet owners who allowed them to sleep in their bed, there was no correlation between cats and a good night’s sleep or stronger circadian rhythms. In fact, cats actually had negative results for being equivalent or even more disturbing than human partners during the night. Cats also do not go to bed or wake up at the same time each day, thus they have no effect on their owner’s circadian rhythms.
A few cautions should be warned when discussing the results of this survey. First, 58% of the people who participated in the survey resided in the state of New York (where the researchers had conducted the survey). Since over half of their participants resided where the researchers were doing their research, the experiment could potentially be seen as biased to outsiders, since the results are supposed to represent all the women in the United States. Secondly, the researchers for this survey announced that more research is needed in order to show a stronger relationship between the sleep quality of pet owners and their dogs. Lastly, the researchers did not take into account the breeds of dogs that could be more likely to cause a better night’s sleep than another type of breed. For example, one breed could be known for snoring, kicking legs in their sleep, barking at noises in the middle of the night, etc.
Overall, this survey suggested an improved quality of sleep and comfort for women who shared their beds with their dogs, however, their findings did not support a strong enough relationship between dogs and sleep quality, so therefore more research is needed to better support the findings.
In my summary, I made sure to include information that would be important for answering all five critical questions for reading research. I wanted to make the research summary straightforward and easy to comprehend. This way, a non-psychologist would be able to understand the results and findings that were discussed. I did not include any p-values or the specific types of studies and methods that would be needed in order to find a stronger relationship between pets and sleep quality of humans. I did not want the reader to be confused by p-values or the numbers they represent. I also did not want to go into too much detail about what the future studies and methods would entail since it would be off topic from the summary findings.
The news article and my summary both discussed the percentages of participants in each group, the results from pet owners who slept with dogs versus those who slept with cats, the caution of not knowing which breeds would be a better sleep partner, and who conducted the survey. The news article, however, did not include information describing the selection of participants for the study, information describing the weak relationships in the results, or information describing the 58% of participants who resided where the research took place. They also excluded how the researchers measured the sleep and comfort quality of participants. I chose to include the information that was not in the pop culture article because I think excluding those points would establish assumptions and leave some unanswered questions about the research. Specifically, the information including how the researchers measured the women’s sleep quality, how they chose the participants, and how they assigned the participants into groups allows the reader to answer the five critical questions. From knowing those details of the experiment, the reader will know the participants were not randomly assigned to the experiment and were not randomly assigned into groups.
Writing about psychology research through these three assignments, has taught me that authors have the power to influence reader conclusions by choosing to exclude relevant information. By leaving out important information or being purposely biased towards an experiment, an author is able to potentially persuade a reader to his or her point of view. Also, in order to generate more readers, an author could also exaggerate the findings from an experiment or make generalized statements. I also learned about the difficulties associated with writing pop culture news articles. If a study is complex and requires some background knowledge in the field, it can be challenging for the author to write a short, engaging article for the reader to understand. Lastly, I learned to look for the critical questions in news articles discussing research experiments. If the article is missing adequate information to answer the questions, perhaps it is not a reliable source. Writing my own pop culture article demonstrated the power authors have in order to persuade viewpoints and generate readers, while also showing me the hard work in selecting information for the article as well as being aware of information a common reader will not understand.
Coren, Stanley. “Do Women Get Better Sleep Next to a Person or a Dog?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 24 Jan. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201901/do-women-get-better-sleep-next-person-or-dog, 27 January 2019.
Hoffman, Christy L., Stutz, Kaylee, and Vasilopoulos, Terri. “An Examination of Adult Women’s Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing.” Anthrozoös, Routledge, 13 November 2018, DOI: 10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354, 15 March 2019.