Should you share your bed with your pet?

(CBS NEWS) It's one of the great debates among pet owners: should you let your dog or cat sleep on the bed? Some germophobes would never consider it, while others love snuggling up with their pet at the end of the day.

One concern, however, has been whether sharing a bed with your pet may disturb your sleep. Many sleep specialists advise against it. But a recent study from the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona could help lay those fears to rest.

The researchers surveyed 150 sleep center patients and found that more than half of pet owners allowed their pets to sleep in the bedroom. One out of five described their pets as disruptive, but many others -- 41 percent -- said their pets were unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep.

"If having a pet nearby helps them feel relaxed and gives them a sense of security, which permits them to fall asleep with less difficulty, then I think that is something that does deserve attention," the lead author of the study, Dr. Lois Krahn, told CBS News.

Before letting a pet into your bed, Krahn suggested a few things to consider.

"They need to know how well they sleep as a person and how well the pet sleeps," she said. "Take into account the size of the pet."

The size of the bed and the number of pets also play into whether the animals are likely to disrupt a good night's sleep. And of course, before dogs or cats climb up on the covers, it's important to make sure the animals are clean and free of fleas.

This study did not look at whether different types of pets, or different breeds, were more disruptive than others. Krahn and her colleagues say they hope to investigate that in the future.

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