Dog and Cat Keeping You Awake at Night? How to Catch Those Elusive Zzz's

Cat and woman in bed
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Many people can't seem to get a good night's sleep, and they already have stress, caffeine or snoring spouses to blame. But researchers at Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine are finding another surprising reason behind those tired eyes: dogs and cats.

More than half of the people coming to the famous Rochester, Minn., medical center for help sleeping reported sharing their bedrooms — and often their beds — with pets. The physicians started by recommending they toss the pets out, but that doesn't fly for most animal lovers.

Top veterinarians say there are other options: Keep your pets clean, keep them lean and get them on your sleep cycle. With help from your veterinarian, you'll be soon be enjoying sleep instead of counting sheep.

Getting pets on the same sleep cycle can actually be fun, says Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ontario. When a pet sleeps all day, it's no surprise that the animal wants to play all night. Dr. Landsberg says exercising pets — both physically and mentally — will help them to settle down when you do.

Dr. Landsberg says pet owners can enjoy keeping their pets active. That means shared physical activity — play, in other words — but it also should include keeping cats and dogs busy when you're not home.

"That can be as simple as giving pets their meals out of feeding toys," says Landsberg. "You want something that will give them food rewards as they chew on it, or roll a ball and food falls out. These can keep their brains and bodies quite occupied."

And when they nudge you in the night? Dr. Landsberg says if their medical, physical and mental needs have been addressed, you should ignore them. Otherwise, your pets will get the idea that you'll play with them whenever they want.

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