My dog snores. People don’t often think about pets as a potential source of sleep disturbance. I will never forget a patient that I had several years ago that had headaches and problems sleeping. I asked all of the typical questions about her sleep hygiene and habits but nothing stood out, until my patient volunteered, “I think it’s my pig”. I looked up from my computer and asked her to repeat what she had said. She said again, “I think it’s my pig”. She then proceeded to take out her cell phone and show me a picture of her pet potbelly pig. My patient’s pig wasn’t exactly Wilbur-sized, but was almost as big as she was! It turns out that the pig slept in the bed with her and the pig kept her up all night by kicking her in his sleep. My patient’s pig had periodic limb movements! My solution for her sleep problems: remove the pig from her bed!
Snoring dogs and kicking pigs are just a few of the pet-related issues that may interfere with your sleep. How many of you have cats that love nothing more than to walk across your face as you lay in bed? And if you think hamster wheels are annoying during the day, try listening to them at 2:00 in the morning. Birds chirp sometimes even with the cage covered. Fish tanks, while wonderful to look at, can provide enough of a glow in the bedroom to disrupt sleep. Also, consider the neighbor’s barking dog and the rooster that crows in the middle of the night. How about a patient that I had recently that was disturbed because his pet tarantula did not eat all of the crickets he put in her cage and the chirping was driving him crazy??!! Pets can also serve as sources of allergens that may also cause symptoms that interfere with sleep.
The pets in your home are an important part of your medical history to share with your care provider. Our pets are part of our families and should be included as part of the environmental assessment. By volunteering information about the pig in your bed, you will be able to provide a more comprehensive picture that will help to develop your plan of treatment.