I’m a cuddle monster. I’ve been a cuddle monster since I was very, very little. In the video of my first day of kindergarten, you can see me casually lean against my aunt until my entire body is against hers. There’s just something about getting all snuggled up with someone that gets me, every time. I always thought it was because I’m a natural-born hedonist, but apparently there are some major health benefits to cuddling, too.
“Cuddling is such a great way for couples to connect!” Sarah Watson, LPC and CST, tells Bustle. “Body to body touch release oxytocin, which helps us bond, and can lower anxiety, depression and blood pressure. I recommend cuddling to increase intimacy with your partner. Cuddling doesn't have to led to physical intimacy, but it could if you wanted it to. Cuddling is bonding and relaxing. Make time to connect and cuddle!”
And while cuddling in the summer months can make you feel like you’re going to drown in sweat, the winter months are basically made for cuddling. Cooler temperatures mean not only are you more inclined to snuggle up to your boo (or, you know, whomever) but you’re also probably spending more time inside. So grab your comfiest sweats, sink into your favorite part of the couch, put something on Netflix, and enjoy these seven health benefits of cuddling.
1It Releases Oxytocin
As Dr. Watson mentioned, a lot of the health benefits from cuddling are directly related to the oxytocin boost it gives you. Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” because it’s triggered by all the love stuff: kissing, cuddling, having sex. When you’re cuddled up with someone, your brain releases more oxytocin than it would when you’re, say, cleaning or working or doing anything else not love-related.
2It Promotes Bonding
The first health benefit of oxytocin that scientists isolated was that it’s released in order to promote bonding between women and their babies. But it turns out it’s not just great for mother/child bonding — it’s also excellent for connecting more strongly with a romantic partner.
3It Eases Stress
Cuddling eases stress by releasing oxytocin, which is like an all natural anti-anxiety medication. But it’s also a time that your body is relaxed and comfortable; a break from the hectic nature of most people’s daily lives. Finally, we’re usually doing other relaxing things when we cuddle — watching TV on the couch, lying in bed — and taking time for breaks like that is great for stress levels, too.
4It Helps You Sleep
This one might seem like a “duh,” but cuddling helps you fall asleep. There’s the obvious — you’re comfy in bed, so falling asleep is the next natural thing — but then our old friend oxytocin also comes into play. One 2003 study from researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry found that oxytocin promoted sleep in the brains of mice. There was one caveat, however: It had to be under stress-free conditions. So maybe in order to get this benefit you should make sure not fight in bed? (I mean, that’s generally good life advice, anyway.)
5It Boosts Your Immune System
In addition to oxytocin, cuddling also releases the “happy hormone” serotonin. Those two together work to boost your immune system. One 2014 study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who hugged more were less likely to contract a cold after being exposed to the cold virus and that those who did get sick had less severe symptoms. I don’t know about you, but I think getting regular hugs sounds a whole lot nicer than drinking Emergen-C every day.
6It Improves Your Heart Health
Stress is really, really bad for your health. And guess what body part it’s super bad for you? You got it — your heart. But one study from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill researchers that included 100 adults found that a brief hug followed by holding hands while watching a 10-minute video was associated with lower blood pressure and heart rate, when compared with people who didn’t hug and hold hands. If that’s possible in 10 minutes, imagine what an entire afternoon of Netflix and actually chilling might do??
7It Boosts Your Sexual And Relationship Satisfaction
And, last but certainly not least, cuddling boosts your sexual and relationship satisfaction — especially if you have kids. A University of Toronto Mississauga published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2014 found that cuddling more after sex was associated with higher sexual and relationship satisfaction, even three months after the study period. The study also found that effects were more pronounced for women than men and that couples with children reported even higher benefits than childless couples.
I didn’t need any more excuses to love cuddling. It’s hands down one of my favorite activities. But the next time my boyfriend insists that he’s “too hot” to cuddle me (which, granted, is definitely my fault — I heat up like an old fashioned radiator as soon as he touches me), I’m going to whip out these health benefits of cuddling. You gotta love science, amirite?