Cuddling is an inherent expression of affection in all humans. A child naturally curls into their mother’s side while sleeping. Cuddling provides our bodies with a sense of security and familiar comfort as we let our guard down while we doze off, experts say. Cuddling while sleeping not only helps you sleep better but has other benefits too.
Does cuddling have any health benefits? Why do individuals prefer cuddling when sleeping with their loved ones?
Cuddling while sleeping improves sleep quality
“It is natural human instinct to seek physical touch and closeness with others, and cuddling is one way to satisfy that need in a safe and comforting way. Cuddling evokes feelings of affection and emotional connection between two people. People cuddle while spooning in bed, sitting on a couch and holding hands or resting their heads on each other’s shoulders,” said Nithya J Rao, a Bengaluru-based psychologist and co-founder at Heart It Out.
“Cuddling with a partner can promote feelings of safety and security, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. The physical touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which is known to promote feelings of closeness and bonding,” said Rao.
Rao added, “Cuddling can also improve sleep quality by reducing stress and promoting relaxation. When you feel safe and secure with your partner, it can be easier to let go of the day’s worries and fall asleep more easily.”
Anusha Shetty (21), an engineering graduate from Mangaluru, says, “Cuddling is the most organic form of expressing affection. To date, I get the best sleep when I cuddle my mother. It instantly makes me feel better and calmer and I fall asleep immediately.”
Reducing stress and anxiety in children
“The first four months after birth are also known as the fourth trimester of the baby. In this period, there is the warmth of skin-to-skin connection, which gives them a feeling of security. Touch gives a child reassurance. This bonding benefits the child in the long-term like building self-confidence, social relationships and dealing with stressors more effectively,” said Dr Gowri, a development physician, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru.
She added, “In children, while adapting to sleep on their own, they may have certain fears or bad dreams. The skin-to-skin contact with parents gives them the assurance they badly need during these fearful times. Sometimes, cuddling soft toys gives that assurance. Hence, some children are addicted to specific toys or blankets.”
Other benefits of cuddling
Boosts our mood
Physical touch and intimacy can also release endorphins, which are known to boost mood and reduce feelings of pain and discomfort. Cuddling can be especially beneficial for individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety.
Cuddling can also help strengthen romantic relationships by promoting intimacy and closeness. Sharing physical touch and affection can help partners feel more connected to one another and improve overall relationship satisfaction.
An unfortunate side effect
According to research published in Europe PMC, in the year 2020, when couples cuddle and sleep during the night, there are chances of occurrence of “Honeymoon Palsy“. This occurs due to prolonged and direct pressure on the upper arm, which compresses the radial nerve. This compression then leads to nerve palsy (paralysis accompanied by tremors).
Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety which promotes relaxation and helps an individual sleep better. In children, the physical touch of their mothers gives them a feeling of security and bonding and helps them overcome their certain fears as toddlers. This habit helps children sleep better during the night.