Do you and your partner regularly partake in spooning? Or are you and your partner part of the almost 50% of Americans who are secretly craving a sleep break-up from their partners? If you’re not a fan of soft words and snuggled conversations after sex, then you could be missing out on some wonderful benefits. In fact, research has found that embracing the power of touch and cuddling with your partner can have major mental and physical benefits for you, as well as lead to improvements in your relationship.
Why the need for cuddles?
Similar to hugging, curling up to your partner and getting lost in cuddles encourages the body to produce the hormone oxytocin. Often referred to as the love hormone (its levels also increase during orgasm), oxytocin influences social behavior and emotion by strengthening relationship bonds and boosting our mood. Additionally, it can also benefit our health in a number of other ways.
Funny enough, one study found that the hormone can help to positively affect men as it does women. Women experience the release of oxytocin during childbirth, which then helps to encourage bonding with the newborn. The study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, found that after being administered oxytocin via nasal spray, the new fathers experienced a greater bond with their infant.
Moreover, some women crave cuddling because it helps reassure them that they haven’t been used just for sex. As a result, some may believe that cuddling is more intimate than sex.
What are the benefits of post-sex cuddling?
1. Higher chances of relationship satisfaction
If you want to maintain the health and happiness of your relationship, then you may need to start cuddling more. The period after sexual activity is an incredibly vulnerable one. The intimacy shared during this period (or lack thereof) can have an impact on your relationship.
A 2015 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found a strong link between caressing, regular cuddling, and long-term relationship satisfaction in committed couples.
“The findings suggest that the period after sex is a critical time for promoting satisfaction in intimate bonds.” concluded the study.
What’s more, a separate study from the University of Hertfordshire found that 94% of couples who spent the night in contact with one another were happy with their relationship, compared to just 68% of those that didn’t touch or stay in close contact while sleeping.
2. Improved sleep
As mentioned, cuddling encourages the release of oxytocin, and this can help to improve your sleep patterns.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Wendy M. Troxel, an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, shared that, “Women in long-term stable relationships fell asleep more quickly and woke up less during the night than single women or women who lost or gained a partner during the six to eight years of the study.”
In regards to sleep disorders, sleep apnea is whereby breathing repeatedly stops and starts. However, research has found that oxytocin may serve to address issues associated with sleep apnea.
3. Increased affection
As mentioned, the power of touch and oxytocin is often associated with the mother and child bond. That said, cuddling with your partner, especially after sex, can increase your affection for them. However, it can also help to create an intimate bond.
This bond will make you more loving and affectionate towards your partner. Additionally, it can also allow you to connect more strongly with them.
4. Pain relief
Do you recall the moments in your childhood where you would find yourself on the ground with deep scrapes? Do you also remember how your mother would cuddle you and plant kisses on your bruises? How you would sigh at the relief of pain that brought? Well, it turns out that the pain relief your mother’s kisses and cuddles brought wasn’t necessarily in your head.
It appears the release of oxytocin in the body helps to increase the pain threshold, which then encourages growth and healing. A study from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and published in the journal Neuron reads, “the neurons that coordinate the release of oxytocin into the blood and also stimulate cells in the spinal cord. As a result of the stimulation, these cells increase oxytocin levels in the body and also have a pain-relieving effect.”
5. Reduced risk of heart disease
Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death worldwide. However, getting a good dose of oxytocin following some cardio can do wonders for your heart health.
For example, a study published in the Biological Psychology journal found that frequent hugs from partners helped lower blood pressure. Specifically, 59 premenopausal women had their blood pressure checked before and after being hugged by their partners. The results not only noted a reduction in their blood pressure but also noted that their levels of oxytocin also increased.
Moreover, research published in the Behavioral Medicine journal decided to focus on the blood pressure and heart rate of 100 adults. The study split the adults into two groups. One group had their partners seated next to them, whilst holding hands. They were also asked to watch a brief clip of a romantic movie. They then hugged their partners for twenty seconds. The other group, on the other hand, was instructed to avoid any physical interaction with their partners. They sat alone, and they did not get to watch any video.
Following this activity, each group had their heart rates monitored. They were also asked to talk about a stressful event or situation. The results revealed that the group that had held hands experienced lower blood pressure and heart rate. What’s more, the second group experienced a drastic rise in their blood pressure.
6. Reduced stress levels
At this point, stress has become a normal part of our everyday lives. We simply cannot avoid it. However, chronic stress is something we should definitely do our best to avoid. This is because it can have an extremely detrimental effect on both our physical and mental health.
Luckily, cozying up to your partner after a long night can release oxytocin, which then reduces stress levels. According to research published in the Biological Sciences journal, the release of oxytocin in the body helps to decrease the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Additionally, a study published in the Association for Psychological Science journal found that oxytocin can also help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, if you’re part of a the 264 million global population that is struggling with anxiety, you might want to hold your partner a little closer.
7. Strengthened immune system
Who needs to visit the doctor and when a good cuddle is just as good?
Oxytocin is not the only hormone that cuddling can release. In fact, cuddling also encourages the body to stimulate serotonin and dopamine. Once this happens, the three hormones work together to protect the body from infections and boost your immune system.
In fact, a study published by Sage Journals found that people with a cold who had been exposed to physical intimacy experienced a decrease in their symptoms.
For the study, the researchers exposed over four hundred healthy adults to a virus that causes the common cold. Whilst they were battling the cold, some of the adults received hugs (they also made sure to monitor their symptoms). The study not only found that those who received frequent hugs were less likely to contract a cold after being exposed to the virus, but they also found that those who were sick had less severe symptoms.
It appears that the release of oxytocin helped to positively influence the body’s cells responsible for regulating the immune system (1).
8. There’s more sex
As mentioned, cuddling following sexual activity releases all sorts of feel-good chemicals. Coupled with the emotional intimacy that cuddling brings, you are likely to notice an increase in your sexual desire. And with all the benefits associated with sex, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What’s more, if you end the session with another cuddling episode, then it’s a huge win for both your health and that of your relationship.
Cuddling isn’t just for romantic relationships
Couples aren’t the only ones who get to reap the benefits of cuddling. In fact, you can cuddle with your friend, a family member, or even your dog. A study published in the journal Science found that dog-owners who looked at their pets, and vice versa, most often over a period of 30 minutes, experienced a substantial increase in oxytocin.
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