Cuddling feels great, but did you know that there are actual health benefits? Cuddling can trigger all kinds of happy hormones which in turn create the perfect conditions for sleep. To help share some of this insight, MattressNextDay has enlisted the expertise of Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to reveal more.
It helps reduce any feeling of anxiety, making it easier to drift off
Otherwise known as the happy hormone, cuddling releases serotonin into your body. This is known to play a significant role in the sleep and wake cycle by regulating your sleep stages and the depth of your sleep. Having low levels of serotonin can contradict this pattern, and result in worse sleep. However, the act of cuddling can increase your serotonin levels and improve your mood, while decreasing any feelings of anxiety.
It helps lower your stress levels, making it easier to tackle the following day
Lee said: ‘Nerve impulses pass through the skin and your peripheral nerves to travel up the spine to the brain, where they stimulate the release of oxytocin (the cuddle hormone), and serotonin and dopamine. (the happy hormone). As a result, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are also reduced.’
This means you’re more likely to sleep better, and therefore be better prepared to handle the stress of the day ahead.
Your blood pressure will lower, decreasing your chances of insomnia
Less stress means lower blood pressure, putting you at less risk of cardiovascular disease and certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia. Contact with a partner has been known to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lowering your blood pressure and resulting in better quality sleep.
It helps relax your muscles, which improves the quality of your sleep
Whether you’re holding tension in your neck and shoulders from working at an office desk, or your muscles are recovering from a particularly vigorous workout, that lingering pain can affect the quality of your sleep. However, research shows that cuddling helps release another happy hormone, dopamine, which relaxes your muscles and relieves the pain, improving the quality of your sleep in the process.
It helps boost your immune system, making it easier to fight off illnesses that can keep you up
Therapeutic touch such as massage and cuddling is said to have a positive effect on your immune system, making it easier to fight off coughs, colds and other illnesses – all of which can keep you awake at night.
Dr Deborah added: ‘Massage is known to help lower stress and anxiety. In one 2004 study, a group of breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to a massage group, who received 3×30–minute massage sessions per week for five weeks, and a control group that did not.’
‘At the end of the study, the massage group showed lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as higher urinary levels of dopamine and serotonin, and increased levels of natural killer (NK) cells and lymphocytes. Massage may also, therefore, have some benefits for the immune system.’
It signals to your brain to feel safe and secure in your relationship
It stands to reason that increased contact with a partner leads to a happier relationship – but this is also scientifically proven.
Dr Deborah Lee said: ‘In one 2019 study, 80 couples were randomly assigned to one of three groups, a cuddling group where the couple cuddled more often, a group where the couple spent more time together, and a control group where nothing changed. After four weeks, the cuddling group showed the greatest increase in relationship satisfaction and quality of life.’
Three tips to make your cuddle more sleep-friendly
MattressNextDay has also shared three tips for getting a good night’s sleep out of your cuddle:
Cuddle before you sleep not during
Cuddling before sleep will help those warm, secure feelings to set in, and help you drift off to sleep. During the night, you may want to snuggle up again and reinforce those intense feelings but being tangled up can get you both hot and bothered.
Have two separate duvets, and a mattress that caters to you both
Everyone is recommended to replace their mattress at least once every seven years. It’s now possible to purchase a double mattress, zipped up the middle, so each person can have a mattress with a different degree of firmness. Invest in high-quality bedding, with anti-allergy fabrics, and a clean, hypoallergenic duvet. Two single duvets may be better if you tend to argue over who is hogging the duvet.
Sleep naked to fall asleep faster
Skin to skin contact produces more oxytocin. Rapid cooling of the body aids the onset of sleep. Yes, sleeping naked can facilitate sleep and help you to fall asleep more quickly.
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