Whether cuddling is your current post-sex routine or more important to you than sex itself, most of us can agree it's an essential part of a relationship. There's actually a biological reason we respond so well to being wrapped in our loved ones' arms, explains Madeleine Castellanos, M.D., sex therapist, and author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive. "From the moment we are born, we rely on our sense of touch to thrive and feel close to others," she says. "Infants cannot survive without touch, and as adults, our health suffers.
Not only that, Castellanos says, but "cuddling has great benefits, both physical and emotional, that help transform us and our relationships." Here are four you may not have known about.
1. Cuddling can help you feel calm.
You've probably heard of a little hormone called oxytocin, which helps reduce anxiety and promotes the relaxation response — but you may not have known this magic hormone is released during cuddling. "It's one of the natural ways mothers calm their children," says Castellanos, "and a wonderful way for couples to bring a calm presence to their relationship. This helps reduce stress, lowers blood pressure, and even decreases the sensation of pain."
2. Cuddling helps you feel close — and makes that closeness last.
Thanks to your oxytocin levels rising while you're in your partner's arms, you'll automatically feel closer to him or her in the moment. "But the feeling of closeness lasts because of the oxytocin," Castellanos says. "It promotes trust between the both of you and fosters your connection. And cuddling increases your sense of security with your partner, which increases your desire to be emotionally intimate and vulnerable with them."
3. Cuddling can get you to open up.
Cuddling doesn't have to be a hush-hush activity. In fact, getting your snuggle on "presents the opportunity to talk and share things on a deeper emotional level," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Talking in general brings couples closer, but doing it while you're wrapped in one another's arms "will bring both of you closer because you're able to be vulnerable and open, and be more real with each other," she says.
4. Cuddling could actually help boost your immune system.
It turns out that cuddling is almost as good for you as popping daily vitamins or exercising on the regular. "Because cuddling helps relax you, it lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs the functioning of the immune system," explains Castellanos. "Plus, by cuddling, you combat the effects of the stress, which helps proper functioning of the immune system. And cuddling doesn't just keep you warm, it also helps prevents colds."
If regular cuddling isn't a part of your repertoire, Greer suggests syncing up your morning and evening schedules with your partner so that you can sneak in even a few minutes of cuddle time before you dash off to work or head to bed. "You might not be waking up or going to sleep at the same time, but you can still make time for cuddling at these crucial points," she says.