Next time your guy gets on your case about cuddle time—he says he's too hot, needs his space, doesn't feel like relaxing—present the evidence. Research suggests that there's more to cuddling than meets the eye. Lovey-dovey'ness aside, the health benefits of cuddling will surely convince him to make time for it.
Reason 1: It Feels Good
Cuddling releases oxytocin, which is also known as the feel-good hormone. "It increases overall happiness," says psychologist, physical therapist, and author of bestseller A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness Elizabeth Lombardo.
"Cuddling, holding, and sexual play releases chemicals, like oxytocin, in the brain that create a sense of well-being and happiness," says Dr. Renee Horowitz, an ob-gyn who recently opened the Center for Sexual Wellness in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Cuddling can also release endorphins, which is the chemical released after a good workout or when you eat chocolate, Horowitz adds, which contributes to that great feeling.
Reason 2: It Makes You Feel Sexy
The most obvious benefit to cuddling is getting close to your partner in the physical sense. Cuddling can lead to fun sexy time or relaxing and loving time post sexual intercourse, but there's also a chemical plus.
"There is also the release of dopamine, which is an excitatory hormone that increases sexual desire," Horowitz says. Plus, studies show that sex is healthy for fitness and mental reasons, too. So it's a win-win.
Reason 3: It Reduces Stress and Blood Pressure
Stress management coach and holistic therapist Catherine A. Connors reminds how physical contact with others can help to reduce stress. "Hugging, kissing, or more physical acts of touch increases oxytocin levels, which is a 'bonding' hormone—this chemical reaction can help to reduce blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease, but it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety," Connors says.
Reason 4: It Bonds Women with Babies and Partners
According to Dr. Fran Walfish, celebrity doctor and author, cuddling is healthy for people because of the obvious factor of emotional attachment. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that is closely linked to childbirth and breastfeeding, and a recent study shows that it has a biological role in bonding between mother and baby," she says. "The study, led by Lane Strathearn, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, shows that women raised with insecure attachment themselves are more likely to have difficulty forming secure attachments with their children (and partners)."
It's healthy to want to be close. "Too little or too much is not good. Observe and explore your own personal comfort zone. You will be a better communicator with your partner on how much feels good and when it gets too close for comfort," Walfish says. "Your goal is to find a balance between your comfort zone and needs along with your partner's.
Reason 5: It Helps You Communicate Better
According to David Klow, a marriage and family therapist in Chicago who works with many couples on how to improve intimacy in their lives, reminds us of one great benefit of cuddling and non-erotic physical touch. Most couples in marital therapy complain about communication issues, Klow says. "Most people want to feel understood, and communication is the vehicle by which they transmit understanding and empathy. Non-verbal communication can be a very powerful way to say to your partner, ‘I get you,'" he says. "Cuddling is a way of saying, ‘I know how you feel.' It allows us to feel known by our partner in ways that words can't convey."
Klow suggests thinking of cuddling as a form of communication that can help couples have a more rich relationship.