Research has shown that having a cuddle before dropping off to sleep really can help you get a good night’s rest, but why is this so effective and what if you don’t have a cuddle partner?
This seems to be very much about Oxytocin – also known as the “happy hormone”. Cuddling makes us feel happy and more relaxed as our brains release oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which help to stave off depression and increase our feelings of well-being, along with enhancing our connectedness to the person we are cuddling and improving our relationship with that person.
But even more beneficial, oxytocin also helps to increase our tolerance of pain, lowers our stress and anxiety levels, lowers our blood pressure, boosts our immune system and lowers the risk of heart disease.
Pain reduction seems to come about from the pleasure experienced from touching and being touched during a cuddle. Swedish massage, a technique that uses long gliding strokes along with firm kneading, has been attributed to a lowering of inflammation-producing cytokines.
Stress and anxiety levels also reduce during cuddling due to the release of another hormone, cortisol, which is made by the adrenal glands. As our stress levels reduce, this, in turn, has a beneficial effect on our blood pressure, helping to lower any strain on our heart and decreasing our chances of incurring heart disease.
Our immune system is boosted by the release of chemicals into our bloodstream and this helps us to fight infection and stay healthier for longer.
So, for a good night’s sleep, take time out for a cuddle before you go to bed. If you don’t have anybody to cuddle then even hugging your pet dog or cat can help.