It’s National Cuddle Up Day – one of our favorite days. Cuddling is a great thing to celebrate, and an easy thing to practice…who doesn’t want more cuddling in their life? Let’s unpack the science of snuggles (not that you need an excuse), and some fun and easy ways you can up your cuddle game in cute and creative ways. Let’s get snuggly!
You probably don’t need to be sold on the beauties and benefits of snuggling. Just saying the word “snuggle” conjures some of the most treasured and pleasurable moments a couple can enjoy.
Some people use the word “cuddle,” which stimulates its own warm, inviting memories of mutual moments of embrace. However, it doesn’t always carry the same romantic or sexual connotations that we grant to “snuggling.” It can be used a little more broadly, say, than snuggling, which usually means a more passionate or romantic experience. A deeply felt embrace shared between lovers.
For the sake of simplicity, we will use the two words interchangeably with both referring to intimate embraces between lovers, not those fond moments spent on the couch watching football with your dog. Or cat. Or pet chinchilla.
Just to clarify, we’ll cite Lisa van Raalte, Ph.D. in her Psychology Today article, “4 Reasons Couples Should Cuddle More,” from April 2022: “Different from hugs, which are brief embraces, cuddling involves prolonged whole-body touching,” she writes. “Cuddling is a behavior that is reserved for those who we feel safe with and with whom we can be vulnerable with. For example, parents and children will cuddle together, building a strong relational and emotional bond.”
She adds that there have been no studies to investigate how “different configurations of cuddling impact a relationship, if at all.” Still, there is abundant research that clearly indicates the numerous “psychological, physiological, and relational health benefits to affectionate touch behaviors, and cuddling is included in that group.”
At this point, please feel free to reflect upon your own extensive research and informal clinical studies with a special loved one regarding the rapturous rewards and simulating satisfactions of intimate snuggling sessions.
Now, back to Snuggling 101. According to those empirical efforts, van Raalte says, four strong reasons exist that provide ample motivation for you and your lover to consider snuggling more often:
- Clearly, the practice improves relationship satisfaction. “In an experimental study, increased cuddling for married couples resulted in statistically higher relationship satisfaction,” she says.
- Snuggling or intimate cuddling helps maintain focus on your partner. That same study found hat “increased cuddling with a spouse also predicted statistically lower perceptions of available options outside of the relationship including things like other people or being single.”
- This could easily be placed number one, and it is such a universal experience that it really can make you feel warm all over just thinking about it: “Cuddling releases oxytocin and promotes positive emotions. It’s no surprise that affectionate touch behaviors release oxytocin, fondly known as the ‘cuddle hormone.’ Oxytocin is a natural love hormone that helps us feel closer to our partners. When we cuddle, we feel a surge of positive emotions such as love, adoration, and trust.”
- The benefits of snuggling after sex are immediate, long-lasting and feature more permanent implications by promoting future satisfaction in your relationship. Van Raalte cites a longitudinal study that revealed “the duration and quality of post-sex affection including cuddling are related to greater subsequent reports of relationship and sexual satisfaction…. Couples can use this time to be close to each other physically and emotionally, sharing their thoughts and feelings, or not saying anything at all. “
While there are differences between genders regarding snuggling and intimate cuddling, surprisingly, men emerged as the biggest champions of tender, caring caresses in an a recent international study.
According to the study completed by the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana, “Cuddling and caressing are important ingredients for long-term relationship satisfaction, according to an international study that looks at relationship and sexual satisfaction throughout committed relationships, but contrary to stereotypes, tenderness was more important to the men than to the women.”
Published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the study is the first to examine sexual and relationship parameters of middle-aged or older couples in committed, long-term relationships. The press release about the study issued by the university claims that “research efforts to understand the place of sexuality in human lives rarely involves intact couples in ongoing relationships.”
Again, we recommend that you take a moment to reflect on your own personal, definitive studies of snuggling and add your conclusions to any related research.
Now, let’s get back to what’s most important here: What are some preferred and time-tested ways to get down to some serious snuggling? Well, if you’d like to learn more about “the butt (cheek-to-cheek),” “the honeymoon hug,” “the leg hug,” “the lap pillow” or “the sweetheart cradle” configurations, consult this great resource from healthline.com so that you may learn “How to Cuddle Like You Mean It (And Why You Should).” The good news is, there are almost endless options for different positions and ways to snuggle with your sweetie. While you’ve probably done many from that article, you’ve probably invented plenty of your own, too! Here are some of our favorite creative (and completely made up) ways to cuddle…complete with equally made up names:
- The Weighted Blanket: Sometimes it just feels nice to be squished. As long as you can both breathe, this is where one partner lies down on top of another one, face-to-face and as flat as possible, and just squishes them. Nuzzle your heads next to each other and just enjoy the calming, relationship-affirming pressure.
- The Shoulder Bar: One person sits on the couch and the other sits on the floor in front of them. The person on the couch drapes their legs over the shoulders of the person on the floor, who can hold, rub, and caress the legs…think of the shoulder restraints on a roller coaster. This is a great cuddling position for watching TV together, and it makes foot rubs super easy, too!
- The Spiderman: While we don’t recommend actually hanging upside-down like Spidey (passing out from blood rushing to your head is not the way to end a romantic evening), just laying “upside down” – with your heads nearest the foot of the bed – can give a fun new perspective on the room and each other. Then, get tangled around each other as much as possible.
- The Head-to-Toe: This position is perfect for when you want your bodies to be close to each other, but you also want to do your own thing. Both of you lay down on your bellies facing in opposite directions, so your feet are by their head and their feet are on your head. The sides of your bodies should be touching as much as possible. This is a great position for a romantic reading session.
- The Sexy Straddle: This is a good snuggling position for when you want that snuggling to lead to more. One person is sitting on the couch or a big comfy chair, and the other person comes and straddles their legs, sitting down on their lap facing them. While maybe not super comfortable for a long time, it’s a great position for kissing and for initiating sex…something about placing your crotches together can inspire that for some people!
If you’d like more information about what your snuggling style says about you and your relationship, read this informative piece in womenshealthmag.com.
Many forms of snuggling are considered “safe for public” forms of PDA, so you can “get it on” wherever the mood strikes. “Whether you snuggle on the couch, in bed, or on a blanket in the park, it’s an important part of a relationship,” declare Aryelle Siclait and Emily Becker in the October 2021 article. “Not only can your preferred position—for cuddling, of course—reveal how you feel about each other, but there are also many health benefits that come from a good spooning sesh.”
Whether you’re sharing a bath or hot tub or relaxing on a blanket under the stars, here are some great suggestions for the ideal places (other than your bed) to practice and perfect your intimate embracing techniques together:
- In a blanket fort.
- In the cuddle seats at the movie theater.
- On the couch or loveseat – the smaller it is, the more creative you have to get!
- On a blanket or in a truck bed under the stars.
- In the shower, tub, or hot tub.
- In a beach cabana on vacation.
- In a hammock.
- On a park bench with a beautiful view.
- In an intimate booth at your favorite romantic restaurant.
- On the floor by the fireplace or by an outdoor bonfire. They make couple’s camping chairs!
Besides, for much of the U.S. right now, it’s wintertime. So whether you’re alone together après ski or après-dîner, there’s no better time or place to snuggle up and get warm and cozy as only lovers can.