Sharing a bed and cuddling are usually reserved for romantic partners, so it makes sense that they may coincide. Many people find that cuddling at bedtime improves sleep quality.
Cuddling in bed improves sleep as physical contact releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is released from the brain’s pituitary gland and floods the body with a sense of physical and emotional well-being.
Cuddling a partner at bedtime means you’ll benefit from reduced stress levels, lower blood pressure, blocked pain receptors from chronic illness or injuries, and a sense of safety and security.
Not everybody enjoys cuddling when it’s time to sleep, and that’s fine because this intimate contact releases oxytocin at any time. You can interact immediately before sleep and still enjoy all the benefits.
Is Cuddling Good for Sleep?
If you wonder, “why do I get sleepy when cuddling?” the answer is oxycontin. Oxycontin is sometimes referred to as “the love hormone,” as it floods the body with feelings of comfort, relaxation, and wellness.
Any physical contact with another human, such as a massage, can release oxytocin. It’s most prominent in physical interaction between couples in an established romantic relationship, which is why cuddling can feel so comforting and relaxing.
Oxytocin plays a significant role in these benefits of cuddling while sleeping, which may contribute to a better and more peaceful night and answer why cuddling helps you sleep better.
Feelings of Safety and Security
The most significant advantage of cuddling during sleep is a sense of security.
We’re never more vulnerable than when we sleep, so knowing that somebody else is in the vicinity through touch will promote feelings of comfort and safety.
The Journal of Sleep Research confirms that this is particularly important for women with lower attachment security. The act of physical contact at bedtime alleviates many of these concerns overnight.
Even if you have a stable and secure attachment to your partner, these feelings of safety may be welcome. Sleeping in unfamiliar locations shared homes, or loud and dangerous neighborhoods can be fretful.
Feeling secure while sleeping can also improve the quality of REM sleep. Throughout the evening, we cycle through various sleep stages, of which REM is the longest and lightest.
Feeling safe during REM sleep makes you less likely to be plagued by bad dreams or roused from sleep by feelings of subconscious anxiety.
Don’t overlook the importance of feelings of social support that cuddling in bed can provide. As per Psychological Science, a sense of security overnight bolsters the immune system and improves protection against contagious upper respiratory infections.
The release of oxytocin that occurs with cuddling blocks cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone,” from flooding the body. This can lead to a peaceful night of sleep during testing times.
Climbing into bed at the end of the night, when you’re otherwise alone with your thoughts, can lead to spikes in stress and anxiety. Tempering this by cuddling at bedtime means you’re much likelier to fall asleep and face your problems feeling refreshed in the morning.
Lower Blood Pressure
Psychosomatic Medicine explains how, along with reducing stress and depression symptoms, oxycontin can also lower blood pressure. Cuddling in bed can slow your heart rate and ease you into a restful sleep.
Hypertension and insomnia often go hand in hand and form a vicious circle. If your blood pressure is high, you’ll likely struggle to relax enough to fall asleep, and lack of sufficient sleep leads to sharp increases in blood pressure.
This can be avoided by engaging in cuddling at bedtime. The comforting feeling of a partner’s presence will slow down the heart and lull you into a welcome and gentle sleep, enhancing the likelihood of a steady heart rate the following day.
Blocking Pain Signals
Another welcome influence of oxytocin is blocking pain receptors in the body.
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice explains that releasing this hormone through touch can alleviate symptoms associated with chronic pain.
Suppose you have a long-term concern like fibromyalgia, plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or any other issue that causes pain and inflammation in the body. If so, it can disturb your sleep patterns.
Cuddling is by no means a miracle cure, but it can lull you into a state of rest.
Can Cuddling Disturb Sleep?
While there are undeniable benefits to cuddling up with a partner at bedtime, this arrangement will not work for everybody. Don’t be concerned if you prefer to sleep alone; there are potential drawbacks to co-sleeping near somebody else.
The main hazards with sleeping up close and personal with a partner. If these issues arise and disturb your slumber, it is best to separate while dozing or sleep in separate rooms.
You can still enjoy all the benefits of sharing close intimacy with a partner before sleeping. A cuddle before sleep could still flood your brain with enough oxytocin to encourage a restful night of deep sleep.
Cuddling and hugging in a bed can often be a precursor to physical intimacy. This is a healthy expression of love within a relationship, but it may also delay the onset of sleep for one or both partners.
Suppose one person finds themselves physically aroused by the proximity to a partner, but the other is asleep. In that case, it’ll be tricky for this individual to calm down enough to fall into a restful slumber.
Equally, if both partners are equally responsive, that can be beautiful, and Frontiers in Public Health confirms that physical intimacy can improve sleep quality.
Just be aware that it could also lead to a later night than intended, leaving you tired and groggy in the morning and failing to get sufficient sleep. That sleep debt will need to be repaid.
Many of us feel cozier when we’re warm in bed and sharing body heat. However, as per Current Opinion in Physiology, staying cool will lead to reduced energy expenditure and likely improve sleep quality.
If two partners have different temperature preferences in bed, at least one will need to compromise and potentially sacrifice sleep quality. If you prefer a cooler climate in bed, cuddling up will likely leave you overheating and potentially lead to insomnia.
One possible way around this is to get a smart mattress, where two sides of the bed will run at different temperatures. This is an expensive solution, but it’ll counter the thermoregulation impact of cuddling during sleep.
More Possible Disturbances
If you’re sleeping extremely close to a partner, it’ll be increasingly difficult to block out and ignore any noise that may disturb sleep.
Snoring, talking in sleep, or bruxism will sound much louder and even penetrate earplugs.
Physical movements will also be more keenly felt when sleeping close together. If one partner kicks or flails their legs, it’ll likely keep the other awake against their will or rouse them from sleep.
Consider what may happen if one of you needs to get up during the night, too. If one partner needs to use the bathroom during the night, for example, you’ll need to disentangle, likely disturbing the sleep of the partner that had no intention of moving.
It’s great news that cuddling with a partner can help you sleep, but it can be dangerous to become reliant on the presence of somebody else to fall asleep. Will this leave you unable to fall asleep in bed alone?
There could be many reasons why this becomes necessary. Travel, the end of a relationship, or even simply a case of one partner not being ready for bed can throw an entire sleep schedule off track.
You may be able to imitate the experience of sleeping alongside a partner by bringing a stuffed animal or hot water bottle to bed or cuddling with a dog but remain cautious about hinging your ability to sleep on the availability of somebody or something else.
Oversleeping and Morning Grogginess
If you remain in the same position throughout the evening, you may enjoy all the benefits of cuddling overnight. You’ll also exchange a release of oxytocin in the morning, which could make waking up in the morning something of a hardship.
If you have a lazy Sunday ahead of you with no need to wake up early, that is no problem. Just be wary of oversleeping on a day when you need to rise early or attend to children, as cuddling in bed can leave you sleepy and groggy for some time.
What is the Best Cuddling Position for Sleep?
As with choosing a solo sleep position, this is a matter of personal preference and comfort. Some couples may find ‘spooning’ the optimum position for cuddling at bedtime, while others prefer to sleep back-to-back or face-to-face, entangling limbs.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Dream Research, 90% of happy, co-sleeping couples choose to spoon as their initial cuddling position while drifting into sleep. This was most prevalent in couples that had not shared a bed for a long time.
Trial and error will teach you the best position to adopt while retaining a sense of physical intimacy with a partner, child, or even a pet or stuffed animal. Don’t be afraid to try different positions and postures, settling on an arrangement that helps everybody rest well.