Teddy bears and plush stuffed animals are a cornerstone of most childhood beds and bedrooms.
Often, there comes a time when such toys are packed away or donated to a charity shop. However, some people retain stuffed animals on their beds into adulthood.
Sharing a bed with a stuffed animal is only concerning if you can’t sleep without it. Touching somebody or something else at night, even a soft toy, creates a sense of safety and security.
Sleeping with a childhood teddy bear can evoke feelings of comfort and nostalgia. More adults than you may realize still sleep with stuffed animals. If this habit isn’t harming others, it’s not a problem.
A full night’s sleep with a teddy bear is undoubtedly better than 4-5 hours without a soft toy.
When Do Children Outgrow Stuffed Animals?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when children should stop wanting to sleep with stuffed animals. Everybody is different and has a unique relationship with inanimate objects.
Most children will initially use a teddy bear or plush toy as a comfort object, carrying it around everywhere they go, including the bed. This isn’t a problem.
According to Child Psychiatry and Human Development, holding onto a comfort object signifies solid bonding and security in a parent-child relationship. Many parents are happier with a toddler relying on a stuffed animal than a pacifier.
A stuffed animal may make a child more comfortable heading to bed, which can be vital to children and adults alike. As per Sleep Health, if stuffed animals encourage sleep hygiene in children, they should be embraced, which makes it likelier that parents will also sleep well.
You’ll likely find that children will decide when they’re ready to stop sleeping with stuffed animals. The onset of adolescence, and the desire to imitate more ‘adult’ behaviors, will usually result in a child abandoning a cherished plush toy.
When this happens, be supportive and encourage your child’s newfound independence, but don’t throw away any beloved teddy bears, as the company of stuffed animals may be pined for again in the future.
Is it Normal for A Teenager to Sleep with A Stuffed Animal?
The relationship between a teenager and stuffed animals is similar to that of an adult. Namely, it’s OK for a teen to want to sleep with a teddy bear, but perhaps concerning if your teenager needs a stuffed animal to sleep with.
We discussed how many adolescents outgrow stuffed animals. If this is the case, and your child starts to express a desire to sleep with a toy again later, it’s not necessarily a concern. Just keep an eye on the potential psychological implications of this request.
It’s only a concern if a teenager has never stopped sleeping with a stuffed animal, maintaining one toy as a comfort object from childhood. If a teenager grows distressed at being separated from this object, it can suggest psychological trauma or unrest.
Sometimes, prolonged attachment to stuffed animals or teddy bears into teenagerhood can be due to feelings of neglect or withheld affection.
This is common in children that have entered the foster care system. Consider this possibility if a teen refuses to part with a stuffed toy and displays other erratic behaviors.
Why Do Adults Sleep with Stuffed Animals?
When addressing adults with stuffed animals, psychology and compassion come together.
Adults choose to share their beds with stuffed animals for various reasons. In some cases, people can struggle to sleep without the company of a plush toy.
Comfort and Security
It’s an open secret that falling asleep is easier if you share a bed with somebody you love.
Even though it’s inadvisable to share a bed with a dog, many people do that too. Embracing the power of touch makes us feel more comfortable and secure.
This is particularly important while we’re sleeping, as we’re never more vulnerable than at this point. Just because you happen to sleep alone, it does not mean that you should be denied a feeling of sanctuary and protection.
Sleeping with a stuffed animal provides many benefits. Pairing a teddy with a hot water bottle combines the coziness of touch with the heat of another body too. A stuffed animal will not move, snore, or engage in other behaviors that keep you awake.
Many adults take great pleasure in sharing their beds with such an object. That’s fine, as long as you do not grow so dependent on a teddy that it harms your relationship with living people.
Nostalgia and Memory
As touched upon earlier, many children cease sleeping with stuffed animals as they want to begin their transition into adulthood. This is an unfortunate irony, as many adults pine for a return to the simplicity of childhood. Sleeping with an older stuffed animal can aid with this.
If you have the same teddy bear you slept with as a child, you can flood your mind with happy memories at bedtime, which can be invaluable for sleep.
Transport yourself back to a time before you had to worry about bills, jobs, houses, and other adult concerns, and you are likely to enter a state of meditative mindfulness.
Taking your mind off everyday stressors enhances your chances of a good night’s sleep.
Managing Trauma and Mental Health Concerns
We have been at pains to explain that there is nothing wrong with sleeping with stuffed animals as an adult, and we stand by that. It would be remiss not to point out that emotional attachment to such objects can have roots in mental health concerns.
The Journal of Personality Disorders draws a direct line between attachment to inanimate objects, such as a stuffed animal, and borderline personality disorder (BPD.) As per Scientific Reports, people with BPD use stuffed animals to regulate and manage emotions.
Some adults also use stuffed animals to self-soothe following childhood trauma. Licensed therapists use stuffed animals to help traumatized young people love and care for something else – and, by extension, themselves. This practice can last into adulthood.
Sleeping with a stuffed animal as an adult isn’t, in and of itself, a sign of mental health concerns. However, when paired with others concerning thoughts, actions, and moods, it’s something to be mindful of.
Is it a Problem for an Adult to Sleep with a Stuffed Animal?
Now you understand the meaning and importance of sleeping with such items, you can stop asking yourself, “is it weird that I still sleep with a stuffed animal?” All the same, you may want to break the habit.
If it’s not harming yourself or others, there’s no need to stop sleeping with a stuffed animal. There could be instances or situations where this becomes problematic, though. Examples include:
- You share a bed and prefer to cuddle a stuffed animal than demonstrate intimacy with a partner.
- You can’t sleep without the presence of a stuffed animal but need to travel and sleep elsewhere with increasing frequency.
- A childhood teddy bear or stuffed animal grows increasingly worn and damaged and may soon become unusable.
In all of these instances, preparing for life without a stuffed animal at bedtime is advisable. This can be achieved by retraining your brain and body from associating sleep with a teddy bear or toy.
How to Sleep Without Stuffed Animals
It should be gradual if you’re keen to wean yourself off sleeping with a stuffed animal.
Don’t just toss your treasured bedtime buddy in the trash, expecting to sleep soundly without it. You’ll need to forge an entirely new set of bedtime habits.
Start by applying a unique scent to your stuffed animal. Nothing too cloying that will damage it – consider a lavender spray designed to encourage sleep or something similar. Get used to sleeping with this aroma.
After a while, try replacing your teddy bear with a pillow or something of equivalent size and softness. The important thing is to apply the scent you now associate with your plush toy, which tricks the brain into a relaxed state, much like your teddy’s presence.
Over time, you can start to phase yourself off hugging your pillow. Apply the aroma to the pillow you sleep on, which will be enough. It’s all about giving your senses something associated with sleep to focus on.
Once you learn to sleep without a stuffed animal, you don’t need to throw it away. There will always be a place for childhood favorites in the life of adults, so it’s not a weakness to retain this link to your past. It’ll last even longer if you don’t sleep with the toy.
You’re not alone if you’re an adult who needs a stuffed animal to sleep, as many people find themselves in a similar position. There’s nothing to worry about if you can sleep without a stuffed animal but prefer to do so. Only take action if you rely on your plush toy to gain a night of uninterrupted sleep.