Be it with your partner, your favorite four-legged friend, or a comfy body support pillow, cuddling is an awesome way to de-stress and create intimacy. But there’s more to cuddling than simply wrapping your arms around someone and holding tight. Cuddling is a love language all its own.
Some people live to cuddle and latch onto their partner every chance they get. Others, not so much. They reserve cuddling for the bedroom as a steppingstone for the main event. And forget about the common perception that men aren’t natural cuddlers. Turns out they long to snuggle up more than women.
Hugging, snuggling, massage, and kissing all fall under the cuddling umbrella. There’s no right or wrong way to cuddle, but these common cuddling positions can pave the way to an epic cuddling session.
- The “spoon”
Spooning is the ultimate cuddling position. And let’s be real: It can be sexual, too. Anyone can be the “big spoon” when cuddling, but it’s often the larger or more dominant partner. When you’re the “big spoon,” you wrap your arms around your partner while you’re both lying close on your side; your stomach rests against their back. When you’re the “little spoon,” your partner wraps their arms around you and your back rests against their stomach.
- The “half spoon”
If traditional spooning leaves you a hot mess (and not in a good way), consider the “half spoon.” It allows you to be close enough to your partner to feel warm and fuzzy, but far enough away that you won’t feel claustrophobic.
- The butt “cheek-to-cheek”
In this position, you and your partner are facing opposite directions, but your butt cheeks and lower backs are touching. Knees are often bent, although you may stretch one leg and play footsie if you’re feeling playful. This position means you want to maintain a connection with your partner, but you value your freedom and sleep is high on your agenda.
- The “honeymoon hug”
Cuddling is over-the-top when your relationship is in the honeymoon stage, and you and your partner can’t get enough of each other. You want to entwine yourselves, even during sleep. In the “honeymoon hug” position, you and your partner face each other and entangle limbs. You’re so close, you can smell the morning breath. But it doesn’t matter because you’re wild for each other.
- The “sweetheart cradle”
This position is often used when you need to be nurtured. Your partner lies on their back and holds you while your head rests on their chest. It’s a comforting form of cuddling that creates feelings of trust and well-being.
- The “leg hug”
Like the “cheek-to-cheek,” this position is popular when sleep is your priority, but you still want physical contact. After you both find a comfortable position, you put one leg on top of your partner’s leg. (Keep in mind you may need to adjust your leg if it makes theirs uncomfortable after a while.)
- The “butt pillow”
If you like to scooch down and use your partner’s butt for a pillow, you may be avoiding close contact, or you may feel submissive. Or you could just need more padding to rest your head on.
- The “lap pillow”
Laying your head in your partner’s lap is a playful position. It also displays trust, since it leaves your partner more vulnerable. This position makes it easy to snatch a kiss or two … or three. It’s the perfect position for binge watching your fave Netflix show. Orange is the New Black, anyone?
- The “arm draper”
For this position, you and your partner are facing with your arms draped around each other. You’re eye to eye, which is great if you’re trying to be romantic, but distracting if you want to sleep … ever get the feeling someone’s staring at you?Why you should cuddle more
Cuddling feels good in the obvious sense, but it’s also good for your health. Here’s how:Creates more sexual satisfaction and intimacy
Cuddling often leads to physical intimacy, but cuddling after making love is important, too. According to a 2014 study, couples who cuddled after sex reported higher sexual satisfaction and higher relationship satisfaction.Increases bonding among friends
Oxytocin isn’t called the “cuddle hormone” for no reason. It’s released when you cuddle and leaves you feeling loving and connected. There’s a social bonding aspect to oxytocin, too. Research suggests oxytocin helps you bond with those in your inner circle. In other words, the more you cuddle with your closest friends, the tighter your bond will be.Boosts immune system
If you make Swedish massage part of your cuddling routine, your immune system will seriously up its game. Swedish massage is a massage technique that uses long, gliding strokes, firm kneading, and tapping. According to a 2010 study, people who received Swedish massage had:
- more white blood cells that fight disease (lymphocytes)
- less of a hormone (arginine vasopressin) that increases the stress hormone cortisol
- a decrease in existing cortisol levels
- a decrease in cytokines that may cause inflammation
Research confirms that touch is a way to communicate emotions such as love, gratitude, and sympathy between loved ones. Happiness and sadness can be communicated through touch, too. Surprisingly, the results of one 2009 study found that touch also fosters emotional communication between strangers.Lowers blood pressure
Touch has a calming effect which may lower blood pressure. Research has shown short periods of hand holding and hugging lowers both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to heart disease and stroke, so regular cuddling should be part of any high blood pressure treatment plan.Relieves stress and anxiety
According to one 2004 study, massage in the form of stroking, squeezing, and stretching can help relieve stress and anxiety by increasing dopamine and serotonin in the body. These two neurotransmitters help regulate your mood. Dopamine also regulates the pleasure center in your brain.Helps relieve pain
Cuddling in the form of therapeutic touch may even have the power to reduce pain. Therapeutic touch is the method of placing your hands on or near the body to balance energy and promote natural healing.Bottom line:
In today’s busy world, it’s easy to sacrifice intimacy and hard to find time to relax and recharge. Cuddling helps you do both and stay connected to those you love. So, what are you waiting for? Hug, snuggle, kiss, and stroke every chance you get. Find the cuddling positions that work for you and snuggle up with your partner, your friends, and your pets. It’s good for you — body and soul.Reference:
Bach, M. (n.d.). Therapeutic touch
Denison, B. (2004, May-June). Touch the pain away: New research on therapeutic touch and persons with fibromyalgia syndrome [Abstract]. Holistic Nursing Practice, 18(3), 142-150
Grewen, K. M., Anderson, B. J., Girdler, S. S., & Light, K. C. (2003). Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular activity [Abstract]. Behavioral Medicine, 29(3), 123-130
Hernandez-Reif, M., Ironson, G., Field, T., Hurley, J., Katz, G., Diego, M. … Burman, I. (2004, July). Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy [Abstract]. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 45-52
Hertenstein, M. J., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009, August). The communication of emotion via touch [Abstract]. Emotion, 9(4), 566-573
Indiana University. (2011, July 5). Couples report gender differences in relationship, sexual satisfaction over time [Press release]
Muise, A., Giang, E., & Impett, E. A. (2014, October). Post sex affectionate exchanges promote sexual and relationship satisfaction [Abstract]. Archives of Sexual Behavior,43(7), 1391-1402
Pappas, S. (2015, June 4). Oxytocin: Facts about the ‘cuddle hormone.’ Retrieved from
Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., & Bresee, C. (2010, October). A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of a Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(10), 1079-1088
Written by Annette McDermott — Updated on August 12, 2019
Photo Credit: Toa Heftiba