You may think that your brain and heart (or even your genitals) are your most important organs. Alas, there’s actually a much larger organ that holds the power to stir up strong emotional and biological responses…that is, your skin.
When we receive skin contact, be it via a massage, a hug, or a cuddle, a very powerful hormone starts kicking in…making us feel extremely relaxed, happy, and at peace. Could human touch, sexual or non-sexual, be our secret weapon to happiness?
The Cuddle Hormone, Explained
Have you ever heard of the hormone, oxytocin? For some, it’s more commonly known as the “cuddle” or “love” hormone, because it’s secreted from the pituitary gland during moments of pleasure.
These moments need not be sexual. In fact, you can enjoy a surge of oxytocin whilst playing with your dog! It’s all about that happy feeling of experiencing a bond with someone.
This hormone is so powerful, in fact, that for those who lacked cuddling or affection in their early years of life, sometimes experience displeasurable feelings when oxytocin is released. It can cause them to be cautious and less accepting of outsiders.
But for those who associate good feelings with the rush of oxytocin, a good cuddle is exactly what the doctor ordered to feel close to someone.
Oxytocin: Men vs. Women
The way oxytocin is experienced in men and women are actually very different.
For women, oxytocin helps in childbirth and is released while breastfeeding her infant. This creates a mother-child bond that is unbreakable and special.
For men however, this is of course not the case. But a study conducted by Ruth Feldman of Bar-llan University in Israel did show some interesting results:
The research included administering men with oxytocin via nasal spray to study the effects of father-child bonding. The results showed that those who received the oxytocin experienced a greater bond with their infant as opposed to those who had the placebo.
In the oxytocin conditions, not only did key parenting behavior increase, but also infant social behavior, including social gaze and exploratory behavior.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with cuddling and intimacy? Well, this hormone has a huge impact on the way partners behave after sex.
Cuddling After Sex, Women Want it and Men Don’t?
As we now know, when we cuddle someone, there’s a rush of oxytocin. This, in turn, encourages feelings of togetherness, closeness and bonding. And while this is a rather stereotypical way of thinking, it is said that women often seek cuddling after sex while men mostly don’t.
Interestingly, science says that women want to cuddle after sexual intimacy as it gives them the reassurance that they haven’t been abandoned, disregarded or just used for the act of sex. For men, they often seek reassurance for just that – the ability to have sex without any other feelings. So, oftentimes, they either roll over and sleep, or bail.
What does this mean effectively? That cuddling post-sex has a great impact on both men and women who take the time to feel each other’s embrace, meet their partner’s gaze, and enjoy the intimacy and oxytocin release. This, in turn, makes them susceptible to feeling trust, empathy, and relationship-building.
Is cuddling more intimate than sex? Many would agree so. Cuddling is a powerful secret weapon, so be sure to use it wisely.
What Happens to our Bodies During Cuddling/Embracing?
Another reason many of us love to cuddle, is because there are other many other added benefits that give us an overall healthy body and mind.
The benefits of cuddling include:
A lower risk of heart disease: the release of oxytocin reduces blood pressure, aiding in better heart-health.
Pain relief: A cuddle is like massaging all of your ailments at the same time. Oxytocin is strong enough to remove pain, and give off a feeling of happiness and peace.
A boosted immune system: The rush of oxytocin has the ability to make you feel so good, that it seems near impossible to become ill (think: the power of positivity).
Reduced social anxiety and stress: when in stressful situations, a simple hug from someone has the ability to increase levels of oxytocin. This, in turn, makes you feel better and more relaxed.
Better sleep: Cuddling for at least 10 minutes before bed will make you feel more relaxed and happier, and less anxious, resulting in a more peaceful sleep.
The Implications of a Good Cuddle
By now, you should know all about the implications of cuddling or embracing.
But, TLDR: Cuddling has the ability to create a strong bond between two people. It brings about a feeling of closeness, trust, and happiness that could well lead to stronger emotions.
So, for those who enjoy a good cuddle after sex, use it wisely. If you’re not looking to be swept off your feet, or hope that your partner doesn’t start to gain stronger feelings for you, it’s best to avoid the post-coital cuddle (in a respectful way, of course).