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Benefits of Human Touch: Spooning Relieves Stress, Improves Sleep & Deepens Connection

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Spooning - Dr. Axe

Perhaps when you’re spooning with your partner at night, sleeping or resting in a connected, intimate position, you’re not thinking about the potential health benefits. It turns out that spooning impacts hormones in a way that the position affects your mood, sleep, immune system and pain levels.

Just like the benefit of hugs, spooning creates a sense of connection and boosts the release of happy hormones. It’s also warming and fosters a sense of security.

Although it’s often linked to intimacy, spooning doesn’t necessarily have to be for romantic partners only, as this type of extended cuddling can be beneficial for children’s mental and emotional health, too.

What Is Spooning?

Spooning is a position loved ones take when they are cuddling or sleeping. It’s been coined “spooning” because it looks similar to two spoons stacked together sideways: One person hugs another from behind, facing the same direction.

Spooning is a position that’s often used by romantic partners but can also be for children and parents. There are varying degrees of intimacy depending on the relationship between the two “spoonees,” but no matter what, the position offers a sense of comfort and security. It can become more intimate when arms and legs are intertwined while spooning.

Benefits

There are both physical and psychological benefits of spooning, which mostly come from the production of happy hormones and reduction of stress hormones. Here are some of the benefits of spooning explained:

1. Boosts Oxytocin

Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone,” and when it’s released, it influences our mood, behavior and physiology. Increased oxytocin provides feelings of contentment and decreased anxiety. It supports social bonding and has calming effects.

A study published in Biological Psychology examined 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact and hugging with their husbands or partners. Researchers found that frequent hugs between partners were associated with higher oxytocin levels and lower blood pressure.

2. Improves Partner Connection

Physical contact like spooning can improve partner connection and provide a sense of togetherness and security. Researchers indicate that cuddling is a key expression of intimacy, and a questionnaire involving 514 participants found that when cuddling occurred among partners frequently and for long durations, it’s viewed very positively.

Spooning can improve your intimate relationship with your partner because it allows you to feel cared for, wanted and supported. It helps build trust within a relationship and fosters a sense of love and safety.

3. Reduces Stress

The boost of oxytocin you get when spooning your partner helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol, which is produced as part of your fight or flight response to stress. Close physical contact also activates sensory neurons in the brain and promotes the production of dopamine, a hormone that’s associated with motivation, satisfaction and pleasure.

4. Improves Sleep

If you’ve ever wondered about the impact of hormones on the body, consider the simple act of touching or hugging for an extended period of time. The increase of happy and calming hormones that occurs not only helps reduce stress, but improves your sleep, too.

Spooning before falling asleep creates a calming and soothing feeling because of the production of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. We know from research that the neurotransmitter serotonin, for example, is very much involved in sleep preparation, triggering and maintenance.

5. Provides Comfort

The closeness that occurs while spooning can be extremely comforting, which is why it doesn’t just have to be for intimate partners, but can put a child at ease, too. If you’ve ever had an infant who won’t fall asleep in her crib but falls fast asleep when you’re close to her in bed, you understand the sense of security and comfort that exists for babies, children and adults when being cuddled.

6. Boosts Immune System

It may seem odd that spooning can actually boost immune system health, but it’s true because of the role this kind of close contact has on our hormones. Research indicates that oxytocin has anti-inflammatory and pro-immune adaptive functions.

There’s even research suggesting that increased hugging and perceived support are able to reduce signs of illness when participants are exposed to a virus that causes the common cold.

7. Eases Pain

Research shows that prolonged elevated cortisol can cause increased inflammation and pain. Close contact like hugging or spooning for an extended period of time can reduce cortisol in the body, which relaxes the body, reduces blood pressure and increases the body’s pain thresholds.

This means that spooning can actually ease pain because the body is not in a state a stress, but in a state of relaxation instead.

How to Do It

Tradition spooning is when the taller person lays behind the shorter one, facing the same direction, and hugs that person from behind. The person in the back may wrap his or her arms around the person in the front, and sometimes the couple’s legs are intertwined.

How much spooning is enough to reap these potential health benefits? Spooning for 10 minutes or more allows for the production of happy hormones and reduction of stress hormones.

Risks and Side Effects

As you’ve read, spooning benefits your mental, emotional and physical health. It’s a comforting position that can also boost intimacy between romantic partners.

Does it have to be sexual? Absolutely not — depending on the relationship, it can simple be another way to cuddle and show love.

While the position is warming and comforting, it may not be the best sleep position for the entire night. It may lead to a stiff arm or legs, so simply come out of the position when it’s no longer comfortable.

Conclusion

  • Spooning is a position that loved ones take when they are cuddling or sleeping. The spooning position was given its name because it looks similar to two spoons stacked together sideways.
  • There are several benefits of spooning, which come from its affects on hormone production. This type of cuddling promotes the production of happy hormones and reduces stress hormones, leaving you feeling more relaxed, connected and at ease.

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