Why does cuddling feel so good? It’s science, baby: specifically, brain chemistry. When you hug or snuggle with a partner, your pituitary gland releases a chemical called oxytocin, which has been shown to reduce stress and promote bonding in relationships. (There’s a reason oxytocin has been nicknamed the “love hormone!”) Other feel-good chemicals released during cuddling include dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel pleasure, and serotonin, a hormone that helps stabilize your mood.
In what sounds like a positively delightful area of research, scientists have linked cuddling to a number of mental, physical, and relationship benefits. A 2018 study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who received hugs were better able to handle interpersonal conflicts; another 2018 study published in the journal PNAS found a connection between handholding with a romantic partner and physical pain relief.
Just remember, not everyone wants to cuddle, or to cuddle for the same amount of time. Ask your partner what feels good for them—and be specific, says Shadeen Francis, a Philadelphia-based licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy, emotional intelligence, and social justice: “Is it just a five-minute cuddle and then I can roll over or get up, or are you the sort of person that wants a good half-hour snuggle fest?” Nobody likes being trapped in little spoon and having to figure out how to extricate themselves!
Here are 10 cuddling positions to try with your partner on the bed, couch, or wherever you like to get cozy.
Great for sleepy sex; equally great for post-sex cuddling. All that skin-to-skin contact = major oxytocin release.
Your bodies make a T…get it? One partner lies with their head on a pillow, while the other partner rests on their tummy. (If you’ve eaten recently, prepare to giggle at wacky digestion sounds.)
The Booty Pillow
Butts make great pillows, okay?! That’s why this variation on T-time exists. In this position, one parter lies on an actual pillow, while the other parter lies on that person’s tush pillow.
Butt to Butt
Yes, really. When you think about it, it’s the ultimate compromise for couples where one person needs space and the other craves touch after sex.
The Couch Cuddle
For that point in the evening when you turn on a mindless home renovation show and accept you’re going to fall asleep on the couch together…
Spooning can get a little steamy—in, like, a sweaty way. Especially if you’ve just had an energetic romp. Try this intimate variation to get a little more airflow between your bods.
The Horizontal Hug
Lie on your sides, face-to-face, and wrap your arms and legs around each other. This one’s great for kissing, gazing into each other’s eyes, and basking in the glow of each other’s satisfied smiles.
The Lap Nap
One partner snuggles up between the other’s legs and leans against their chest. Pro tip for the person in back: you’re perfectly positioned to give a neck and shoulder massage.
The Leg Lattice
Calling all sweaty sleepers again. In this position, you’ll interlock your legs while keeping the rest of your bodies separate. Expect a little calf sweat—but otherwise, you’ll be cool as cucumbers.
Ever seen how a baby monkey rides around on its mom’s back? It looks cozy as hell—hence, this cuddling position. Close your eyes and you might just drift off to sleep.