The Science Behind Snuggling: A Lesson on Oxytocin

Oxytocin, not to be confused with the highly addictive Oxycontin, is a powerful neurotransmitter in the brain. It is oftentimes referred to as the “Love hormone” or “Cuddle Chemical”, because it is produced during activities like kissing, hugging and snuggling.

Prairie Voles, arguably nature’s most monogamous species, produce Oxytocin in massive amounts -- interestingly enough, they snuggle the shit out of each other every chance they get.

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But, we aren’t talking about rodents. So, why is this hormone so important to humans?

Oxytocin in Women

First and foremost, Oxytocin plays a vital role for women during the birth process. Its production is what shrinks the uterus after delivery, and its release is what allows mothers to breastfeed.

More importantly, Oxytocin promotes mother-child bonding. A study published in the journal, Psychological Science, found the higher a mother's Oxytocin levels in the first trimester, the more likely she was to engage in bonding behaviors; like singing to her baby.

Oxytocin in Men

Oxytocin also plays an important role in father-child bonding, but doubles as a fidelity booster. One study found that men in relationships given a burst of Oxytocin spray stood farther away from an attractive woman than men who weren’t given any Oxytocin.

No women, I don’t think you should snuggle your significant others so they don’t cheat on you. That’s ridiculous. I am just saying this is a result of the study.

Oxytocin in Relationships

If you are anything like me, children aren’t part of the plans anytime in the near future. So, why is the subject of Oxytocin so important? Because it plays a major role in intimate relationships -- affecting longevity, empathy, closeness, trust and communication.

Oxytocin acts as a highly effective bonding hormone between couples. If Cupid were real, he would dip his arrows in a warm caldron of Oxytocin before taking aim.

Do you remember that couple in high school who were constantly groping each other and making out in the hallways? Their mildly disgusting behavior can be attributed to surging levels of Oxytocin, as well as all the other fucked up hormones present in teenagers.

5 Ways to Increase Levels of Oxytocin in Your Relationship

1. Snuggle and Snuggle Often

Yes, it is really that simple. If your partner is watching Netflix, go lay with them. If they are making breakfast, go wrap your arms around them from behind. Even if they are working on their laptop, go sit with them and just be present.

2. Express Non-Sexual Affection

Men have a bad habit of only showing affection when they want to have sex. Hugging, holding and kissing their partner in hopes that it will lead to something. While sex certainly can produce Oxytocin, non-sexual acts like hugging, kissing and snuggling causes the hormone to kick into production at full throttle.

Snuggling without intention is important because it says, “I am here because I love you and care about you, unconditionally.”

3. Tell Your Partner They are Beautiful or Handsome

When was the last time you looked at your partner and told them how hot they were? This may seem minuscule, but words of affirmation are... well, affirming. Sure, you may have found your girlfriend hot two years ago, but do still find her attractive today? Let her know, tell her. 

4. Think of Them

If you are at the gas station and know your boyfriend loves kit-kats, buy him a king size. If you stumble upon tickets to a concert you know your significant other really wants to see, surprise them. If you know your partner is having a rough day, send them a funny picture of a cat with a fat tail.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or momentous, it just has to be something thoughtful. The cliche, “It’s the thought that counts” is a cliche for a reason; because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you are thinking of your person.

5. Put Down the Phones and Show Interest

When your partner speaks, listen. When your partner asks you to get up off the couch to look at a fat squirrel in the yard, get up and look even though you have seen hundreds of squirrels in your lifetime. If your partner is upset and venting, don’t just listen but empathize.

Our phones have made all of us really bad listeners. People will talk to us and we will just nod our heads as we stare at our screens.

I want to make something very clear; when your partner is talking to you and you are entranced in your phone, you are giving off a message -- Whatever is happening on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is more important than you and what you have to say.

In Closing

The production of Oxytocin really just comes down to a little bit of extra work each day, a willingness to do more and be more for your partner.

I try to always write about big problems with easy solutions. I truly believe a lack of intimacy to be a big problem in relationships, and I think snuggling is both a fun and easy solution.

By Cole Schafer

Sources:

Oxytocin: Facts About the Cuddle Hormone

A Love Drug? Oxytocin Hormone Makes Mothers Kinder

Be Mine Forever: Oxytocin May Help Build Long-Lasting Love

20 Ways to Amp Up The Love (Boost Oxytocin Naturally) In Your Couple Relationship