The Power (and Science) of Cuddling
Updated: Dec 27, 2017
Article by "The Science of People"
Did you know you have a secret weapon?
You carry it with you every day. You were born with it. Sometimes it turns red and sometimes you have to get it checked. It’s also your largest organ.
It’s your skin!
Skin-to-skin touch is one of the most powerful feelings on the planet. For many, there is nothing better than getting a shoulder massage from a friend, a foot rub from a lover or a cuddle session from a partner. For some, touch can be terrifying—far too intimate, far too close and far too emotional.
The Power of Touch:
Our skin is our security system, our sensations detector and our gateway to the world around us. Touch is the very first sense we develop in the human embryo– less than eight weeks after being conceived, an embryo is barely 2.5 centimeters long and has neither eyes nor ears, but its skin is already highly developed.
Our sense of touch is also the last to diminish in old age.
In the first few months of life, touch is essential for a baby’s development. In a tragic example, Katherine Harmon found that babies left in orphanages who go without touch from adult caretakers are severely affected and are often unable to function as children.
The Science of Touch:
Touch releases special hormones in our bodies and also inhibits stress hormones.
Dr. Tiffany Field found that when we massage premature babies, they gain approximately 45 to 50% more weight and are discharged from the hospital approximately six days earlier than premature babies who do not receive consistent touch. Introducing increased touch into preemie health care would save about $10,000 per preemie baby because the babies would go home 6 days earlier. If you multiply that by the 470,000 preemies born each year, we would save $4.7 billion!
Specifically, the right kind of touch:
Increases oxytocin—this hormone is great for our heart and makes us feel connected to the world around us.
Drops cortisol—the stress hormone which makes us feel anxious and decreases our cognitive function.
Triggers dopamine—the pleasure hormone which makes us feel really, really good.