Couples who do this one thing are happier and have better relationships.

Image via iStock.

Confession: I’m a big fan of cuddles. Always have been, always will be.

My boyfriend? Not so much. It’s not uncommon for him to wake up in the middle of the night and find that I’ve latched myself onto him in my sleep, taking up most of the bed and probably squeezing him far too tightly. I call it a “loving embrace”. He calls it “the squeeze of death”.

Scary sleep-hugging aside, there’s no denying that cuddles really can be lovely. And now new research suggests that couples who cuddle more are happier and have deeper connections. Win. So in celebration of the embrace, here are eight reasons why couples who cuddle together, stay together. (Post continues after gallery.)

 1.  It boosts your immune system

Remember that feeling when you first met your partner and you just felt invincible? That warm and fuzzy feeling was probably caused by the release of feel-good hormone oxytocin, which also gets released during cuddles.

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As well as making you feel on top of the world, it increases hormones that fight infections. Because you’re feeling happy and healthy, you’re less likely to get sick.

2. Creates intimacy

Cuddling creates intimacy. Image via iStock.

 

Cuddling in the early stages of relationships in particular helps create an intimate bond, shutting out the rest of the world and allowing you to just focus on each other.

"Cuddling helps release oxytocin, which is a bonding hormone that helps us feel close," explains relationship therapist Isiah McKimmie.

It's also important to continue doing throughout the relationship as research shows that people feel more loving and affectionate towards their partner when they cuddle. It has an extremely positive effect on our emotional state, which keeps us happy, healthy and satisfied.

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3. Reduces stress

A cuddle from a loved one can instantly reduce stress by releasing oxytocin and decreasing our cortisol (aka the 'stress hormone') levels. Think about it - how much better would you feel if you came home from a stressful day at work to a 10 minute hug from your partner, rather than spending that time continuing to stress over work? It can also reduce social anxiety and help you face your fears. Powerful.

4. Keeps the spark alive

Cuddles help keep that spark alive. Image via iStock.

 

It's no secret that in a long-term relationship, the exciting spark you had when you were first together turns more into a gentle fizzle rather than an exploding firework. It's not a bad thing, it just means you're used to and comfortable around each other.

One way to keep the spark alive is through regular physical contact. Along with caressing, regular cuddling is important for long-term relationship satisfaction, according to an international study that looked at sexual fulfilment in committed couples.

And you don't have to go out of your way to do it either - even touching or staying in close contact while you're sleeping has been found to increase your happiness with your relationship. Big spoon or little spoon?

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There's also a stereotype that men don't like cuddles, which McKimmie believes is false: "Cuddles are a way to show love and affection for men and women. While there's often the perception that men want sex, cuddling is important to them as well."

5. Leads to more sex

A cuddle isn't always just a cuddle - touching releases the hormone dopamine which increases sexual desire, as well as that wondrous oxytocin which a woman needs to prepare for sex. It's a great way to start foreplay that leads to more fun times, which is a win-win for both of you. Sex also has plenty of benefits including strengthening your relationship, relieving stress and of course as physical exercise.

Sex has a wealth of benefits for your health. (Post continues after gallery.)

Cuddling AFTER sex is also scientifically proven to be beneficial. A study found that couples who engage in affection after sex, such as spooning, cuddling and kissing are more satisfied with their sex lives, and as a result their relationship in general.

6. Another way to say "I love you"

Sometimes we just can't find the words to say how we feel. For those times, forget the cheesy hallmark card and just shower your partner with cuddles and affection. It's an easy way to say "I love you" without, you know, actually saying it.

7. Keeps you warm

How to be a morning person
Snuggling is just as good as warm tea and fuzzy socks. Image via iStock.

 

The most obvious. Winter is coming and bringing endless freezing cold nights with it. You COULD blast the heating and add an extra five blankets to the bed, or you could just snuggle up. Loving AND money saving.

8. Reduces your risk of heart disease

Yep, the release of oxytocin is to thank for this too. Because it also works to reduce stress, blood pressure and anxiety, the oxytocin released by cuddling works to reduces your risk of heart disease too. You feel happier which puts less pressure on your heart to combat sickness and ensures you'll stay healthier for longer.

RELATED: Young women are twice as likely to die of a heart attack than young men

Spoiler - any cuddles are good cuddles.

While cuddling with your partner is nice, cuddling your mum/dad/sister/dog/cat/friend will also give you most of the benefits too. Time to snuggle up!

If you're short of cuddles, have some smiles from us - these quotes should do the trick.

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