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What is Spooning?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 09, 2021

Human touch is important for us both physically and mentally. Cuddling is one of the ways humans express and experience touch. Spooning is a form of cuddling where two people lie facing the same direction, and one person's back presses against the other person's torso and chest. The position looks similar to the spoons stacked together in your utensil drawer. 

How Does it Work?

Spooning involves two or more people snuggling against each other but facing the same way. One person’s back is pressed against the other’s front. Arm and leg positions can be anywhere they are comfortable. Some people wrap their arms around their partner. The legs may be stacked or intertwined. 

The person on the outside is referred to as the "big spoon" while the person inside is the "little spoon." But with this type of cuddling, height, gender, and body shape don't matter. You can be either the big spoon or little spoon. Couples who sleep in this position may switch roles during the night. 

Why People Like It

Spooning came about for a reason. Our caveman ancestors slept naked, and having a partner in bed was a way to keep warm and offer protection against predators.

Some research shows that hugging may lead to a release of oxytocin -- the “feel good” hormone -- into your body.

That can reduce stress, ease pain, and even bolster your immune system -- the body’s defense against germs.

Spooning also helps you create positive bonds with the people you love.

What's the Difference Between Spooning and Cuddling?

Spooning and cuddling both describe types of physical touch. You can cuddle and not spoon, but spooning is a specific type of cuddling. 

Spooning can be platonic, but it can also be used before, during, or after sex. Couples may use it as foreplay before sex, or spoon after sexual activity. Mutual masturbation, vaginal intercourse, or anal intercourse are also possible in this position. 

Myths About Spooning

Myth: If you’re taller, you can’t be the “big spoon.” There aren’t any specific rules about size when it comes to spooning. The taller person can be the little spoon and vice versa. How you choose to spoon typically depends on the person and your relationship.

Myth: Spooning leads to sex. Some believe spooning can’t be platonic. People who are friends may cuddle, and it’s possible that may lead to sex. Only you and the person you’re cuddling with can decide what spooning means to you.

How to Try Spooning Safely

Spooning can be platonic cuddling or a prelude to sexual activity. If the person you're spooning with isn't your romantic partner, it's helpful to set boundaries. If one person feels sexual and the other person doesn't, it can lead to an uncomfortable situation. 

The same issue may surface between couples who spoon after sex or snuggle up before going to sleep. Cuddling is a great way to connect physically, but can be uncomfortable for long periods of time. If one partner craves more physical intimacy, but the other is overheated, it could lead to an argument or hurt feelings. Communication is important. Consider having a conversation with your spooning partner before snuggling up together to ensure both people enjoy the physical and emotional bond.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES

Biol Psychol: "More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women."

Chronobiology International: “Two in a bed: The influence of couple sleeping and chronotypes on relationship and sleep. An overview.”

Johns Hopkins University: "The Healthy Side Effects of a Good Night's (Shared) Sleep." 

National Sleep Foundation: "How Cuddling Affects Your Sleep." 

The Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: “The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor.”

University of California, Berkeley: "Why Physical Touch Matters for Your Well-Being." 

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