Would You Cuddle With a Stranger?

Embracing someone can be good for both your physical and mental health. By Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Don’t have anyone to snuggle with this Valentine’s Day? No problem. Simply book an appointment with a professional cuddler.

Or, if you live in Portland, there’s always Cuddle Con, the world’s first cuddling convention, which takes place on Feb. 14 and will feature a massage workshop, pillow fights and a massive snuggle party.

(Don’t worry — there’s no nudity or sexual touching allowed, and everyone must take a consent class before joining in the touchy-feely festivities.)

If you think cuddling with someone you just met sounds bizarre or downright uncomfortable, you’re not alone, but the snuggle-for-hire business is taking off and thousands of people are spooning with strangers in at least 16 states.

The science of snuggling

Touch plays an important role in our development. In fact, it’s so critical that research shows its absence slows infant growth and can have lasting behavioral, emotional and social effects well into adulthood.

When we embrace someone, oxytocin — also known as the “cuddle hormone” — is released, which gives us a warm fuzzy feeling.

A hug can even reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol our bodies produce and lower blood pressure.

Plus, cuddling up to someone can make us feel better about the world around us. A study published in Psychological Science found that touch significantly reduces fear and worry.

"Even fleeting and seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch may help people to deal more effectively with existential concern," writes lead researcher Sander Koole.

Cuddling as a career

When Samantha Hess, the founder of Cuddle Con, started her Portland business, Cuddle Up To Me, she was the sole snuggler. However, today she has a storefront, as well as three full-time employees who use the 100 different cuddle positions they learned as part of Hess’ 40-hour cuddling certification.

In Highland, New York, professional cuddler Kimberly Kilbride works out her home and charges $80 an hour or up to $400 a night for an overnight cuddle session.

But casual cuddling isn’t something you have to pay a professional for.

Numerous apps and websites exist to connect people in need of a little snuggling, and many cities have weekly or monthly meet-ups where people can get together for massages, nuzzles and cuddles.

What to expect

Unlike massage therapists, professional cuddlers don’t have to be trained, licensed or certified. Most cuddlers simply have to abide by local regulations and obtain a license for a home-based business if they operate out of their homes.

Before beginning a snuggle session, the cuddler will outline what kind of touching is acceptable and talk to the customer about what they’re comfortable with.

Many will even provide a body diagram for customers to mark which body parts are OK to touch and which are off-limits.

Some businesses monitor cuddling sessions with security cameras. And to ensure both the cuddler and cuddlee truly keep things clean, several cuddling businesses require that both parties shower and brush their teeth before getting snuggly.