Around 60-70% of children have an attachment object that soothes and comforts them. If you were one of those children with a comfort blanket or teddy bears permanently attached to them as a child, you might remember the traumatic experience of giving it up. Or perhaps you never did! But is it OK for an adult to still snuggle up to their childhood pal?
What makes them so special?
A raggedy piece of blanket or a tatty old cuddly toy doesn’t look so appealing as an adult. But comfort objects, like the name suggests, provide a feeling of safety and calmness to children. They remind children of home and often have a certain smell which settles them in times of distress.
A study by the University of Bristol suggests that children’s emotional attachment to these items may be because they believe their object has a unique property. When offered the chance to copy their item for an identical new version, almost all children with an ‘attachment toy’ chose to keep the original.
An article by Psychology Today highlights the importance of ‘transitional objects’ to young children. They say, ‘The reliance on such objects is rooted in sensorial elements that lessen the stress of separation, while they soothe and comfort the child’. They go on to explain that these objects allow children to explore emotional relationships and denying them of this can cause attachment difficulties later in life.
Read more: The Effects Of Sleeping With Your Dog
Bringing comfort to adults
It’s not just children that can benefit from the positive effects of comfort objects. According to a UV University Amsterdam study discussed by the Daily Mail, touching something comforting, even if inanimate like a teddy, can help people with low self-esteem with existential/life worries.
They did a series of tests such as briefly touching a participant on the shoulder or allowing them to touch a teddy bear while answering a series of questions. Participants reported less anxiety and better social connectedness after receiving a light pat. Those who touched the teddy bear had reduced reactions to reminders of death.
Lead researcher Sander Koole said, ‘Our findings show that even touching an inanimate object — such as a teddy bear — can soothe existential fears.’
So, there’s definitely something to be gained from having a teddy on your bed if it makes you feel less stressed. If you’re a worrier and know you struggle to sleep without it, there’s no real reason to get rid of it.
Read more: How To Sleep Well Away From Home
Embracing your comfort object
Whether yours is a blanket, a cushion or a stuffed toy, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about having your comfort object near when you go to sleep.
A study by Travelodge showed that over a third of British adults sleep with a teddy bear, with 25% of male respondents claiming to take them away on business trips. As with children, adults’ comfort objects remind them of home and make them feel safe. They can also act as a surrogate for a partner they’ve left behind.
Despite the number of people with cuddly companions, 10% of single men admitted to hiding theirs when a partner came over. Additionally, 14% of married men reportedly hide theirs when friends or family come to stay.
As these objects are still seen as childhood toys or comforters, it’s understandable that people feel embarrassed. Some shame can also come from the state of the object – most are probably old and falling apart. Still, we all need comforting from time to time no matter what age we are.
As long as you feel reassured by your bedtime pal, we say keep snuggling!
Do you have a comfort object that you couldn’t sleep without? Let us know your stories in the comments.