Sleeping with a teddy bear as an adult defended by Dutch psych expert
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Sleeping with a teddy bear as an adult defended by Dutch psych expert

Finland is using giant teddy bears to enforce social distancing on buses. Credit: Pixabay

There are many words for it in English – a plush, a stuffy, a lovey, a teddy bear – but no matter what you call it, if you’re still sleeping with a cuddly friend when you’re well into adulthood, an expert at the University of Amsterdam says that’s just fine.

“Sleeping with a ‘hug’ can make us feel safe,” Patrick Luyten, professor of clinical psychology, told Radio 2.

The term ‘hug’ comes from the Dutch word “knuffel,” which was popularised in both a beloved children’s book called ‘Knuffle Bunny’ by Mo Willems and its recent usage during the coronavirus to describe social bubbles. “Knuffelcontact” was declared the Word of the Year in Flanders for 2020.

And Professor Luyten says that during coronavirus times, habits like sleeping with a stuffed animal or beloved cuddle toy can be more meaningful than ever.

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“In general, we see that people in these times seek a feeling of safety more often,” Luyten says. “This may mean sleeping with a plush animal.”

As to the taboo of snuggling up with a plush in your twenties, thirties or beyond, Luyten explains that we tend to see everything having to do with our childhood as being, well, childish. But he also points out that many other habits from childhood continue into adulthood with less stigma, such as collecting stamps or matchbox cars.

“For many people, a stuffed toy was an important part of their childhood. As children, we are very attached to our parents. A stuffed toy helped us to be more independent. It replaced our parents when we slept somewhere. A plush animal therefore often has a strong emotional bond.”

Not that a partner should be worried.

“There’s no need to be jealous of your partner’s knuffel,” says Luyten. “As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your relationship, there’s no problem. Our childhood brings a feeling of homesickness, but also a sense of security. For some people, this manifests itself in sleeping with a knuffel.”

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times

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