The symbolism of Stuffed Animals
When I was about eight years old, my parents bought me a sloth…not a real one, but a stuffed animal version. At the time, sloths were not my favorite animal, it wasn’t my favorite toy and I actually have no idea why my parents even gave it to me as a gift.
For years, I thought it was the worst gift I ever received, but then I realized something 15 years later…I carried my stuffed sloth on every trip I went on, every family vacation, every day at school and I even slept with it every night. George the sloth was a big part of my life and even today, I still carry him in my briefcase to work.
For me, my stuffed animal became a good luck charm and a defender of my bad dreams for over a decade…without me realizing it till now. After talking to a few of my friends, I discovered that I am not the only one who keeps their childhood stuffed animals and I’m not the only one that can’t sleep without their stuffed animal.
In a recent survey conducted by Build-a-Bear-Workshop of 2,000 adults, they discovered that 99% of their participants had a stuffed animal as a child. The surveyed also revealed that 53 percent of adults still have one stuffed animal, either at home or their parents’ home. 1 in 3 adults plan on keeping their stuffed animals as long as they can, and 10 percent of adult men admitted to sleeping with a stuffed animal.
As children, we see stuffed animals as a sign of comfort, warmth, and safety, so it’s only natural that we grow up thinking the same way as adults. According to Dr. Shefali, “In adolescence, as our bodies and our identities begin to change, we search for something that brings us comfort and reminds of a simpler time. Stuffed animals remain a steadfast object of comfort.” Stuffed animals can take us back to when life was just playing with friends, watching cartoons and being free of responsibilities.
The Guardian conducted a study, on three and four-year-olds, where they were shown real animals showing emotions and stuffed animals responding physically. When asked if their real toys would respond like the fake or real animal, the children all responded that their toys would respond like a living animal.
The Guardian also discovered that adults get unconscious stress, if anything happens to their stuffed animals. In the study, adults were shown photos of their personal stuffed animals, mobile phones, and jewelry, given to them by their loved ones.
Each participant had to watch their personal items get shredded and provide a response. Based off of each adult’s response, the majority of them had a more emotional reaction to watching the picture of their stuffed animal get shredded than the other options
The theory of why people get so attached to their stuffed animals has even been traced back to their households. The theory suggests that children from the UK and the US have a higher attachment to inanimate objects because of the high number of children being separated from their parents at a young age (sleeping in their parent’s rooms). In other countries, such as Japan, children sleep in their parent’s room up until adulthood.
Reasons why you should sleep with a stuffed animal
If you are a person that slept with their stuffed animal, from childhood up until adulthood, then it pretty much saw all your ups and downs. Your stuffed animal was there for you through every breakup, life event, accomplishment and at the end of the day, it’s something that will always make you smile.
Researchers at the UV University Amsterdam conducted a study that concluded touch, even from an inanimate object such as a teddy bear, has health benefits. Holding on to something familiar gave people with low self-esteem comfort, lowered depression and decreased anxiety. Touch is something that assures people that their wanted and helps them feel loved.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and Registered Art Therapist, Robert Ryan, explains there are “thousands" of reasons adults might choose to sleep with stuffed animals. "It's a sign of a need," he said. "If you're alone in life and you have a big stuffed animal, there's somebody in bed with you. Sometimes it's very comforting to cuddle a pillow, and it might not be anything more than that."
Sleeping with a stuffed animal as an adult is ok, but if it begins to interfere with your personal life, then it might be time to get rid of it. If you can’t function without one, physically leave your house, go to work or date, then you need to give him up. Although it’s seen as a sign of comfort, it can also become problematic if your life is revolved around your stuffed animal.
Real reasons why you should sleep with your stuffed animals
1. Your stuffed animal is the most loyal friend you will have. He knows all your secrets and will never tell a soul about the aftermath of that wild night you had with your friends.
2. When you are having a bad nightmare or sleeping at a new place, your stuffed animal can be your personal bodyguard. He’s up all night to make sure you sleep safe and comfortable, while he fights all your demons at 3 am.
3. You always have someone to hug. Stuffed animals will never say no to hugs, and they are always available when you a hug to cheer yourself up.
4. You will never be woken up in the middle of the night to monstrous snoring caused by “that person that won’t be mentioned.” Your stuffed animal will always sleep quietly and be readily available to cuddle 24/7.
At the end of the day, you are never too old to sleep with a stuffed animal, as long as it's not interfering with your adult life.