Stuffed Animals Help with Anxiety

September 26, 2018 TJ DeSalvo

Sleeping with stuffed animals helps with my anxiety. Learn how stuffed animals help with anxiety, and why we should discard our anti-stuffed animal bias.

I’ve found that stuffed animals help with my anxiety. However, for most people, sleeping with stuffed animals is something considered appropriate only for young children. Instinctively, it does feel a bit strange to imagine an adult with an army of stuffed animals thrown about on their bed. But perhaps it’s time to condemn that instinctual judgment as inaccurate and overly bigoted – perhaps the benefits of sleeping with stuffed animals to help with anxiety into adulthood are something we should all take seriously.

How Stuffed Animals Help Me with Anxiety

It should be no surprise, then, to hear that I sleep with stuffed animals to help with anxiety. My stuffed animal of choice is Totoro from the movie My Neighbor Totoro, but I have a collection of probably 15 others. My collection didn’t happen necessarily because I wanted something to cuddle with at night – as best as I can recall, I would occasionally buy stuffed animals when I would go to conventions, as a means of supporting shows or movies I was a fan of.

I only started sleeping with my stuffed animals on a regular basis after I left graduate school. At the time, I needed more comfort, and my stuffed animals were there to provide that comfort ("Using Comfort Objects to Reduce Anxiety"). Since that time, my stuffed animals have become constant companions – whenever I travel, I always take one or two with me.

Again I reiterate: this is more common than you may realize. A survey by Best Mattress Brand of over 2,000 adults found that 7% of respondents still sleep with their stuffed animal – the only other thing that even came close, at 18%, was a pet.1 That number may continue to grow – Millennials are twice as likely to sleep with stuffed animals as their Generation X counterparts. Habit and comfort are the most important reasons cited for stuffed animal companionship.2

Indeed, science demonstrates that the comfort stuffed animals provide is legitimate. A recent study from UV University Amsterdam suggests that touching a stuffed animal, especially among those who have low self-esteem, helps to relieve existential angst. The study also suggested touch is a means of increasing social connectedness among people during periods of anxiety.3

The results of this study mirror my sentiments exactly. When I am feeling anxious, a gentle touch is beyond soothing, in a way more profound than words can express. Besides my stuffed animals (which are constant companions), I also often like to wrap myself up in blankets, to feel that touch around my whole body.

Stuffed Animals Will Help You with Anxiety

In a weird way, these inanimate objects are often more helpful than living things. My cat is a huge help when I’m feeling anxious, but, cats being what they are, sometimes he’ll want to do his own thing as opposed to spending hours with me. I get that. If I can use stuffed animals in conjunction with real animals, and if stuffed animals can produce similar positive effects to their living counterparts, should that not be embraced?

Alas, I know a negative stigma remains - 10% of Americans would break up with a romantic partner if they discovered they slept with a stuffed animal. I hope that, someday, we can reduce that number to zero. Stuffed animals are wonderful companions, and no one should be shamed for keeping them into adulthood. Besides, if the weirdest thing about your partner is the fact that they have a stuffed animal collection, consider yourself lucky.

How many of you use stuffed animals to help with your anxiety?


1. BMB Staff. "Bedtime Companions". Best Mattress Brand. March 22, 2017.

2. Goldfarb, Anna. "Is Sleeping with Your Stuffed Animals into Adulthood a Problem?". Vice. May 25, 2017.

3. Winter, Katy. "Could a teddy bear ease your fear of death? Cuddling soft toys can relieve existential angst, says new study". The Daily Mail. November 18, 2013.

APA Reference
DeSalvo, T. (2018, September 26). Stuffed Animals Help with Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: TJ DeSalvo

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Jordan Hendrix, LMSW, CT
October, 14 2022 at 11:46 pm

I found your article because Grey's Anatomy referenced your study in the latest episode. I am School Mental Health Therapist and thought this was interesting. In the Preschools they don't allow children to have stuffed animals and I always thought that was a problem. I felt like children should be able to have their stuffed animal so that they can ease the anxieties of the school day. I think that having that piece of home can help them feel some comfort while they are away from home. It is also interesting that I have always kept stuffed animals in my office and the children use them often (all ages as I have 4-23). I have them in my office and sometimes they will grab items that remind them of something at home and they will tell stories using them. I would love to some Neurofeedback research on children with anxiety and their reactions to stuffed animals as it is monitored on the EEGs. Thank you for the study---it really had me thinking! My contact information is in the post if you want to speak further, maybe even collaborate on some research. Great work.

June, 1 2022 at 11:15 pm

Thank you so much for this article!
I am 60 with 4 young adult children and a husband and I have collected stuffed animals my entire life. I only recently began to worry that something is wrong with me so I searched on google. Your article and the comments are so very encouraging and supportive. I cannot thank you enough.

June, 13 2021 at 12:50 am

I’m 22, I have tons of stuffed animals and have alway collected them. I briefly recall sleeping with a few as a child, but as I grew up I no longer had a need for it. As of recently, due to the loss of two great grandparents and a grandfather I had noticed my anxiety, and mental illness took a grave hit. With professional help on the agenda, though, with covid appointments are booked our farther than ideal. I started snuggling with a stuffed cow, a squishmallow my best friend got me for Christmas. He’s soft, plush, and sits perfectly on my chest. Whenever my heart starts to flutter or my thoughts begin to spin, I sit him ontop of me and allow his weight to bring myself comfort. It’s the only thing that helps me sleep at night (usually when my panic attacks set in) he’s been a great help to getting much needed rest.

Nate Chapman
December, 15 2020 at 5:55 pm

I have a lot of stuffed horses and dogs I love my pups and horses. I also have two sea turtles I’m attached to and a dog. My sister gave me one of my turtles “Murphy” and my dog “cocoa” she also gave me another pup I named Em pup after her too. I’m so attached to them and they help my anxiety 100% each day and I am able to keep moving each day and knowing I got to keep going each day for my sister thank you for this article it made me feel so much better ❤️

Nate Chapman
December, 15 2020 at 5:55 pm

I have a lot of stuffed horses and dogs I love my pups and horses. I also have two sea turtles I’m attached to and a dog. My sister gave me one of my turtles “Murphy” and my dog “cocoa” she also gave me another pup I named Em pup after her too. I’m so attached to them and they help my anxiety 100% each day and I am able to keep moving each day and knowing I got to keep going each day for my sister thank you for this article it made me feel so much better ❤️

October, 30 2020 at 4:39 pm

I also have stuffed animals. I thought that I was just childish, but when I was growing up, I realized that I have problems coping up with problems. I found ways to excel in my studies because I probably worked 2x as anybody. I thought if I could just work harder, it’ll be the same with life. I’d need lots of time to process situations, more so how to cope up with things. Then I realized that my ‘babies’ helped me coped through difficult situation.
They’re very comforting. I’m happy to be alive. Now, I’m able to live for myself. Now, I’m able to stay. Life is not anymore a scary place to live.

November, 2 2020 at 9:03 am

It makes me happy that your stuffed animals make you feel happy to be alive. That's what they are there for.

September, 8 2020 at 10:32 am

A cup of Sleepytime Tea and a good stuffed bear to hug relieves my stress and anxiety. Perfect. I’m 71 and realized 5 years ago after my mother passed away that this was the only thing that comforted, and still comforts me. Thank you for your website!

January, 26 2020 at 12:07 am

I'm 67 and I don't remember being into stuffed animals as a child. I was more into my pretty dolls. A few days ago, Martin Luther King day, my grandson was with me because there was no school and my daughter was working. He came over the night before and spent the night. He brought a cute little stuffed dog. I'd noticed the dog looked rather realistic. I've been thinking of getting a dog for months, but I've decided I can't afford to take as good care of a dog as a pet deserves. After dropping my grandson off with his mom I came home and saw we'd failed to get his pajama bottoms and the doggie into his backpack. The next day I picked the dog up and looked at it. I decided he could use a little grooming -- removing remnants of a tag that had been mostly cut off and trimming his fur around his eyes. I noticed how good it felt to groom him. The next day I got some bad news I was angry and upset about. At some point I picked up the dog and almost immediately started crying and felt a lot of warmth and relief. I've been holding and hugging and talking to the little fellow more and more. If I have to give him back I'm gonna buy one of my own. It just makes everything softer and more human and less in my head. I tell myself I know it's crazy, but maybe it's not crazy at all.

January, 6 2020 at 7:21 pm

Im glad I came across this, I have a stuffed white kitten I named Valerie that has been reincarnated three times, has been my best friend for 18 years and she helps melt away my depression and anxiety and helps me sleep, she helps me cope I think stuffed animals are very therapeutic and noone should feel ashamed for having one. My boyfriend accepts I have her and thinks it's really cute so I am lucky in that aspect.

July, 20 2019 at 8:14 pm

I have been having a really hard time sleeping since my husband and I moved to a new home. I sleep in the day due to night shift and the noises and stress of the new environment have kept me to anxious. Well, today he put my stuffed froggie which I have had since I was a very little girl in the bed and he said “I thought you might need someone to snuggle with since you can’t snuggle me.” I have not slept with froggie in years and today I slept for a full 8 hours without interruption. I felt so comforted snuggling froggie and it brought back memories of comfort and safety from my childhood. Stuffed animals are no joke in the anxiety department. I’m so glad you wrote this article. People need many options for handling anxiety.

July, 20 2019 at 8:38 pm

This is a really sweet story. One of the primary reasons for me to sleep with my stuffed animals is to help me sleep - I've never been one to sleep that easily, and having stuffed animals helps me a little.

July, 11 2019 at 11:25 am

Hi! Thank you so much for this article. I’m 43 years old and sleep with my stuffed cocker spaniel. She was given to me when I was approximately 20. She looks exactly like my cocker spaniel that died after 17 years of companionship. I suffer from anxiety and depression. My “Chelsea” always provides a sense of comfort and safety. I’m grateful my husband does not object. The first year of marriage, he felt it was strange, but now he understands how it helps me and makes no objection.

July, 11 2019 at 2:20 pm

I'm glad your husband was able to grow, and learned to appreciate how much your stuffed animal makes you feel better. You found a keeper.

May, 8 2019 at 11:28 pm

I’m so glad I found this article. I’m 21 and worried that I’m going insane. I speak to my stuffed bear occasionally and whenever i’m feeling anxious I think about him or talk to him in my head. I feel like I have two sides of myself and one side is super professional, but the other is VERY childish. If you met me you would never know but I often feel like I am doing something wrong. I struggled very badly with depression for 4 years, but am A LOT better now that I am on medication. However, what worries me is that I don’t feel comfortable telling people about my stuffy because I know how they will see me. My one friend I have told thought it was weird. My parents refer to it as ‘at least you’re not turning to drugs or alcohol’. I want to know if this is something that will go away or if I will always be drawn toward stuffed animals rather than people. Now that I am typing this out, I just made the connection that my ex boyfriend gave me this bear and he reminded me so much of the bear because of how cute he was that I called them the same pet name. He was the first boy I loved and I miss him so much. I really think I am just extremely lonely but really don’t like anyone I meet. Again, I am extremely bubbly and ‘popular’, so you would never guess this. I just feel so much pressure from everyone around me and whenever I am with people I feel like they are boring and wasting my time. Does anyone else feel like this? I realize this is not really what the post is about so feel free to disregard this comment, I just needed to tell someone.

December, 20 2019 at 6:15 am

Hi Fiona!
Nope, you're not alone!! I'm almost 21 and right now I have my stuffed Minnie by my side! And today, on my bed, I had Minnie, Topo Gigio (he's also a mouse) and Lottie (a white dog; I love to sleep with her on cold night, because she's very warm and she gives the best hugs)!
Just like you, I talk to them in my head and it really calms me, but sometimes I feel like a freak... I never had depression, but I've had very bad phases in my life and thy have always help me to get through all of that.
My parents respect it and I think they quite understand my need, because I'm an only child, so I'm very lonely.
People wouldn't tell either that I'm like this, because I can pretend very well and I don't open up a lot.
I think I understand you when you fell that people are boring and wasting your time. I've never been in a relationship and I'm totally ok with that, I don't want to rush things. But my male friends don't understand that and create a lot of pressure in me...

March, 31 2019 at 2:49 pm

My dears, I am 59 years old and have never slept a night in my life without a stuffed toy. Some mean more to me than others. Some I have gotten rid of over the years but , the ones that remain are my connection to my childhood and too a safer time. About 4 years ago my beloved dog Prinny died, I lost my mind and a friend in England made me a black dog of old fur coats to remember Prinny with. She travels with me always, She is very very connection the Prinny and when I can take no more she is there. I have several black dogs to remember Prin, but, this one is special and in some vein Prinny lives on there. Right or wrong............this works for me..........thank you Julia

March, 28 2019 at 4:27 pm

I'm a 60 year old woman that went through a traumatic childhood that I am working with myself on recovering. I've always wondered why as an adult, why do I sleep with a stuffed animal and now I am figuring that out. Thank you for your article. I have lots of stuffed animals but the one I usually sleep with is a stuffed chimpanzee about 2 feet tall. Maybe we all need some kind of 'club' with people that sleep with stuffed animals. I'm happy to know I'm not the only one.

March, 28 2019 at 5:11 pm

Of all the articles I've written, this one has received the most comments by a mile. I hope this is because it's caused many people (like you!) who have felt ashamed about it in the past to finally be able to speak up and accept it. At least, I want to believe that's the case.

March, 5 2019 at 12:16 pm

I sleep with the stuffed animals that I gave to my mother to sleep with when she was alive with Alzheimer's. After she passed I kept them near and sleep with some nightly. They help me with my moms passing and with my own anxiety and bouts with depression. However, I have always kept a stuffed pet near all my life since I was given two teddy bears as a child. Thanks for the article. It gives me some confirmation that I'm not completely insane (lol).

March, 5 2019 at 9:37 am

Sleeping w Lovies.... I'm 44 almost 45. I have not slept w/o my movies for decades. Teddy and Twertle fight w my significant other for more room on the bed. They win. I have a webkins kitty that helps me when I go out. She has several textures. I am also soothed by smells. She has a bath and body works holder w my fav antibacterial. And lastly she has my daughter's first id the one that said she was underage. The day she turned 21 she got her new card. I took it and it is soothing, too.
Okay rambling but yes sleep w your lovies!!!!

March, 1 2019 at 5:49 am

Thank you for sharing this with us! I am nearly 30 and when I first started working and had to travel, I was a bit ashamed to bring my stuffed animal with me, which led me to spending sleepless nights for a few months. Eventually I realized that it is my way of getting comfort, so now I never leave it at all. I might buy something smaller, like a keychain, to help me through the day! :D

March, 1 2019 at 5:04 pm

You're very welcome! I'm glad you've become more comfortable bringing it with you. There are lots of keychain stuffed animals that would be perfect for what you want - I've looked into getting one myself.

February, 11 2019 at 3:36 am

I have a fluffy flamingo that stays in the car, A quick hug before I get out helps the day go better, a hug when I get in at the end of the day helps a bad day disappear, or just feels good anyway ?. Ps. I'm nearly forty!!

February, 3 2019 at 6:26 am

Thank you for this article. I'm in my forties, and I started using stuffed animals for sleeping or just lounging on the couch for comfort. I thought I was being childish and felt a little ashamed for it, but your article has helped a lot. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

February, 4 2019 at 2:33 pm

I'm glad the article was able to help. You aren't being childish at all. The only thing that's childish is the fact that some people feel the need to judge people for something like this. Someday I hope that stigma will be no more.

October, 5 2018 at 12:36 pm

This is the first time I have read about this subject and I'm so glad you wrote this article I am in my 50s and have a sizeable collection of stuffed animals which give me a lot of comfort. Yes, there is a stigma about this, but it is unfounded.

October, 5 2018 at 3:06 pm

I've received several comments saying this is the first article a reader has encountered on the subject. That really makes me sad. What I'm saying shouldn't be heralded as breaking new ground - it should be seen as common sense. Yet here we are. In any case, I appreciate the kind words you have about the article. Frustrating as cultural attitudes may be, it gives me happiness to know others are finding comfort in what I said.

October, 4 2018 at 11:49 am

Thanks so much for the article and for sharing your story. As a 56 year old person working in the mental health field as a PRSS, I haven't shared this with anyone. Yes, I too, have real animals but still sleep with a stuffed animal at home and I have another one for when I travel for overnight trainings or workshops . There is such comfort and I can definitely state that it helps with my anxiety and depression.

October, 4 2018 at 1:32 pm

I really appreciate your comment. I'm glad to hear your stuffed animals give you comfort. I found it hard to share this with most people for a very long time - I only just started to get better about it very recently. The stigma surrounding the issue really does make me angry - as if we didn't have enough to be genuinely upset about, we have to shame people for a behavior that is not only harmless, but can do serious good for those who need it.

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