When It’s Time to Wish Farewell to a Fluffy Friend

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Issue 10, Volume 113

By Stefanie Chen 

It’s nighttime. You’re getting ready for bed, and behold: a bed stacked to the brim with stuffed animals galore. Your favorite sparkly unicorn is under your right arm, and an old purple monkey is tucked beneath your left. You feel like you’re six years old again, sleeping with stuffed animals surrounding your entire being.

But then, you suddenly remember that you’re not, in fact, six years old anymore. You’re 28 years old, have a full-time job, and must wake up at 6:00 a.m. to go to work. Yet, you have a bed full of stuffed animals, and it’s the only place where you feel safe. You begin to feel too old to enjoy all of these toys.

There has always been a negative sentiment toward adults sleeping with stuffed toys. While it’s acceptable for a child to run and play with their magical horse plushie, it’s frowned upon for adults to do the same. Adults are expected to display maturity, and stuffed animals are uncontested symbols of childhood. Most people feel that these stuffed animals are signs of weakness, so an adult having stuffed toys is deemed humorous and shameful. However, contrary to common belief, it isn’t unhealthy or immature for adults to hold on to their stuffed toys, nor is it really all that uncommon.

Despite the stigma against adults sleeping with plush toys, adults owning stuffed animals are not a rare occurrence. According to a 2017 study of 2,000 Americans conducted by Build-a-Bear Workshop, a popular custom-stuffed toy outlet, nearly 40 percent still slept with a stuffed animal. More than 56 percent of adults had owned a stuffed toy and kept it for at least two decades. Seventy percent planned to keep their stuffed toy “forever.” Another survey by OnePoll and Life Storage in 2018 found that more than four in every 10 adults in America still slept with a stuffed animal. Best Mattress Brand conducted a survey involving 2,000 people in 2017 revealing that only 30 percent of participants would feel bothered if their partner still slept with a stuffed animal. Not only do a significant number of adults own stuffed animals, but people are also gradually growing less judgmental toward those who do.

Sleeping with stuffed animals as an adult isn’t unhealthy and can even be beneficial to one’s health. According to Margaret Van Ackeren, a licensed therapist, adults sleep with stuffed animals to feel secure and reduce feelings of loneliness and anxiety. For adults with hectic work schedules and stressful work habits, stuffed animals can be an effective coping mechanism. Stuffed animals can also help improve work productivity by lessening negative feelings or treating mental illnesses that may interfere with work, such as PTSD and bipolar disorder, proving effective as psychotherapy. Rose M. Barlow, a professor of psychology at Boise State University, elaborates on the use of stuffed animals for adult therapy as mediums to express emotions and as sources of unconditional support. As many commonly associate stuffed animals with childhood, these toys can also drastically help adults heal from childhood neglect or abuse.

On the other hand, stuffed animals can negatively affect an individual’s adult life. According to behavioral health specialist Tracey Jones, MD, the harms or benefits of stuffed animals are highly dependent on how they affect an individual’s emotional integrity, daily function, and personal relationships. Though stuffed animals can help adults with anxiety and depression find a way to sleep, it can also make it significantly more difficult for an individual to fall asleep without a stuffed toy. This can prove especially harmful to adults who rely on consistent sleep schedules to keep up with their workflow. While a teddy bear can help calm an individual’s woes, it can also lead to attachment issues, such as not being able to travel places or meet new people without it tagging along. Even though obsessive attachments are possible, stuffed animals can do the opposite just as well by reducing stress to help an individual sleep or acting as a transitional device from another toxic attachment. In addition, they can help adults who suffer from childhood trauma or mental disorders and improve work productivity. Despite the occasional disadvantages stuffed animals may have, the pros of having one are many times greater.

While there is still controversy over whether or not it’s immature for adults to sleep with stuffed animals, the benefits are undeniable. Better sleep, increased work productivity, reduced feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and emotional support are all advantages that come with a stuffed animal friend. All that has to be done now is to reduce the stigma toward sleeping with a stuffed animal 20 years after childhood. Instead of judging someone who owns a stuffed animal, it may be better to think about the benefits the stuffed animal may provide them. In any case, stuffed animals won’t ever cause more harm than they resolve.