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Why Putting Your Hands Down Your Pants Helps You Fall Asleep

It's not a sex thing — and it's not just a guy thing, either

Kenton, a 38-year-old in Ontario, is a serial hands-down-the-pants guy. Whenever he’s relaxing on the couch or about to fall asleep, his hands are down his pants. He says he doesn’t remember when he started it, “but as far back as I can remember, I can clearly hear my mom’s voice: ‘Kenny, get your hands outta your pants!’”

When he’s tired, he tends to do it without thinking, he explains. “It was always a comfort thing.”

Before you assume it’s another weird guy behavior, listen to Candice, a 23-year-old in Tennessee, who also started sleeping with her hands down her pants at a young age. “It was more comfortable and warm than not doing it.”

Now, Candice and her boyfriend sleep with each other’s hands down each other’s pants. “We both agreed that it’s just something comforting about how it warms your hands and how it kind of made us fall asleep faster,” she says. “So now I find it almost more comfortable with other people’s hands, which is pretty funny.”

Kenton and Candice aren’t alone — last week, hands-down-the-pants redditors came out of the woodwork to admit they do the same:

“I make a habit of it and it’s not sexual in nature at all. I have to mindfully not do it when I’m at work when I’m getting too comfortable lmao,” redditor u/Justchillingout wrote in a thread on the subreddit r/DoesAnybodyElse, which helps people find out if they’re alone in their weird habits.

“I was really self conscious about it for a while cause I’d do it while drunk — falling asleep on the floor or couch — and my friend would always make fun of me for it. I think it’s cause the pressure of the waistband bothers me in my sleep,” adds u/Reasonable_Ear.

“Who wears pants to bed wtf,” comments u/Randomstupidnanasnme.

According to Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of sleep science website, this is isn’t totally random. “Sleeping with your hands down your pants is an interesting habit for both kids and adults and isn’t gender-specific by any means,” he says. “For the most part, we would do this for three reasons: warmth, comfort and protection.”

For warmth, Fish explains, your “fingers tend to get cold easily, and innately we have the desire to keep them warm. So putting your hands not only under the covers, but taking a step further and putting your hands down your pants is a surefire way to warm them up.  

“As far as comfort,” he continues, “we discovered from an early age that our genitals have an incredible amount of nerve endings, so having your hands down there does feel good.” Science backs that: According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, non-erotic fondling of the genitals releases oxytocin, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

In addition to feeling nice and warm, Fish adds, since we know instinctively that “the genitals are also a sensitive area when struck, we instinctively move to protect our private parts.”

Though Kenton hasn’t quite narrowed down the exact reason putting his hands down his pants makes him feel comfortable, he says his family “now just accepts it as weird dad behavior.”

However, it wasn’t always accepted, he adds. “It got a bit embarrassing in my late teens away at university. I was playing video games with my friends at the end of a long day, being exhausted, and sort of zoning out. Pretty soon my hands would be trying to find their way into my pants, while I was still holding my Xbox controller. Yeah, not a great way to make friends, but I guess a great way to mark my territory?”

Though it might be awkward to get caught with your hands down your pants, Fish says you shouldn’t worry about it. “There is nothing wrong with sleeping with your hands in your pants. We all have strange habits. But this one could make your sleep partner giggle!” Unless you’re like Candice and swap hands with your partner.