Birds do it. Bees do it. But according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (yes, that is the name of an actual well-respected academic publication), Americans are doing “it” less often than they did in previous generations. At the same time, one-third of Americans reportedly don’t get enough sleep. Since most people who are having sex are doing it before bedtime, does your sex life affect the quality of your sleep?
What Happens During Sex?
Sex triggers the release of some hormones that may directly contribute to better sleep. When you have sex, your body releases hormones and substances including:
- Oxytocin (the cuddle hormone)
- Dopamine (the pleasure hormone)
- Endorphins (another pleasure hormone)
- Serotonin (the happy chemical)
- Prolactin (the post-orgasm hormone that lets you doze off easily)
Some of these hormones and chemicals counteract cortisol (a stress hormone). Overall, sex triggers hormones that make you feel bonded, safe, calm, rewarded, and happy. Because your blood pressure is also lower after sex, you can expect to feel relaxed, warm, and pain-free, which can all help you feel sleepier than you would without having sex.
Even if you don’t reach orgasm, sex itself can distract you from the stress of everyday life. When you’re thinking about you, your partner, or how your body feels, you aren’t thinking of work, bills, or other minutiae.
No Partner, No Problem
We recognize that sex with a partner isn’t always an option, but this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a healthy sex life. For many people, self-love can create the same positive benefits as sex, including better sleep, lower stress levels, and an improved body image. This is especially true when you are able to reach climax.
Is Sex Before Bed a Good Thing?
We know sex or self-love makes you feel better, but can it really affect the quality of your sleep? In a study conducted by CQ University in Australia, Dr. Michele Lastella and his colleagues found that 64 percent of adults surveyed felt that sex resulting in an orgasm helped them sleep better.
Good Sex Life = Good Sleep (and Vice Versa)
Because of the effects that sex has on your body, it is very likely that a healthy sex life can contribute to better sleep. Alternatively, bad sleep can also negatively affect your sex life. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lower your testosterone levels and cause dysregulation of many of the hormones involved in sex. This imbalance can decrease your sex drive and counteract the positive and rewarding feelings you usually feel after sex.
If you are not getting good sleep, ask your doctor to assess you for a sleep disorder. Research has shown that patients who received treatment for sleep breathing disorders saw improvements in their sex lives. We know that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks for sleep apnea treatment aren’t “sexy,” but getting therapy for a sleep disorder can actually help you feel more turned on.
How to Make Time for Intimacy
Between doing well at work, trying to maintain a social life, and getting at least seven (but preferably more) hours of sleep, sex or self-love might be the last thing on your to-do list. In fact, a study by The Better Sleep Council found that 6 in 10 Americans prefer sleep over sex. Still, it’s important to make time for intimate moments with yourself or with a partner. Make your sex life a priority by:
- Scheduling time to focus on your partner or yourself
- Talking with your partner throughout the day and possibly setting up a sexy conversation that gets you in the mood for later
- Scheduling your bedtime earlier so that you can still take care of your needs without feeling like you’re neglecting your sleep
- Placing your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode before bedtime to focus on your partner or your needs better
Sex and sleep share an undeniable, two-way relationship. Having more sex can help you get better sleep, and getting better sleep can boost your sexual vitality. The only way to determine how sex affects your own sleep is to get your recommended hours of sleep in and schedule some quality time with yourself or with your partner at least once per week.