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Sex And Sleep: If You Get More Of One, You Get More Of The Other

Written by Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Sleep and sex are beneficial for each other, because sleep gives you the energy for sex, and sex releases the hormones for sleep.
  • Research says that for those in romantic relationships, every extra hour of sleep corresponds to higher sexual desire.
  • Good sleep is very important for you sex life, because poor sleep can cause erectile dysfunction in men and a lack of sexual desire in women.
  • Orgasm releases a hormone named prolactin in men, which helps them fall asleep quickly.
  • Eat the right foods to get more sleep and feel fitter, so that you can have a higher sex drive.
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Sleep has far-reaching effects on your wellbeing. It's a pillar of health that's critical to nearly every process of the body. What you do and what you eat during a 24-hour cycle has a big impact on the quality of your sleep. And if you're sexually active, then you should know that sex and sleep are closely connected. The answers to the questions "how sleep affects sex" and "how sex affects sleep" are the same: it gets better.

Sex and sleep

How can sex help you sleep better? 

sex and sleepBecause of the hormones released by sex, such as oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and prolactin, and the physical exertion of the act, which makes you want to relax and rest afterwards.

The following hormones that aid sleep are involved in the act of sex:

  • Oxytocin: The cuddle hormone
  • Dopamine: The pleasure hormone
  • Endorphins: Another pleasure hormone
  • Serotonin: The happy chemical that promotes sleep
  • Prolactin: The post-orgasm hormone that lets you doze off quickly

How can sleep improve sex life? 

Because when you get a good 7-8 hours restful sleep, you have more energy to do whatever you want before falling asleep again, and your stress levels are lower and mood is better, so you're more likely to want to have sex.

Therefore, sleep and sex are good for each other β€” as long as you're a willing participant in the sexual act; forcing yourself to go through it won't have quite the same happy effect. So, possibly, you need to get the refreshing sleep first, and get into the right mood, before initiating sex. Then, if you make a regular habit of it, your sleep quality and sex life will improve simultaneously.

How sex affects sleep

Research has started to reveal an important, bidirectional link between sex and sleep. There's scientific evidence to show that quality sleep can promote a better sex life, and a healthy sex life can give you improved sleep. Recognizing this connection can create opportunities for enhancing wellbeing.

  • In a study conducted by CQ University in Australia, researchers found that 64% of adults surveyed felt that sex resulting in an orgasm helped them sleep better. More sleep leads to more sex.
  • A 2015 report in The Journal of Sexual Medicine says that for those in romantic relationships, every extra hour they slept corresponded to higher sexual desire and a 14% increase in the chances of feeling aroused the next day. 

Poor sleep and bad sex life

Because sleep and sex are so interconnected, when you lack sleep, your sex life suffers, too. 

A 1997 study from the University of Chicago found that people who slept fewer hours at night experienced raised levels of cortisol, the body's stress hormone. 

In a 2010 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that a rise in cortisol significantly lowered people's sex drive.

1. Impact on men

For men, how much you sleep directly impacts your testosterone levels. A 2007 study from the University of Chicago, which appeared in the journal Sleep, found that men who slept 4 hours only showed notably lower levels of testosterone than those who had slept 8 hours. Another study in 2011, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed that chronic lack of sleep completely wiped out sex drive in men.

Research has shown that sleep deprivation can also cause erectile dysfunction. A 2009 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine took a look at 401 male subjects with sleep issues and found that 70% of them also had erectile dysfunction.

According to a 2020 report in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology, erectile dysfunction, lower urinary tract symptoms, and hypogonadal symptoms all have a linear relationship with sleep, as worse symptoms occur with poorer sleep. The study highlights that sleep not only impacts your desire for sex, but also affects your fertility.

Male infertility, interestingly, has an inverse U-shaped relation to sleep, in which men with too little and too much sleep seem to be more at risk for infertility than those with 7-8 hours of sleep. According to a Danish study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2013, sleep deprivation leads to lower sperm count in men.

A 2016 study in the journal Sleep Medicine says that people with sleep disorders, particularly those with sleep apnea, exhibit an increased risk of subsequent erectile dysfunction.

2. Impact on women

Studies have found multiple ways in which poor sleep can affect sex in women. A 2015 study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that short sleep duration and poor sleep quality lead to poor female sexual response and it can also interfere with a woman's level of sexual satisfaction.

Disturbed sleep is common for many women during menopause, creating an array of adverse health outcomes such as heart disease, hypertension, and depression.

Short-term sleep deprivation has been found to cause increased sexual arousal in women the following day, which may be tied to changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. However, this lack of sleep was not found to increase the likelihood of actually having sex, so sleepiness and fatigue can interfere with sexual activity.

Studies have also shown that sleep apnea is tied to sexual dysfunction in women. A 2013 report in the journal Sex Medicine says that treating sleep apnea leads to sleeping better, feeling more energetic, and a better sex life.

Sleep, sex, and stress

Sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on mood, even in healthy people. The more stressed you are and the greater the number of worries you go to bed with, the poorer the quality of your sleep. Easing the physical effects of stress and quietening anxiety are essential to a restful night.

During times of stress, a sharp rise in adrenaline pumps your muscles full of energy to prepare you to fight or flee from danger. With emotional and mental stress, this adrenaline doesn't get burned off. Instead, it's stored as muscle tension, which is bad news for your sleep. Sex releases hormones that help sleep. 

Sex lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. Sex also boosts oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel connected to your partner and reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.

In men, having an orgasm releases a hormone called prolactin, which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. Women experience greater vaginal lubrication, a boost in estrogen levels, and an enhanced REM stage, giving them deeper slumber.

For many people, the combination of these hormones leads to a sense of calmness and drowsiness. Post-coital snuggling helps release oxytocin, which may result in bonding and a good night's rest. 

The Big O

Research shows that you don't need to have a full-on sexual intercourse to gain the sleep-enhancing benefits of sex. A variety of studies suggest that orgasm, however you may achieve it, might lead to a good night's sleep.

  • Research from CQ University, Australia, says that a study of 460 adults between the ages of 18 and 70 found that 64% of respondents slept better after an orgasm. You could also go solo.
  • In the year 2000, a study was conducted with 2,632 women and it found that 39% of those who masturbated reported that they did it in order to relax. Serotonin and oxytocin released during orgasm are two built-in, natural stress reducers.
  • With a sexual partner, it was found that men produced four times more prolactin when having an orgasm through intercourse when compared to masturbation.
  • Prolactin is a hormone that's linked to sexual satisfaction, and it's also heavily related to sleep. Studies show that prolactin levels are naturally higher during sleep. Studies also demonstrate that plasma prolactin concentrations are substantially increased for over an hour following orgasm. 

It's sweaty work

An obvious aspect of sex and sleep is the physical exertion involved. When you have sex with a partner, you're putting in a lot of physical work; naturally, you'll feel tired after the session is over.

Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all. Because serotonin and dopamine can also create a euphoric sensation, some people may feel stimulated following sex. If you prefer morning sex, it's probably because serotonin and dopamine power you up rather than down. Ultimately, figuring out what revs you up or calms you down is going to take a little trial and error β€” all of it should be fun, anyway!

Tips to improve sleep-sex benefits

Tips to improve sleep-sex benefits

What happens in the bedroom is crucial for your overall wellness. It's important to work with your body, age, and stage of life to optimize your sleeping hours.

Adjust the temperature: Sex will make you all hot, but sleep needs a cool temperature. Make sure that you adjust the temperature to a pleasant cool, post-coitus.

Be conscious of lighting: Limit the amount of bright, blue-light screens (e.g. phone and laptop) in your sleep and sex space. Dim, red-light bulbs can help both sex and sleep.

Try some aromatherapy: Aromatherapy helps both sex and sleep. Try ylang-ylang, lavender, jasmine, and chamomile.

Quick clean-up: Always have an extra sheet on your bed when you have sex. It makes the clean-up quick and you can quickly get to a good snooze. If you use sex toys, leave the deep cleaning for the next morning and use sex-toy cleaning wipes for a quick wipe-down. 

Foods for good sleep (and good sex)

Key changes to your dietary habits can help lower cortisol levels, while also balancing your blood sugars, reducing inflammation and setting you up nicely for a sound sleep, and in turn ensuring more sex.

Foods for good sleep


Proteins: Choose organic, hormone-free poultry and eggs, organic dairy and milk products like unflavored, unsweetened yogurt and cheese. For vegetarian sources of protein, choose organic pulses, nuts and seeds. Eat slowly, chew properly, and sip on warm water while eating.
 

Whole grains: Keep off white rice and white wheat flour products. Use whole grains like brown rice, rolled/steel cut oats, spelt and whole wheat. Have pseudo-grain seeds like quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth, which are gluten-free and high in protein.

Good fats: Avoid margarine and choose butter and ghee made from the milk of grass-fed cows. Have extra-virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, and other cold-pressed nut and seed oils stored in dark glass bottles. 

Minerals: Vitamin D, iron, magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, lycopene, and selenium all play a role in helping you to sleep. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits of different colors will ensure you get a spectrum of nutrients.

Conclusion

Instead of staring at the ceiling, counting sheep, or looking at the clock with increasing frustration, the next time you can't sleep, try sex. You'll probably sleep more soundly, too. Include the right foods in your diet to sleep better and have a higher sex drive, in addition to feeling fitter and more energetic.

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Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna is an Internal Medical Expert who is based out of Ukraine. With a special interest in internal medicine Dr Pulyk graduated from the Ternopil National Medical Academy in Ukraine, in the year 2001. Between the years 2002-2009, Dr Pulyk worked as an emergency physician. Her years of work as an emergency physician gave her immense exposure to a range of patients and an opportunity to learn on the job, and gather extensive experience.

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