Tossing, turning, yawning and sighing—there’s nothing quite as frustrating as a sleepless night. Though there are plenty of culprits to blame for a lack of quality sleep—from screen time and stress to caffeine—there are also some natural, easy ways to prompt our bodies and minds to rest. One of the most effective? Giving yourself an orgasm. Or having a quick romp with your partner before bedtime. Considering an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans report having issues with their sleep hygiene, implementing a little self and sexual care into your routine might not be such a bad idea. Here, some scientifically proven ways orgasms are good news for shut-eye:
Sex before bed will reduce your stress levels for better sleep
Like it or hate it—when our minds are idle, they start to wander. It’s part of the chemical makeup of our brains, and something that many turn to meditation to tame. Though finding your inner zen is never a bad idea, masturbation can also lower your stress levels, allowing your mind to take a chill pill. As certified sexologist and author, Gigi Engle explains, among its other benefits, an orgasm reduces our body’s production of the natural stress hormone, cortisol. In fact, one study found that 65 percent of participants who had the Big O before bed reported an improvement in their sleep.
We can train our mind to associate sleep with orgasms
Our brains are mighty powerful things: controlling our bodies, guiding our emotions and helping us rock it at the office and navigate heated dinner conversations. They can also be trained to overcome obstacles, traumas, or anxieties, especially when working with a professional. What’s even more fascinating is how they help us to tie certain smells, sights, and textures with memories from our past. That’s why the scent of corn dogs may take you right back to preschool, or a certain brand of sunscreen always reminds you of your family vacations. Sex therapist Shawntres A. Parks says the same can be true about orgasms.
As she puts it, recent research has shown the perception alone that sex or masturbation will improve your sleep plays a part in it. In other words: if we believe that having an orgasm will put us in the fast track to dreamland, then we likely will fall asleep faster post-coital (or post-vibrator sesh). “What this could look like is a modified sleep hygiene routine where one consistently masturbates or engages in partnered sex regularly just before sleeping to create a behavioral link that can help to prompt the onset of sleep and to improve the quality of the sleep,” she explains.
Orgasm can decrease pain
True: when you’re on your period, you sometimes don’t want anyone to touch you, no matter what. Also true: when you’re on your period, you may be more in the mood than ever to get jiggy with it. Many women who suffer from difficult or uncomfortable menstrual cramps can’t imagine being in any other position than a fetal one to combat the symptoms. However, Steve McGough, DHS, a sex expert and the director of research and development for Women and Couples Wellness, says research points to orgasm as a pain reliever. Whether through masturbation, mutual play, or intercourse, a vaginal orgasm can release pressure, allowing your body to let go and sleep.
Sex with orgasm may increase the amount of slow-wave sleep we experience
As you may already know since you’ve likely had both bouts of insomnia and periods where you almost feel as if you sleep ‘too much’—not all rest is created equally. Our bodies go through various REM and non-REM cycles, all of which dictate the quality of our shut-eye. The deepest non-REM sleep cycle is ‘slow-wave,’ which is often what people refer to when they say they ‘slept like a rock and didn’t move throughout the night. Parks says research has connected sex with a partner to an increase in the amount of slow-wave sleep we reap. This means an orgasm right before we tuck in for the night could equal a much higher quality of sleep.
Sleep boosts testosterone levels
Perhaps Engle puts it best when she calls testosterone our body’s natural mojo. “It’s what gives you that needed boost of energy and keeps you vitalized…and horny,” she continues. “How much you sleep directly impacts your T levels. You’re not just cranky when you don’t sleep, you’re literally sucking out your manly energy.”
For men specifically, getting enough rest directly translates to their ability to perform and produce this all-too-important hormone. In fact, Engle references a study that measured a male’s sleep time and quality through wristbands. “Testosterone was measured right when the subjects awoke in the morning. Men who slept four hours showed significantly lower T levels than those who got a full night’s sleep,” she added.
Brain chemicals and hormones can work together to facilitate the onset of sleep after sexual activities
Right when the deed is finished, do you automatically want to fall into the arms of your partner? Snuggle up close and catch your breath? During this period, your body is naturally releasing oxytocin, which experts like Park refer to as the ‘cuddle hormone.’ This helps us feel connected to our lover but also regulates multiple processes of the brain including—you guessed it—sleep! Parks says this is partly why we often want to nod off after sex since the elevated oxytocin promotes sleep onset.
Lack of sleep destroys libido
That’s why new parents struggle to find a new normal for their sex life when they have a newborn. It’s also why folks in never-ending, around-the-clock jobs tend to forgo sex or lose interest in it. And it’s why depression or anxiety can be difficult for couples, especially when one partner lacks the energy to do anything for themselves, much less anyone else. In fact, one study found that 34 percent of people who slept apart from their partner had better quality sex, and 38 percent said separate sleeping arrangements improved their overall relationship quality.
Engle says our quality of rest has an impact on our hormones, which in turn, has a direct effect on your sex life. Sometimes duos will experience a dip in sexual activity when they move in together or start having regular sleepovers. It’s also why many couples choose to sleep separately. Engle says while it may seem crazy, research says it could lead to a more satisfying X-rated life and sleep health.