Sleep and Sex - Is one better for you than the other?
Sleep and sex - two activities that are made for the bedroom. But does one promote better health than the other? Let’s investigate.
How sleep and sex are mutually beneficial
Both great sex and a good night’s sleep can leave you feeling revitalized. Sex hormones may actually help regulate other hormones that influence solid REM sleep. In fact, research suggests that these reproductive hormones activate and organize certain sleep regulatory processes in all mammals.
But outside of the hormones that contribute to our biological sex, a good romp translates to stress relief, improved mood, decreased anxiety, and a release of energy that contributes to relaxation. Sound familiar? Sleep gives the same benefits.
Ways sex helps improve sleep
Sex increases levels of oxytocin, the hormone that makes us feel connected to others. This coats us in feelings of safety and calm that act like nature’s lullaby. It also lowers stress by releasing dopamine and decreasing cortisol. For women, estrogen levels are also boosted during sex, contributing to greater REM sleep.
Men - don’t worry. You know sex helps you sleep as well. A study out of Australia surveyed 460 adults between the ages 18 and 70 to find that 64% of them agreed: sex is great for sleep. An orgasm was a key element to a better night’s rest. That might be because reaching orgasm (via partner or yourself) releases prolactin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
Finally, when you’re in between the sheets, you’re not replaying the events of the day or agonizing over tomorrow. Sex keeps you in the moment, which allows your brain to shut off and retire for the night.
Ways sleep helps improve sex
On the other side of the coin, sleeping well equals better sex. Getting 7-9 hours of consistent sleep a night keeps stress at bay. Lack of sleep, however, suppresses production of estrogen and testosterone to make room for cortisol. Not surprisingly, this drastic shift decreases sex drive.
This imbalance only plays a small role in sexual issues. Poor sleep quality can lead to raised anxiety, negative mood, depression, and other psychological problems that place sex on the back burner. Research shows that longer sleep correlates with greater sexual desire the following day. Just a one hour increase in sleep duration increases the likelihood of sex almost 15% the day after. Do you need another reason to sleep more?
What's the best frequency of sex and optimum sleep?
Finally, the answer you’ve all been waiting for. Unfortunately, the truth is - it depends. We all have different sexual needs and desires, and that’s perfectly okay. Many factors are at play in sexual relationships such as health, age, length of relationship, living together/apart, work, children, and more. If you’re curious as to the “average”, the Kinsey Institute did a survey in 2010 that showed the highest rate for married men and women ages 25-49 was a few times per month to weekly. Single participants had less sex, and younger, married men and women had sex the most often.
Interestingly enough, more sex doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness. Another study out of Carnegie Mellon asked partners to double their frequency per week. Compared to those who kept their normal schedule, there was no increase in happiness, even a slight decrease.
All of this goes to show that there’s no right answer. If you’re concerned about sleep quality and are in a healthy relationship, why not give it a go? Or if you’re single, safely (and responsibly) play the field or take matters into your own hands! There’s no harm in trying, right?
-Kimber Rozier, CSCS
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