Does Sex Help You Sleep?

Along with other health-boosting benefits, sex can help you sleep better.

A healthy sex life can offer plenty of benefits: feelings of emotional support, lower blood pressure, and reduced stress.¹ Another health-boosting benefit from having sex is it might help you sleep.

Does Having Sex Help You Sleep Better?

Research shows that having sex before bed can help people feel like they experienced higher quality sleep. That's even more true for sex with orgasm.²

A 2019 study of 778 participants (442 females and 336 males) discovered that orgasms with a partner led to a better sleep experience.²

While the majority of participants had higher feelings of sleep satisfaction after sex with orgasm, men were more likely to experience sleep satisfaction after sex than women.

There are several hormones related to sleep and sex that might explain the connection between the having sex and getting quality sleep. Here are the most significant ones:³

  • Cortisol. Cortisol is a stress response hormone that has been shown to negatively impact sleep quality. Sexual arousal is thought to reduce this stress response.
  • Prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone released during sex that has been connected to better sleep quality.
  • Oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone released during sex that has been shown to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and provide a better quality sleep.

After an orgasm, the body releases hormones like oxytocin and prolactin, which both promote feelings of satisfaction and happiness.³ These feelings can help you wind down, signaling to your body that it's time for sleep.

However, research also suggests that non-sexual touching with a partner before bed can have calming effects that lead to better sleep.⁴ Plus, people who regularly sleep next to a consistent partner tend to fast asleep faster than those who sleep next to an occasional or casual partner, meaning that the emotional connection you have to your bed partner can improve your sleep. This effect was especially true among women.³

Does Masturbating Help You Sleep?

Orgasms via masturbation are just as effective at helping people get better sleep as those with a partner. Like having sex with a partner, masturbating can lead to a perception of better sleep quality. It may also help you fall asleep faster. Therefore, sex with a partner isn't totally necessary to experience potential sleep benefits.²

Other Ways to Get the Sleep You Need

If having sex or masturbating every night isn't possible, isn't something you want to do, or you find that neither is helping you sleep, there are other ways to get the sleep you need. Practicing sleep hygiene—routine habits that help improve your quality of sleep—is important with or without sex. Here are a few habits to try:⁵

  • Avoid blue lights (such as those coming from your cell phone or computer) before bed
  • Keep your room at a cool temperature
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol prior to sleep
  • Exercise during the day

If practicing sleep hygiene still isn't helping you sleep, or a lack of sleep is affecting your day-to-day life or functioning, it's important to see a health care provider to discuss your sleep concerns.

Getting quality sleep can also help with the quality of your sex. After all, poor sleep can reduce sexual desire and response.⁶

Summary

While research points to many favorable outcomes for having sex—particularly achieving an orgasm—before bed, its benefits will ultimately depend on how it personally affects you. If sex helps you sleep, talk to your partner about the benefits of having sex before bed. If masturbation helps you sleep, make time for yourself before bed. Alternatively, if sex doesn't help you sleep and no other sleeping tips seem to be doing the trick, contact a health care provider to develop a plan for how to improve your sleep quality and quantity.

Sources:

  1. Liu H, Waite LJ, Shen S, Wang DH. Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women. J Health Soc Behav. 2016;57(3):276-296.
  2. Lastella M, O'Mullan C, Paterson JL, Reynolds AC. Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population. Frontiers in Public Health. 2019;7. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033
  3. Sprajcer M, O'Mullan C, Reynolds A, Paterson JL, Bachmann A, Lastella M. Sleeping together: understanding the association between relationship type, sexual activity, and sleep. Sleep Sci. 2022;15(0):80-88. doi: 10.5935/1984-0063.20220005.
  4. Dueren AL, Perach R., Banissy JFM, Bowling NC, Gregory AM, Banissy MJ. Associations between tactile intimacy and sleep quality in healthy adults: A systematic review. J Sleep Research. 2022;31(3):e13504. doi: 10.1111/jsr.13504.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Better Sleep.
  6. Smith L, Grabovac I, Veronese N. Sleep Quality, Duration, and Associated Sexual Function at Older Age: Findings from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. J Sex Med. 2019;16(3):427-433. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.01.005.
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