Medical Care , Mental Health
Experts say that better sleep and better sex are linked
Studies have shown that sleep and sex are highly correlated. Lack of sleep can lead to sexual problems, while lack of sex can affect sleep. On the other hand, increased interest in sex is linked to a good night’s sleep, while better sleep is associated with good sex.
The correlation between sex and sleep, for both men and women, is usually associated with a common underlying cause, stress, which is a known factor to disrupt sleep and the desire for sex.
“Both insufficient sleep and stress result in the release of cortisol, which decreases testosterone, an important hormone that plays a major role in the sex drive of both women and men,” explained Dr Laurie Mintz, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, to CBS News.
While both men and women experience stress, women are more likely to have sleep problems than men, resulting in their most common sexual complaint that they have lost desire for sex because they are too tired. This is a condition that is found in women going through different stages in life, including menopausal women whose sleep problems are directly linked to sexual problems, new mothers who are unable to get a good night’s sleep, or full time working mothers with insomnia.
“Men have significantly more testosterone than women, so thinking of testosterone as a tank of gas, the cortisol released by stress and lack of sleep might take a woman's tank to empty, yet only decrease a man's tank to half full,” said Dr Mintz to CBS News.
Even at half full, decreased levels of testosterone in men from lack of sleep can lead to erectile dysfunction as well as an overall decrease in sex drive and sexual functioning, according to studies.
The flip side of this sleep-sex correlation is that a good night’s sleep leads to an increase in sexual desire, according to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The findings showed that the longer women slept, the more they experienced better genital arousal and the more they were interested in sex the next day. Even an extra hour of sleep can lead to a 14 percent increase in the chances of having a sexual encounter the following day.
“Both orgasmic and/or non-orgasmic sex can have a strong impact on improving sleep and reducing stress, mainly because a close positive physical interaction releases a hormone called oxytocin, and an orgasm provides an extra dose of this hormone. When released, a flow of calm and relaxation runs through the body, and it helps the walls of the blood vessels to relax as well as decrease cortisol, so blood pressure is balanced,” Dr Chelsea Holland, sex and relationship therapist at The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who was not part of the study, explained to Global Health and Travel.
Aside from oxytocin, other cocktails of hormones, such as prolactin, are released during orgasm, bringing sleepiness, calmness, and relaxation.
“This can improve the sleep cycle and minimise the stress we feel in our bodies,” she said.
This story was originally published in the Global Health and Travel issue of August-September 2018.
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