It can seem like a bit of a conundrum: It's late, you're cozy in bed, and the mood strikes. To have sex or not to have sex? That is the question. You're nearly half asleep, so will getting all revved up make it harder for you to fall asleep afterwards? In fact, quite the contrary: getting it on can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. These are five totally scientific reasons why you sleep better after sex (and all the encouragement you need to act on those late night urges).
It seems counterintuitive that sex is the perfect sleep-inducing nighttime activity. After all, we've been told to avoid exercise before bed, get quiet, and lay still to get into our sleepy zone. Sex is basically the exact opposite. However, sex actually has a ton of hormonal benefits that prime your body for a deep, satisfying sleep – and these effects are even greater if you orgasm. In other words, get the big O now and get some big Zzzs later.
Ditch your white noise machine, pour out that glass of warm milk, and bid adieu to the sheep you've been counting each evening. Sex is a more effective and much more fun way to help you drift off.
1. Sex and orgasms release chemicals conducive to sleep.
We know sex feels grand between the legs, but it's got just as big of an affect on the organ between the ears. During sex, the brain releases a flood of chemicals, specifically dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, and oxytocin, that work together to give you the best sleep ever.
Dr. Laura Deitsch, resident sexologist of Vibrant, Planned Parenthood's sex toy e-tailer and licensed clinical professional counselor, explains what each chemical is responsible for. "Dopamine is the 'feel-good hormone' associated with bliss, euphoria, motivation and concentration. Adrenaline causes the heart to race, the legs to feel weak, and brings on a heightened state of physical and mental alertness," Dr. Deitsch tells Romper. "Oxytocin is known as the 'love hormone' or 'cuddle hormone' because it is released when people snuggle or bond socially. Serotonin is the happy hormone that regulates mood, lifts depression, and improves appetite, sleep, and sexual desire." A rush of one of these hormones is great... but all four? Sex is magic.
And here's the good news: you don't actually have to orgasm to experience the perks. (I mean, of course having one would be ideal, but they're not necessary for the sleep effects.) "While an orgasm will cause a flush or hormones to be released in the brain, don't worry if you aren't able to 'get there' because these hormones are still released, just in smaller quantities," Dr. Deitsch tells Romper.
2. Increased estrogen levels from sex enhance REM sleep in women.
After sex our overall estrogen levels rise, according to a study published by the Journal of Women’s Health. And, as you may have guessed, this increased estrogen has an advantageous effect on our sleep.
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, and Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, goes by the fitting name the Sleep Doctor. "Estrogen helps the body use serotonin and other neurochemicals that assist sleep," Dr. Breus writes on his website. "Estrogen contributes to higher-quality sleep, with fewer awakenings throughout the night, and less time needed to fall asleep. When I talk to my patients about estrogen, I describe it as a great protector of women’s sleep and overall health."
3. Sex lowers cortisol levels.
Remember that 'love hormone' oxytocin that is released when you have sex and/or orgasm? Not only does it put you in an extra cuddly mood, but studies have shown that it can also lower your level of the stress hormone, cortisol. A study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that, in many ways, oxytocin and cortisol are "ying-yang" hormones that balance each other out. In other words, as pleasant oxytocin levels rise, stressful cortisol levels lower.
Lowering your cortisol levels is helpful in all aspects of life, and sleep is no exception. A high level of cortisol "interferes with daily cycles of other hormones, disrupting sleep patterns and causing fatigue," according to Healthline. It can become a vicious cycle, with increased cortisol negatively impacting sleep, and lack of sleep in turn raising cortisol levels.
4. Simply having sex is a stress reliever.
I have a terrible habit of scrolling through my phone right before bed. Some nights it's OK... other nights, an offensive Facebook post or depressing YouTube video causes my mind to race and, naturally, keeps me up way too late.
Not only does sex have all those aforementioned chemical benefits, simply spending your last waking moments doing something fun can help you ease into peaceful sleep. "You are taking time to do something healthy and pleasurable with your body before you fall asleep, rather than reading the latest scary news headlines or watching the boob tube while downing a sleeve of Oreos," Dr. Deitsch explains.
5. You're already relaxed and nestled in bed.
Another reason sex is conducive to sleep? The convenient location! (Well, if you're having sex in bed, at least.)
It's simple. If you spend your evening working on something at your desk or watching TV on your couch, you've got to get up and relocate to your bedroom when it's time to go to bed. If you spend your evening having sex, you can finish up and head right into dreamland. Though you should take a quick trip to the bathroom before clocking out for the day in order to flush out any bacteria and help prevent a UTI, keep the lights off and you can maintain that sleepy post-sex trance. Additionally, adds Dr. Deitsch, "the increased blood flow will aid in physical relaxation." There's really nothing better than melting into your mattress after a good romp.