When it comes to your health, there are certain things that pretty much everyone loves to hear. Drinking alcohol can be good for you? Sign me up. Coffee breaks make you more productive instead of less? Yes freaking please.
When it comes to sex, we already know that the health benefits are plentiful—it burns calories, reduces stress, and boosts your brainpower—but can sex help you sleep better? Thankfully, science has our backs once more with a resounding “hell yes.”
Sex helps you release some great chemicals.
Turns out, sex can not only help you fall asleep faster, it can improve your overall sleep quality as well. Scientists believe that the release of hormones during sex—including oxytocin, dopamine, and vasopressin, among other feel-good chemicals—all lead to that post-climax glow one study even likened “to the rush of heroin injection.”
Yeah, it’s like that.
Oxytocin helps reduce stress, while dopamine plays a role in the brain’s “reward” center, which definitely makes you feel damn good. And while these hormones might not make you feel sleepy by themselves, just feeling more relaxed and a little bit happier can definitely make it easier to fall asleep.
“Animal studies have linked vasopressin to somnolence,” says Nicole Prause, Ph.D. and CEO at Liberos Lab. “Humans have the same vasopressin increase during sexual arousal and also at orgasm.”
That means the vasopressin (which plays a major role in mediating stress in your body) could also be helping to make you feel a little bit drowsy. Add to this the fact that the release of serotonin and prolactin both make it less likely for your body to be ready for round two, especially if you’re a guy, and it totally makes sense why you might be tempted to take a nap post-sex.
According to a recent study on sex as sleep therapy by Michele Lastella, Ph.D., from the Appleton Institute for Behavioral Science at Central Queensland University, more than 60 percent of people who climaxed during sex before bed reported better overall sleep quality—however, this is preliminary data, so go ahead and take that info with a grain of salt.
The relationship between sleep and sex works both ways.
Not only does getting it on help you fall asleep faster, but getting a good night’s sleep can majorly boost your libido. According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, women who managed to get an extra hour of sleep per night saw a 14 percent increase in their likelihood of engaging in sexual activity.
And if you’re trying to get pregnant, the relationship between sex and sleep is way more important than you might think.
“Maintaining a healthy testosterone level by getting enough sleep can improve your sperm production and chances of conception,” says Greg Sommer, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Sandstone Diagnostics, and creator of the Trak Male Fertility Testing System.
Solo acts work too.
And you don’t actually need a partner to reap the benefits of sex on your sleep cycle (and vice-versa). According to Lastella’s study, the key to better sleep isn’t just sex—it’s orgasms. That means masturbation can give you many of the same stress-relieving and sleep-boosting benefits, so fortunately, a little bit of self-love can go a long way.
“Orgasm is such a healthy, endogenous, safe behavior that it is worth trying as a sleep aid if you struggle with sleep,” Prause says, which means if it feels good and helps you get some extra sleep, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
(But it’s still better with someone else.)
But if you want to get the biggest, erm, bang for your buck, research shows that orgasm with a partner releases 400 percent more prolactin than masturbation. And while this might sound like a bad thing, it just means that your body is often more satisfied during intercourse than masturbation.
Regardless, that’s still good news for all of us… not that we necessarily needed another reason to get a little more active in the bedroom. Whether you’re getting busy with a partner or doing a little solo research (for the sake of your sleep health, of course), the important thing to remember is that it’s definitely good for you. Just remember to stay safe and enjoy the very mutually beneficial relationship between sleep and sex.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. After graduating from Huntington University with a B.A. in history, she went on to receive a master’s degree in modern British history from the University of East Anglia. In her spare time, Sutton enjoys fangirling, running, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto is still a planet in her heart. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.