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Is Your Sex Life Ruining Your Sleep?

By Michael Breus, Ph.D. ; Updated March 20, 2018

Sex is an essential part of life. It can help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, lower stress levels and alleviate pain. Often sex is touted as an activity that can promote sleep due to the release of prolactin, the relaxation hormone, and oxytocin, the “cuddle” or “love” hormone.

Unfortunately, women may not get the real benefits when it comes to post-sex snoozing.

How Sex Differs for Women

Ladies, have you ever noticed that your man falls into a deep sleep almost immediately after being intimate? There’s a reason for this (other than the act being physically exhausting and taking place at night in a bed where sleep usually occurs).

Throughout sex and after orgasm a man releases more prolactin, oxytocin and vasopressin than a woman. While prolactin promotes the feeling of sexual satisfaction, it also causes sleepiness and drowsiness. On average, prolactin levels are four times as high after an orgasm from sex versus masturbation.

Prolactin suppresses dopamine (a stimulating neurotransmitter), allowing men to immediately fall asleep and leave their female partner to stare at the ceiling wondering why they’re still awake. On top of it all, the hormone oxytocin increases tremendously, which diminishes all of his stress and boosts relaxation.

1. Adjust your sex-sleep cycle.

There may be optimal times for you to have sex other than right before bed (though those time could differ for you and your partner). Sometimes you and your partner are better having sex first thing in the morning. Experiment with having sex at different times of the day (if your schedules and libidos allow) to see what works best for you.

2. Grab an extra hour of sleep the night before.

Sure, you want sex to be spontaneous and frequent, but if you’re really having trouble sleeping, try going to bed an hour earlier on the nights you’re not having sex (or if you were fortunate enough to have sex earlier in the day). Those who sleep more have more energy for sex, are in a better mood and likely have a healthy level of the relevant hormones.

3. Stay in good physical shape.

Exercise will increase hormone levels, increase sleepiness at night and give you the stamina for a good romp.

4. Monitor your sleep with a tracking device.

By establishing a baseline with a sophisticated tracking device, you can find out how well you're sleeping and how long you're in each stage of sleep — identifying subtle variations as well as the source of any abnormalities.

You don’t have to sacrifice sleep for sex (or vice versa). Both are vital puzzle pieces to a healthy and fulfilling life.

About the Author

Michael Breus, Ph.D., is known around the globe as The Sleep Doctor. He is a clinical psychologist, a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and sits on various advisory boards, including SleepScore Labs. His latest book is “The Power of When,” and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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