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Does Sex Help You Sleep?

If Hollywood is to be believed, if you have sex, you’re all but guaranteed to fall into deep, blissful sleep afterward. However, is there any medical basis to this, or is it just a cinematic trope? 

According to a recent research article in the Journal of Sleep Research,  people who have sex before they go to bed are more likely to fall asleep faster and experience higher-quality sleep throughout the night.1 However,  the findings came with a specific caveat: for participants to achieve better rest, they needed to achieve orgasm while having sex with their partner. 

I knew that sex and sleep could improve physical and emotional well-being, but I was curious about whether they supported each other.  So, I dove into some studies and chatted with a certified sex therapist to see how these bedroom activities are intertwined. 

Does Sex Help You Sleep?

Yes! According to the research article “The Influence of sexual activity on sleep: A diary study,” climaxing during sex with a partner can help you fall asleep more quickly and experience better rest during the night.

How Sex Affects Sleep

Ailyah Moore, Ph.D., Certified Sex Therapist at SexualAlpha, told Sleep Advisor that engaging in sexual activity can help you get a good night’s sleep thanks to factors such as an increase in oxytocin. Furthermore, she said, “From a psychological perspective, intimacy and emotional connection can also contribute to better sleep. Sharing a close moment with your partner can reduce anxiety and create a sense of security, both of which are conducive to restful sleep.”

Below, I’ve outlined some of the major effects sex can have on the body and brain, as well as how they relate to sleep quality.

Boosts Oxytocin

“Making love” is a synonym for having sex, but a more accurate, albeit less poetic, description for intercourse would be “making love hormone.” This is because when you are sexually aroused and have an orgasm, you produce oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “love hormone”.2 

This neurotransmitter has been shown to help people relax by decreasing stress and anxiety.2 Oxytocin is also thought to prepare your brain for sleep by promoting a sense of calm and security.

Boosts Endorphins

Do you know that rush of warm, happy feelings you get after an enthusiastic workout? This is because of a surge of endorphins.4 These hormones are made in the brain and help manage pain and stress and improve mood. 

Boosts Estrogen Levels in Women

As a woman in her mid-forties, I can attest that my estrogen peaked in my twenties and has steadily decreased in the past couple of decades.5 However, I know that one way I can boost my estrogen levels is to remain sexually active.6 

As it turns out, research links estrogen to falling asleep faster, fewer nighttime awakenings, and more overall time asleep.

Boosts Prolactin Levels in Men

After experiencing some difficulty breastfeeding my daughter, I called a lactation expert. She taught me a great deal about breastfeeding, including prolactin’s role in lactation. I thought this meant it was only present in women, but men also produce this hormone. 

Men release it during orgasm, and their prolactin levels are even higher when their orgasm is achieved with a partner.8 Prolactin can help men maintain healthy testosterone levels, which could subsequently help them sleep better.9

Lowers Cortisol

One function of cortisol is to regulate your response to acute, chronic, and traumatic stress, and it is often referred to as a “stress hormone”.10 When your body produces too much cortisol, it can lead to a “flight or fight response”. Although this can be beneficial in an emergency, too much cortisol is unhealthy, and studies have reported that increased cortisol levels can lead to sleep deprivation.11

When you have sex, your body releases endorphins and oxytocin, which may decrease cortisol, putting your body in a more relaxed state.12 Plus, researchers found that human touch through hugging, which many couples do after sex, can also reduce cortisol levels.13

How Sleep Can Improve Your Sex Life

The relationship between sleep and sex goes both ways since how well you sleep can have a significant impact on different aspects of your sexual life.

Hormonal Balance

Your hormones fluctuate according to your sleep and wake cycles, and to keep them balanced, you need consistent, quality sleep.14 If you notice that you’re just not “in the mood” like you once were, not getting enough sleep may be the culprit. This lack of sexual interest could be because hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, both of which help fuel your sex drive, are negatively affected by a lack of sleep.7, 9 

“Having a stable hormonal balance is crucial, and getting enough sleep is instrumental in maintaining this balance. Disrupted sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, which could make it challenging to maintain a healthy sex life,” Moore added. 

Increased Desire

A study from The Journal of The Menopause Society found sexually active women reported better sleep than those who weren’t having sex, and women who had poor sleep quality were more likely to have sexual dysfunction.15 Also, as mentioned above, not getting enough sleep can negatively impact men’s testosterone levels, and an effect of low testosterone is decreased libido.16 

Fewer Arguments

There is a close correlation between your sleep schedule and your mood.17 Poor sleep quality and not enough sleep can make people irritable and short-tempered. If you have ever snapped at your partner after a lousy night of sleep, you understand why Moore added that a lack of sleep can lead to conflicts in relationships that can lead to emotional barriers. She goes on to say that these blockades “can make it difficult to get intimate and enjoy a sexual connection.” 

However, by prioritizing your sleep, you could improve your mood, which may lead to a more harmonious union in and out of the bedroom.  

A journal article in Sleep reiterates how the quantity and quality of your sleep directly affect your mood, emotions, and emotion regulation.18 Consistent sleep loss is a problem for many people, with approximately 33 percent of American adults getting under seven hours of sleep a night.

Deeper Connections

Sleep plays an important role in emotional regulation.18  Being well-rested may help us focus on the good aspects of our relationship and help us form even deeper connections with our spouse or partner. 

Helps with Erectile Dysfunction

Various symptoms, including sleep disorders and low testosterone, can cause erectile dysfunction.19 If you experience obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia, you are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Treating these disorders should help you sleep more soundly, which could correct erectile dysfunction.

Sex and Sleep FAQs

Does sex make you sleepy?

Yes, sex could make you sleepy. One way it can do this is by increasing your oxytocin levels since this hormone can help you feel more relaxed.2 Researchers found that sexual climax with a partner helped people fall asleep faster.1

According to Moore, intimacy and emotional connection can also contribute to better sleep from a psychological perspective. Moments of intimacy with your partner can create a sense of security, promoting a peaceful and restful state.

Why can’t I sleep after sex?

If your sexual encounter doesn’t end in an orgasm, you may find it difficult to fall asleep. A possible reason for this is that, without orgasm, our bodies stay in a heightened state of alertness longer than they do when we have the cortisol release of climax.9

Considering that only 25 percent of women (compared to 95 percent of men) almost always orgasm during sex, women may experience restlessness more.20

It’s not just a lack of orgasm, though, that could mess with your sleep. There could be a number of reasons why you have trouble falling asleep, whether they’re physiological, emotional, or a mix of both. If you find yourself struggling to sleep after sex, you can also try some of our tips to improve sleep quality.

To Wrap It Up

Our sex lives and sleep patterns are deeply intertwined, and by improving one, we might also improve the other. Healthy intimacy can help us sleep better by boosting feel-good chemical reactions such as oxytocin and endorphins, and proper sleep helps balance our hormones and regulate our emotions, which can fire up our libido. 

Ready to get better sleep? Explore our expert-tested picks for the best mattresses for sex.

The Advisor Says

If you want better sleep, have more sex, and if you want to increase the amount of sex you have, try prioritizing your sleep.

Sosha Lewis

Sosha Lewis

Content Writer

About Author

Sosha Lewis is a senior staff writer for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. Lewis is happy that she is able to combine her love of sleep with her love of writing.

Combination Sleeper

Education & Credentials

  • Certified Sleep Science Coach


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