How the Big 'O' Impacts Your Sleep

Improve your sleep and see the immediate sex benefits.

February 26, 2016
couple sleeping in bed

Apart from sleeping, sex is the other primary thing that the bedroom should be used for (as if you didn't know). Having an orgasm can be like a full-on sedative for most people. Research shows that during orgasm, both women and men release a cocktail of chemicals, including oxytocin, serotonin, norepinephrine, vasopressin, and the pituitary hormone prolactin.

Not only does good sex lead to good sleep, but according to recent studies, good sleep also leads to good sex. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who got a more optimal amount of sleep had greater levels of sexual desire and greater arousal during sex. There was also found to be a 14 percent increase in the likelihood of sexual activity the next day after good sleep.


More: 30-Second Love Plays for a Better Sex Life

To improve your sexual health, it is a must that you improve your sleep. This is one of the force multipliers that people commonly look past in efforts to regain their vitality, energy, and desire. Lack of sleep can make things exponentially worse, and high-quality sleep can make things exponentially better.

But, the proof is in the pudding, right? Even though most of us know that orgasm can induce sleep, are people actually using this to their advantage? Let's take a deeper look at this chemical cocktail to understand why sex can be so helpful for getting a great night's sleep:

1. Oxycotin
Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the love hormone or the cuddle hormone because it promotes bonding between people when they’re engaged in intimate activities like hugging, touching, and, of course, having sex. Oxytocin levels are increased through orgasm, and according to research published in the journal Regulatory Peptides, oxytocin has a calming effect that counters the effects of cortisol and helps to promote sleep.

Oxytocin is normally produced in the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland. With its deep connection to the major glands and organs in the body, its release also triggers a cascade of bodily events including the release of other feel-good chemicals called endorphins. This rush of relaxing hormones and endorphins when you release can be just the thing to set you up for great sleep. 

More: How the Most Common Sleep Positions Affect Your Health


2. Serotonin
Sex is just another way you can instantly up your body's release of this powerful anti-stress neurotransmitter. Serotonin also flows when you feel significant or important, so it's not just about the sex; it's about the relationships, the connection, and the experience overall. According to research published in the journal Progress in Neurobiology, serotonin is critical in obtaining and maintaining normal sleep-wake cycles, just like the adrenal-based hormone norepinephrine.

3. Norepinephrine
Also referred to as noradrenaline, norepinephrine functions in the human brain and body as a hormone and neurotransmitter. It has an important role in regulating your body's arousal system and maintaining normal states of sleep.

At the onset of sleep, serotonin is secreted, which increases deep, non-REM sleep. Secretion of norepinephrine takes place during REM sleep to help promote the efficacy of REM sleep and all of the physiological benefits that it provides. Research indicates that the fluctuation between these stages of sleep is largely due to the relationship between these two neurotransmitters.

4. Vasopressin
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that vasopressin increases sleep quality and decreases levels of cortisol in relationship to sleep. Vasopressin is synthesized in the hypothalamus and stored in the posterior pituitary. Evidence suggests it plays an important role in social behavior, sexual motivation, pair bonding, and overall responses to stress. It's a fairly complex hormone with many functions, but the fact that it can be released directly into the brain after sex leads researchers to believe that it helps increase the relaxation response along with oxytocin.


More: The Newly Discovered Health Benefit of Sleeping In on Weekends

5. Prolactin
Prolactin is a hormone that's linked to sexual satisfaction, and it's also heavily related to sleep. Studies show that prolactin levels are naturally higher during sleep, and animals injected with the chemical become tired immediately. Studies clearly demonstrate that plasma prolactin concentrations are substantially increased for more than an hour following orgasm for both men and women. With that said, we can finally understand why sex is sometimes referred to as sleeping with someone.

Because prolactin is connected to sexual satisfaction, its release is the reason that men generally can't "go another round" and need time to recover. It's also important to note that men produce four times more prolactin when having an orgasm through intercourse as compared to masturbation. 

This should be a big note to the significant others out there: If you want a healthy, happy woman, then you have to do what you can to ensure that she gets great sleep at night. 

Sleep Smarter