Between the sheets: the ultimate guide to sleep and sex

December 1, 2020 7 mins read
Between the sheets: the ultimate guide to sleep and sex

We’ve all been there, lying awake tossing and turning, until your bed partner offers that big spoon signal and you’re on your way to a midnight delight… Moments later, it’s lights out and you’re sleeping more soundly than ever.

Have you ever wondered what the connection is between sex and sleep? Well, let’s get intimate as we go between the sheets to explore the magical effect that sex has on your sleep.

Sex and sleep, what’s the deal?

Sex is great. Sex is even better when it leads to sleep. Let’s face it, our bed is meant for two things, sleep and sex. But when modern life, stress, children and Netflix claw their way into our bedrooms, it’s no wonder that getting less sleep can lead to less motivation to have sex and vice versa.

So why is “adult nap time” so important for a good snooze? Sex triggers the release of feel-good hormones that contribute directly to better sleep. (Especially after an “O yes!”)

  • Oxytocin (the “spoon me forever” hormone)
  • Dopamine (the pleasure hormone)
  • Endorphins (another pleasure hormone, especially after some high-heart-rate nookie)
  • Serotonin (the happy chemical)
  • Prolactin (the post-OMG hormone that brings on the z’s)

These hormones are able to mask the production of cortisol (your stress hormone). Plus, the act itself is a great distraction as you’re thinking about you, your partner, and how your body feels, and not the whirlwind of to-do lists that would otherwise be plaguing your brain.

The big O

As the tech industry is pouring more and more money into our REM routines (smart mattresses, thoughtful pillows, sleep trackers, sleep apps, and white noise machines), we’re over here pointing to another simple sleep hack (hint: it’s down there) that most of the time can help you drift off before you can say, “O-M-G!”

As we’ve uncovered, orgasms and sex release a plethora of effervescent hormones that fend off any sleep predators (mainly the stress hormone, cortisol). So, you’re probably asking, “Does an orgasm guarantee falling asleep right away?”

When it comes down to sex between men and women, there is no contender in who falls asleep first, (psst, it’s men). A man’s body chemistry changes after orgasm as the biochemical prolactin is released, making him feel very tired. And because men have more muscles than women, his exertion after climax depletes his muscles of the energy-producing glycogen, giving him that “roll-over-and-snore” feeling.

In contrast, women may not orgasm every time they have sex (which is why the big O is vital, ladies). After having your world rocked, you may still be semi-aroused, giving you the ability for pillow-talk whilst he drifts off to sleep.

What’s the best way to get O-so-sleepy? It’s a self-love kind of thing. Orgasm from masturbation has been shown to improve your sleep quality, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be lent a hand too. It ultimately comes down to whatever is going to help you climax into dreamland.

Is there a link between good sleep and good sex?

The connection between sleep and sex goes a lot deeper than the act of dancing between the sheets. If your sleep is suffering, chances are that your sex might be too.

Sleep deprivation affects millions of adults worldwide, due to increased anxiety, more demanding careers, and balancing family obligations. But just as you prioritize your morning Zoom calls, so should you be prioritizing sleep (if not only for the benefit of having more sex).

Did you know that anxiety and depression (which are side effects of insomnia and sleep deprivation) are also responsible for sexual dysfunction?

Stress suppresses the production of your “gimme sex” hormones like estrogen and testosterone which leads to a decrease in sex drive, infertility, and (sorry guys) erectile dysfunction. Not to mention, less sleep makes you tired, and no matter how rewarding the workout, a good love session will feel far from actionable.

Want to keep your sex drive firing? Clock in those 7–9 hours of shut-eye.

Sex when you’re tired

Sex is often the first casualty of a busy life. Whether you’re a parent or just managing life’s demands, we get how this can affect your energy levels and suck the passion from right under you.

Did you know that 25% of cohabiting respondents reported (via a survey by the NHS) that tiredness was the number one reason for not having sex? Let’s help lower that statistic by having more sex, to get more sleep.

3 steps to getting it on when you’re tired:

  1. Get to bed earlier. Going to bed earlier to schedule some private time can help lessen the stress of counting the hours before you have to wake again, allowing you to be fully present in the moment.
  2. Take 10 minutes. Even though you may not feel intimate, take 10 minutes to kiss, cuddle, and explore each other’s bodies to get you in the mood.
  3. Don’t put pressure on penetration. If getting down and dirty after a long day fills you with dread, sometimes a simple O via foreplay or mutual masturbation is enough to reconnect as a couple and provide deeper sleep.

Sleeping positions

We all have our go-to sleeping positions, but as a couple (newly spooning or not) your sleeping positions can say a lot about your relationship. But not only in terms of your waking-lives but also your relationship with sleep too. So which positions are the best for more (steamy) sleep?

Make one of these you go-to post-coital position for better sleep:

  1. The loose spoon. This is when the big spoon (whoever it may be, we don’t judge) naturally softens their hold on the little spoon creating space between your bodies. This offers a much better sleeping quality as you’re able to feel reassured (as the little spoon) without having the other spoon breathing down your neck.
  2. The quick cuddle. This is a tale of two intertwined bodies that find peace in slowly drifting apart to their own sides of the bed. A great position to resume whatever position floats your personal boat and is most comfortable to allow you to get quality shut-eye, with the beginning benefits of a good cuddle.
  3. The decoupling. This is not a term for one of those “break-up” dreams, but the opposite. Couples that find their own positions (with or without falling asleep in each other’s arms) show that they’re comfortable with each other but also value their sleep, allowing them to drift off, in a pose of their own.

Do you need a sleep divorce?

You’ve seen it in the Crown, and most likely had your fair share of couch time to escape a snoring partner. A sleep divorce is not as dramatic as it sounds and simply means you’ve taken the high road for the sake of your sleeping health and opted to sleep in separate bedrooms. It’s becoming quite common for couples who have busy lives or opposing schedules to maximize their forty winks and rarely means that there is trouble in paradise.

If a bedroom break-up is on the cards (because you value sleep and maintaining your relationship), here are a few tips to keep the romance alive.

  1. Keep your doors open to invite midnight exploits. This will show each other that there is still space for sexy-times.
  2. Make time for a bedtime routine. Enjoy the wind-down of bedtime by reading together, and getting in those cuddles to release all your reassuring, happy hormones.
  3. Keep communications open. If you or your partner feels rejected, make time outside of sleep time to bond and give each other special attention.

Improve your sleep routine to improve your sex life

As your bedroom is a sanctuary for both sleep and sex, keeping a sexy sleep hygiene routine should be incorporated into your nightly snooze preparations. This involves making your bedroom as inviting for sleep as it is for sex.

Some top tips are:

  • Limit distractions. As it takes the brain a while to start creating those “turned on” hormones, keep all devices switched off or hidden away.
  • Keep your cool. It’s a fact, sex is sweaty. So “doing it” in a room that’s too hot will make it less likely for you to get in the mood. Turn on the aircon, invest in a fan, and make your room a cool place to be in.
  • Get nude. Skin-to-skin contact releases the soothing chemical oxytocin, which can fuel your intimacy.
  • Practice tantric exercises before bed. Not all tantric practices are solely for sex, but for improving body awareness and helping to calm the body and mind. Doing this together before bed can unify your co-existence and make falling asleep together a more bonding experience.

Sex and sleep share an undeniable, two-way relationship. Having more sex can help you get better z’s, and getting better sleep can boost your libido. So, are you ready to give your bedtime routine a little spark?