This week I want to touch on something we can be a bit hesitant to talk about: sex.
It’s one of life’s great joys, and you don’t need to be a relationship counselor to know how important sex is to a healthy relationship.
Its importance is why there’s a booming business centered around maintaining and improving sexual health. Men have likely noticed an uptick in companies offering erectile dysfunction supplements in recent years. That trend is showing no signs of slowing down, either. The ED market is already a billion-dollar industry, and it’s expected to rise to $2.63 billion by 2023.
At the same time, advertisers and major drug companies are increasingly targeting women and their sexual health. Most notably, “female Viagra” was approved by the F.D.A. last year, with the manufacturer looking to assist the one in 10 women who have a low sex drive.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with sleep. It turns out, a lot. A growing amount of research is highlighting the strong link between a good night’s sleep and a healthy sex life.
Before turning to expensive medicines or some obscure supplement, you should know how sleep can impact your sexual performance.
How Sleep Affects Your Sex Life
We’re starting to better understand the relationship between sleep and sex.
One recent study looked at how sleep quality impacted the sexual performance of about 4,000 men and women. The participants were in their early to mid-60s and their sleep habits were monitored for a year.
The key takeaway: researchers found poor sleep was associated with ED for men, and both arousal and orgasmic problems for men.
Why is a good night’s sleep so critical in counteracting these issues? It connects back to hormone production. Our hormone production is at its highest when we’re experiencing REM sleep — the deep sleep that’s associated with dreaming. We’re able to better replenish our sex hormones — testosterone for men, estrogen for women — thanks to REM sleep.
But getting to that point takes time. REM is the final sleep stage, and the body needs about 90 minutes to reach it. And by cutting REM sleep short — either by not sleeping long enough or dealing with nighttime interruptions — we’re increasing the risk our bodies won’t get the help it needs to promote a healthy sex life.
In a country where more than one in three people suffer from a lack of sleep, according to the CDC, poor sleep is harming the sex lives of millions of Americans.
To get enough rest, we should be aiming for at least 7.5 hours of sleep each night. You can use my sleep calculator to help make it happen.
Three Ways Sleep Helps Our Sexual Performance
To make it easy to remember, here are the three main ways sleep helps our sexual health.
- Better sleep is tied to better hormone production: as mentioned in the study above, REM sleep fosters testosterone production, an important hormone for both men and women’s sex drives.
- More energy: an obvious benefit, but a necessary one for better sexual performance.
- Reduced Stress: A good night’s sleep helps our body respond to stress better. This impacts your sex life because stress leads to the release of cortisol, a hormone that decreases testosterone and inhibits the sex drive of men and women.
Better Sleep Is Connected to a Stronger Sex Drive in Women
Again, this isn’t something that just impacts men. One recent study, looking at 171 college women, showed how closely connected a good night’s sleep is to the sex drives of women.
The results were striking. Volunteers who had one more hour of sleep each night than they normally had noted their desire for sex increased the following day. The odds they had sex increased, too, with about a 14% greater likelihood they had sex the night after a good night’s sleep.
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, there could be other issues at work I told CNN back in September that women are particularly at risk for undiagnosed sleep problems like sleep apnea. Women who are having issues with sexual function should look at not only getting more sleep but having their sleep evaluated.
Next Steps to Take for Better Sleep
Alright, so we’ve established that sleep can have a significant impact on our sex lives. If you’re dealing with sexual problems, getting more sleep is clearly a simple step you can take to try and address the issue.
But getting more sleep is often easier said than done. Be sure to check out my 5 steps for better rest, which include avoiding exercise 4 hours before bed and sticking to a sleep schedule.
Another simple adjustment you can make is keeping an eye on your bedroom temperature. Research has shown between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. It sounds cold, but lowering your body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep faster.
To avoid running the air conditioning all night, sleep systems like Chilipad could be a good way to go. It allows you to control your body heat in bed through your sleep cycle — lowering your body temperature in the evening and then warming up as you’re about to wake up in the morning.
Sleep should be helping, rather than hurting, your sex life. A good night’s sleep can boost your sex drive and performance, so don’t make it an afterthought.