Sex and sleep. Two very basic human needs that are inextricably linked. For many people it can be a hard truth to face, whether that’s a long married couple, or a young single bachelor: a lack of sleep can have some seriously detrimental effects on your sex life.
And there was you thinking a night tossing and turning in the sheets meant plenty of sex.
The link between sex and sleep
The first point of call often resides with men, for whom a lack of sleep has the most immediate sexual side effects, namely a lack of libido or erectile dysfunction.
This is, predominantly, due to lower levels of testosterone during periods of poor or disturbed sleep – although testosterone is usually discussed with men in mind, the hormone is hugely important in maintaining a healthy sex drive for men and women alike.
A study in 2011, run by the Journal of American Medical Association, discovered that after just seven days of around five hours of sleep per night – three to four hours less than is recommended by experts – the testosterone levels of male subjects had decreased by a staggering 15 percent.
Just to put that into a more general context, that level of testosterone depletion is usually recorded over ten to fifteen years of aging… Not just a few nights’ sleep.
This ground zero testosterone is also a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): difficulty or inability to breathe properly when asleep, which, itself, can make actually getting to sleep highly problematic, turning it into a nightmare for many men).
Ditto women who suffer from OSA, with reports of such women suffering from ‘sexual distress’ and performance anxiety when it comes to doing the deed – something often mistakenly thought to plague men only!
Naturally, women suffer from the same lack of energy and general psychological sexual desire after periods of lacking sleep; but they can also exhibit bodily functions, too. According to the findings of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, lacking sleep can contribute to poor vaginal lubrication in women.
The practical solution is simple: just invest in some lubrication and you’re on your way, but it’s worth remembering that a perceived ‘failure’ of your body parts can have huge mental ramifications, whether it’s erectile dysfunction or lacking vaginal arousal.
Sleep affects more than just the act of sex
That being said, the issues aren’t all highly medical. There are myriad ways in which poor sleep or sleep disorders can harm the relationship of couples, and their sex life as a result.
A frequent complaint is that of chronic snoring; often meaning one partner chooses to sleep in a different room altogether. Common sense tells us that sleeping with a door between you and your partner is going to slam the brakes on a flourishing sex life.
Additionally, as we all know, sleep is such an important issue because it’s the one time your body can properly unwind and begin to re-energize itself for the next day.
We all know how even the smallest tasks can seem like a climbing a mountain after a restless night of tossing and turning, it really comes as no surprise that somebody plagued with frequent low-energy days is not going to have active, spontaneous sex on their mind come bed time.
So far we’ve mainly discussed the dead bedrooms of couples, but what if you’re single, looking to ‘play the field’, yet can’t get anywhere near as much as shut-eye as you need?
Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence, especially with the young professional demographic working longer and longer hours these days, cutting into key social and sleep time.
You don’t need me to tell you that when all you have are feather pillows and warm sheets on the mind, it can be nigh on impossible to string so much as a coherent thought together, let alone a razor sharp pick-up line at a busy bar.
Any solutions for the sex and sleep quandary?
Alright, so the obvious kind of goes without saying – the cure to a lack of good sex stemming from a lack of sleep? More sleep.
Some effective and simple methods of combating insomnia are to make sure that you’re sleeping in a room with everything off: no standby lights or noise pollution. Cut as much bedtime caffeine from your diet as possible and try a relaxing, warm shower before bed.
But the most important way to get more sleep is to make it a priority. With busy lives and schedules, our sleeping hours are usually the first thing we sacrifice but hey, it’s your sex life on the line here.
It’s also important to remember that sex isn’t an individual act; it might be you who with the symptoms, but the effects are branching out to your partner or partners, too.
As uncomfortable as it can be, it’s worth the awkwardness to discuss, openly, these matters and then try to solve them together, rather than suffering alone or letting it fester beneath your relationship.