The Power of Rest

Why sleep alone is not enough–and how to reset your body

Three Questions About Sex and Sleep

When times are tough, sex and sleep help you cope.

Coping in Tough Times

Times are tough. People are out of work and can't find any, 15% of the country often goes to bed hungry, and the euro may crash and upend the world economy. Folks need a break.

In the old days, sex and sleep could help revive spirits and help regenerate body and brain. They still can.

But it helps to know how they work together. So here are three questions (and some answers) about sex and sleep:

1. Does Sex Improve Sleep?

Depends.

Most studies done in sleep labs don't show that sex immediately improves sleep.

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Data however are sparse, particularly for non-heterosexual couples. Sleep labs are not necessarily conducive to happy sexual encounters.

And subjective responses at home are very different.

Many women complain of what the French call "le petit mort"—men quickly falling asleep following orgasm. The effect on women is generally the opposite.

Potential solutions:

A. Don't only have sex just at bed time.

B. Prepare for "le petit mort." Keep your partner interested. Conversation, humor, plus a large number of forthright physical maneuvers can often help sleepy partners wake up to the many pleasures to come.

2. Can You Have Sex While Asleep?

Yes. One sleep lab in Canada codified that 8% of its clients experienced "sexsomnia"—sexual experiences while physically asleep.

It's not something I recommend.

Generally, sexsomnias occur when people are sleeping poorly, are drinking or drugging, and are keeping very strange sleep times. Often they don't remember what they did. One British couple told the "Sun" they conceived when the husband was asleep—his wife texts him what sex was like the next day.

Though much of the population thinks of sleep and wakefulness as two completely separate, different entities, the truth is we flux in and out of different states of consciousness throughout the 24 hour day. Sleep is not a light switch. Sexsomnia is just another reminder than people often are both partially awake and asleep - as when we have microsleeps at the wheel while driving.

Potential solutions:

1. Pay attention to body clocks. Sleep is about conditioning—making it a regular, predictable experience. Particularly if you have a history of sleepwalking, make sure you have regular wake and bed times—even if you're working shifts.

2. Shakespeare was right about booze—"It provokes the desire and prevents the performance." He was supposedly discussing sex, but he could have been describing sleep—and the relationship between sex and sleep.

3. Watch out for sleeping pills. Take the pill and quickly get into bed. Don't take a sleeping pill and then find yourself moving onto sex. The strange sleepwalking so commonly reported with ambien and other drugs happens when people do something before they lie down in bed—and sexsomnia is not the preferred sexual experience by a longshot.

3. Can Sleep Improve Sex?

Of course. By properly regenerating your body, sleep can improve most things about you - your appearance, your skin, your memory, your ability to concentrate, learning, your immune system, cardiovascular health...

Just add sex to the list. Recognize healthy sleep, as part of reviving rest, is part of a healthy sexual life.

Recent studies have shown that with females, just as in males, sleep apnea really kills sexual interest and enjoyment. But poor sleep does that to pretty much everybody.

When your body does not regenerate properly, something has to give.

And sleep has some entertaining secrets:

Potential Solutions

1. Try a hot bath before you sleep. Deep sleep is an important part of sleep growth of brain and body, and can be increased by a hot bath right before bedtime - especially if you sweat and activate the presumed temperature "sleep gate." The increased growth hormone production during deep sleep may also help you obtain both greater restfulness and a more desirable shape - without paying tens of thousands to anti-aging physicians wielding GH topped syringes.

2. Consider REM sex. When does male sex hormone peak? During REM—complex dream sleep. What does sleep apnea and other sleep denying illnesses do to testosterone production? Knock it severely down.

And during REM men normally have a hard on - even men who find that difficult during the day. Even in the age of viagra, cialis, and levitra, the gold standard for measuring male potency is penile buckling pressure during REM.

So how do you use REM sex? Generally the longest REM period people have is the hour before they wake.

So if your partner agrees—and make sure they agree well before—wake him or her a little earlier than usual. A rather dreamy form of sex can ensue which can break the often gloomy mood attendant on waking.

Bottom Line

Sex and sleep can be both generative and regenerative. They often need each other, and work well together.

And getting them to work together does not involve that much thought—just the right kind of pleasurable effort.

 

Matthew Edlund, M.D. researches rest, sleep, performance, and public health; he is the author of Healthy Without Health Insurance and The Power of Rest.

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