Insomnia and sleep disorders are a big part of modern stressed-out life. However, one thing’s guaranteed – somebody along the line, when you confess to having disturbed sleep patterns, will suggest you get busy to fix the problem. Sex and insomnia are seen as cure and disease.
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This sort of advice follows two paths, usually. Path one? Get intimate just before you go to sleep so you relax, your brain switches off and you get into ‘sleep mode’.
Path two? If you wake up in the middle of the night, encourage your (presumably incredibly tolerant) sleeping partner to wake up and have a brief encounter to put you back to sleep.
But what’s the actual truth behind this sort of sex-and-insomnia combination? The science is murky and only seems to get more complicated as more studies accumulate.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard the stereotype that men immediately fall asleep after an orgasm – wham, bam, snore. However, nobody can quite pin down the female reaction to sex and how it affects the sleep cycle.
A survey done of doctors revealed that older ones were much more likely to unquestioningly prescribe sex to help sleep, where the link was strong folk knowledge and nobody had yet questioned it.
But a slew of studies done from the 70s onwards demonstrated no link between them, and it fell out of favour for a long time, replaced by the suggestion of meditation, St Johns Wort and other soothing, natural methods.
However, nowadays those studies have come into question – they were performed in the very romantic-sounding ‘sleep labs’ of universities, where getting intimate and sleep patterns might not have been the closest to true life. These days it’s much more fashionable to try and do studies of sexuality in as realistic a setting as possible.
In truth, there’s quite a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that for some women at least, the relaxing combination of chemicals that burst after orgasms – including oxycotin and dopamine – might help sleep patterns. Solving sleep disorders through relaxation and a ‘focussed activity’ (ie an opportunity to worry about precisely nothing except not screaming the house down) is a pretty common prescription.
However, it all depends on how you react to getting intimate in general. If you generally feel like running a marathon afterwards, possibly keep it far away from evening activities.
Word to the wise: if you’re not left relaxed afterwards, it might be a sign that you haven’t actually reached the goal, as it were. A body that’s feeling frustrated after a partner’s finished and snoozing will keep you up beyond your bedtime. Sex and insomnia might not be such great bedfellows.
Lady Friday xx
Taking the pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday….
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