Ten health benefits of having more sex
“I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.”
This old wisecrack is credited to American late-night talk show host and comedian Johnny Carson. Sorry, Johnny, it may be funny, but you’ve got it wrong. Although giving up unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking and rich food will certainly improve your health, giving up sex will not.
In fact, when you’re in a healthy relationship, sex is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Here are 10 reasons why.
It eases stress.
If you’re stressed, sex may be the last thing on your mind. But if you can get in the mood, sex is a great stress-reliever. The act of sex floods your brain with all sorts of feel-good chemicals while reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
Dopamine, which impacts the brain’s pleasure and reward centers; endorphins, which can reduce pain and stress; and oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone, are all released during sex, with higher levels after orgasm.
It boosts mood.
Oxytocin promotes feelings of well-being and happiness. And you don’t have to boink like bunnies to feel that way.
A study of 30,000 American men and women between 1989 and 2012 found that having sex at least once a week in a committed relationship was enough to make people happy.
It’s more than the coital act that brings benefits. Studies of older adults found that holding hands, hugging, kissing and mutual stroking also contribute to a greater quality of life.
Getting it on can ward off depression, too. Studies show that men and women who have intercourse with their partners have greater satisfaction with their mental health. (Unfortunately, the benefits didn’t extend to masturbation.)
But the boost doesn’t appear to work for casual sex or hookups. One study of nearly 7,500 US college students across 14 public universities found that those who had more hookups had lower levels of happiness and self-esteem, and higher levels of depression and anxiety.
In contrast to the notion that men are more likely to be OK with casual sex, the researchers found no differences between the sexes.
It improves sleep.
Prolactin, a hormone that relaxes you, is also released after an orgasm. The combination of prolactin and all the rest of the “feel-good” hormones are why most people sleep better after sex.
To get the highest amount of prolactin, science suggests having an orgasm with a partner if possible. Research shows that the level of prolactin in both men and women after intercourse can be “400% greater than that following masturbation.”
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation — which affects a third of Americans — can also impact sexual satisfaction. A study of nearly 10,000 women ages 50 to 79 found that those who got fewer than seven to eight hours of sleep a night were less likely to be sexually active. The older the woman, the more likely she was to report less sex when sleep-deprived.
Sleep disorders can play a role. For example, men and women with obstructive sleep apnea, characterized by loud snoring and periods of breathing cessation, report a less active sex life.
Men are especially hard-hit. To produce testosterone, men need a good period of restful, uninterrupted sleep. Without that, they could have lower levels of testosterone and suffer erectile dysfunction.
What happens when sleep is improved? Good news for both sexes: Libido goes up.
According to a 2015 study, women who got a good night’s sleep were more likely to experience sexual desire the next day. In fact, a one-hour increase in sleep duration correlated to a 14% increase in the odds that a woman would engage in sex with her partner.
And researchers at Walter Reed Army Hospital found that using a CPAP machine, a breathing apparatus used to correct sleep apnea, improved sexual function and satisfaction for all men in their study but was especially helpful to those with erectile dysfunction.
It boosts your immunity.
Having regular sex may also help you fight off disease.
Researchers at Pennsylvania’s Wilkes University asked US college students how often they had sex each week and then compared the levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that functions as the body’s first line of defense, in their saliva.
Students who had sex once or twice a week had the highest levels of immunoglobulin A: 30% higher than those who had no sex, but also those who had sex three or more times a week. In addition, students who were in longer-term, satisfying relationships had the highest levels of the antibody.
That makes sense when you consider research on social support and the immune system. A study of 276 healthy volunteers at the University of Pittsburgh found that those with the most diverse social networks, including not just lovers but family, friends and organizations, were the least likely to catch colds.