Sex and sleep


Is sex and orgasm good for sleep?


Sleep studies that were performed on individuals following masturbation with and without orgasm failed to show any effect on the sleep architecture. Remember, the sleep lab environment and the wires are not conducive to a romantic sexual encounter.


Intimacy, on the other hand, reduces stress and improves the sleep quality. Marital discord is not conducive to a good night of sleep.

Humans have a tendency to fall asleep after sex. This is in part because an area in the brain becomes “deactivated” after orgasm. The brain is telling them to shut off their sexual desire. Prolactin is a hormone that is released after orgasm. It allows this tendency by triggering sexual satisfaction. After orgasm, the brain also lets out feel-good chemicals such as setotonin and oxytocin. They set off a cascade that promote a sense of serenity and relaxation and eventually sleep.


Let’s look at sex in a different way: Can a good night sleep improve sex?

Yes ! Sleep is regenerative. The increase in Growth Hormone (GH) production that naturally occurs during sleep gives you a restful night so you are happy and not irritable the next day (an attractive quality). Sleep regenerates your skin, muscles and overall appearance. Dark circles around your eyes after a restless night is not attractive. Also, sleep deprivation has been proven to cause weight gain. Sleeping well keeps you in shape (and attractive).



Let’s explore sleep disorders that are linked to sex.


Sexsonia (sleepsex)

A person suffering from sexsomnia will perform sexual acts while he/she is still asleep. These individuals would perform sex-related sleep behaviors either with themself and/or with their bed partner. They include masturbation, fondling, intercourse, sexual vocalization with “dirty talk” and in extreme cases, rape and sexual assault.

Sexsomnia is a type of sleep disorder that is similar to sleep walking. It happens when the brain is part asleep, part awake. To help you understand how that works, it is sort of like when you are awake, you may experience brief episodes of sleep and nod off.

Sexsomnia is more common in men, but also occurs in women. It is not a mental disorder. The individual is amnestic (no memory) to these events. As one can imagine, such acts can cause psychological and physical distress to the bed partner. The individual with sexsomnia often feels guilty and ashamed. Sexsomina is triggered and worsened by alcohol, certain sleeping pills (hypnotics), stress, insomnia, irregular sleep and wake times or sleep deprivation.

Sexsomnia is treatable. Individuals suffering from sexomnia may go for years without treatment because they are embarrassed to share the information. Clonazepam (Klonopin) is an effective medication. Treatment of any underlying sleep apnea is also important because it can worsen the frequency of other sleep problems including sexsomnia. If you or a loved partner suffers from sexsomnia, you need to see a sleep medicine specialist.

Cataplexy and sexual intercourse

Individuals with narcolepsy may suffer from cataplexy. Cataplexy is the phenomena where an individual loses their muscle tone either partially or completely. As a result, their knees buckle, jaw drops or their entire body collapses. It typically lasts few minutes up to 20 minutes. Cataplexy is triggered by strong emotions such as laughter or anger. A funny joke can send a narcoleptic patient to a bad fall on the floor. Sexual intercourse and orgasm has been reported to cause cataplexy in such individuals and it can certainly cause distress to the individual. Cataplexy is a treatable condition with medications. If you suffer from symptoms of cataplexy, you need to see a sleep medicine specialist to get appropriate diagnosis and treatment.


Sleep apnea and sexual problems

Sleep apnea is linked with lower testosterone levels. Men with sleep apnea are also more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and low libido. Sleep apnea refers to intermittent closure of the upper airway that allows you to breathe, causing snoring, sleep disruption and cuts down on the blood oxygen. A 2003 study from Italy (Journal of Endorinological Investigation) showed that the drop in oxygen levels seen with sleep apnea contribute to reduced testosterone levels. On a hopeful note, a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in October 2012 showed that long-term CPAP therapy improved or preserved sexual function in men with obstructive sleep apnea.

Women with severe sleep apnea in the pre- and post-menopausal group were found to have significantly lower sexual dysfunction scores compared with the not-severe sleep apnea group according to a study that was published in the International Journal of Impotence Research in 2012. If you suffer from sleep apnea or you suspect you have it, it is crucial to seek help and treat it.


  • If you suffer from decreased libido or erectile problems, please talk to your doctor. But specifically bring up the issue of sleep. If you snore, have pauses in breathing or suffer from daytime sleepiness or disrupted sleep, you need to rule out sleep apnea or other types of sleep problems.
  • Make sure to make sleep a priority in life. Get enough sleep. Get a good night sleep.
  • You might need to see a specific type of doctor (urologist or endocrinologist) if your testosterone is low.


Sleep related painful erections

Such an individual suffers from pain in his penis when he sleeps. It affects men in their 40s. There are no anatomical or physiological problems with the penis. Neurological exam is usually normal. No one knows what causes this problem (there are only hypotheses). It does not run in families and not genetic. Penile erection is typically normal during wakefulness. It typically occurs in stage REM sleep. Sleep is overall disrupted and the affected individual suffers from frequent awakenings and sleep loss. During the day, they feel tired, have low energy and can experience tension. They commonly suffer from anxiety, but it is not related to any psychiatric illness. Diagnosis can be confirmed with a sleep study (polysomnogram) at specialized sleep centers. During the study, a special technique, called nocturnal penile tumescence recording, demonstrates painful erections typically during REM sleep stage, although it may occur during non-REM sleep such as stage 2. REM sleep makes up 20-25% of total sleep time in cycles.

Management of sleep related penile erection

  • Talk to your doctor.
  • You might need to see the urologist first to make sure there are no anatomical problems.
  • Consider seeing a sleep specialist in a specialized sleep center who is familiar with this condition. Find a sleep center that performs the nocturnal penile tumescence recording.