How to Improve Your Sleep (and Relationship) With Sex

5 Min Read | By Lottie Salako

Last Modified 28 July 2023   First Added 19 July 2023

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Aside from sleep, sex is what many of us use our beds for the most. But what do they have to do with each other? It turns out a lot! There are loads of studies on how sex can affect sleep, from the hormones it releases to the benefits of bonding with your partner.

Let’s dive into the details and discover if sex is the secret to a great night’s sleep…

How does sex affect sleep?

Multiple studies have shown favourable results for having sex before bed if you want a more restful night’s sleep. Here’s why…

1. It produces happy hormones

Orgasms are linked to a spike in oxytocin, known as the love hormone, which has been shown to help you fall asleep quicker. It’s not strictly a sexual hormone, though. It’s essential for cognitive functions and emotional processing and is released during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and hugging. Essentially, it helps us build social bonds and feel close to others.

2. It reduces stress

Like other forms of exercise, sex can lower your cortisol levels. This hormone causes stress in the body, which can disrupt sleep quality. This makes it a tremendous pre-sleep activity as it relaxes you mentally and physically, allowing you to snooze faster.

3. It helps us feel safe

A study on partner responsiveness and sleep quality showed that those who thought they had more attentive and loving partners had lower anxiety levels and better sleep quality. Dr Emre Selcuk explained his theory for the findings:

Having responsive partners who would be available to protect and comfort us should things go wrong is the most effective way for us humans to reduce anxiety, tension, and arousal.

How often do people have sex?

According to our 2022 sleep survey, 22% of people said they have sex just before bed. But how often does that mean? Well, YouGov’s study into how often Britons have intercourse shows that 27% of us do it at least once a week. Only 9% of respondents said they have sex four or more times a week. So there’s no need to feel self-conscious about frequency as long as you enjoy yourself; all couples are different.

It’s also highly impacted by age. 18-19-year-olds claim an average of 1.8 times a week, while this drops to under once a week for over 50s.

How to improve your slumber and relationship with sex

Now we know the impact sex has on sleep, here are our favourite tips for better sleep and sex:

1. Stick to a schedule

This may seem slightly unsexy, but like with any good habits, you must set time aside to ensure that you fit them into your day. A strong bedtime routine is vital to consistently impactful sleep and sex can be a part of that. You don’t need to pencil it daily; set expectations with your partner.

2. Set the mood

Just like settling down for sleep, the build-up to sex is just as important as the act itself. Try to make your bedroom relaxing and inviting, have a warm shower beforehand, and light a scented candle for a cosier atmosphere. Clearing your mind from worries is vital to unwinding and drifting off easily.

3. Get rid of distractions

Our sleep survey also revealed that 6 of the top 10 activities people do before bed involve looking at a screen, whether a TV, computer, phone, or gaming device. We all know how blue light can affect our sleep quality and that many of us can get stuck scrolling instead of snoozing. So, remove outside distractions before bed to help you focus on intimacy.

4. Prioritise aftercare

We know that sex can make your body release a big rush of hormones, but you can also feel many emotions when you’re vulnerable with someone. No matter how long you’ve been together, the moments after are essential to building a connection and helping navigate a dip in feel-good hormones afterwards. Take time to cuddle, talk, and maybe grab a snack with sleep-boosting ingredients.

Do you need a partner?

Regarding the intricacies, the science says there is no real difference between solo or partner activities. The important influence on your sleep is if you reach climax, not how. Orgasms release oxytocin and prolactin while inhibiting cortisol (the stress hormone) – a combination which has been found to help you fall asleep quicker.

While you get added relationship and intimacy benefits from regular sex with your partner, alone time is just as crucial for self-esteem, getting those mood-boosting hormones, and encouraging better sleep.

Does better sleep improve sex?

Yes! The best part is that it goes both ways – sex before bed can help you feel more rested, boosting your libido. Sleep deprivation has been linked to both disinterests in having sex and more dissatisfying sex, which is just one of the ways that it can affect your relationship.

Low libido, poor sleep, and low mood are all closely linked to mental health issues such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders, and depression, as well as some physical health problems.
If you notice a change in how you’re feeling, it’s best to reach out to your GP to figure out a solution.

About the author

More from the Sleep Matters Club