Between the Sheets: The Links Between Sex, Sleep, and Stress
Sex is everyone’s favorite topic. Sleep? Not so much. In this article, we’re diving into the reasons why sleep is sexy, and how sleep and sex are fundamentally interwoven. We’ll also talk about a third factor and how that could be impacting your sexual health, pleasure, and fertility.
Sleep and sex are fundamental biological processes that are essential for human health and wellbeing. They are intricately connected and interdependent, meaning that disruptions in one process can have significant impacts on the other.
Another important factor at play? Stress. Anxiety and stressful emotions can exacerbate inflammation, which is defined by Informed Health as “the immune system’s response to an irritant.” Though inflammation can be helpful when it’s acute (like when you scrape your knee and your immune system fights the bacteria trying to enter your body) it’s harmful when it’s chronic. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “If your body sends out inflammatory cells when you are not sick or injured, you may have chronic inflammation.” One common example is when, “rheumatoid arthritis inflammatory cells attack joint tissues, leading to inflammation that…can cause severe damage to joints, with pain and deformities.” Chronic inflammation is associated with a host of symptoms—some of which can affect your sex life.
Sleep and Inflammation
First, let’s connect the dots between sleep and inflammation. Sleep, as we know, helps the body to repair and rejuvenate. A good night's sleep is crucial for maintaining good health and is known to reduce the risk of several diseases. Obviously, sleep can be disrupted by stress and subsequent chronic inflammation. No surprise there.
What’s lesser-known is that sleeplessness can also cause an increase in the levels of inflammation in the body. Studies have shown that sleeplessness can increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are signaling molecules that mediate the immune response. Elevated levels of cytokines can result in chronic inflammation and contribute to the development of various conditions, including sexual dysfunction.
Inflammation and Sex
As mentioned before, chronic low-grade inflammation can impact sex. Inflammation is a no-no for a great sex life, with links to decreased libido and sexual arousal, and impaired sexual performance. It can also cause hormonal imbalances, which can further impact sexual health and function. Studies have shown that elevated levels of cytokines can decrease the levels of testosterone, which can result in decreased libido, and in men, can cause erectile dysfunction and reduced sperm production.
Sleep and Sex
Now, let’s connect the dots between sleep and sex. Sleeplessness can have significant impacts on sexual health and functioning. According to the Sleep Foundation,
“Sleep deprivation has been associated with reduced sexual desire and arousal in women. As a result, insomnia, one of the most common sleep disorders, may be a risk factor for sexual dysfunction. A lack of sleep and disrupted sleep have also been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction.”
Similar to inflammation, it can impair sexual performance and cause hormonal imbalances, which can further impact sexual health and function.
Sleep and Fertility
When your body isn’t getting sleep, it’s operating in survival mode, and survival mode is not (according to human biology) the time to be reproducing. When you’re not sleeping, your body assumes you’re in danger, so resources that would have gone into reproduction go into helping you to survive.
According to writer Kara-Marie Hall, R.N., B.S.N., C.C.R.N. in an article for GoodRx, sleeplessness has a material impact on your fertility hormones:
“The male body…uses testosterone to produce sperm, which is key to reproduction and fertility. Males who do not get adequate sleep may not produce enough sperm. In addition, low testosterone levels can harm the quality of existing sperm. These factors, plus low libido, can impact a male’s ability to conceive children. For females, research has linked long-term lack of sleep to having an irregular menstrual cycle, which can trigger problems with ovulation.”
Into the bedroom
Here are our suggestions for contributing to an endless cycle of wellness in the areas of sex, sleep, and stress.
1. Address sexual health and function issues by talking to your partner and your doctor about what you’re experiencing.
2. Maintain good sleep hygiene and good sleep habits.
3. Reduce inflammation through better eating habits, mindfulness practices, and, of course, better sleep.We’re convinced that sleep is one of the cornerstones of health and wellness. If you need help falling asleep, try Dream Powder, a natural night-time hot cocoa that’s clinically shown to improve sleep in 93% of people.