Sex, whether for intimacy and pleasure or simply for fun, has several benefits that extend beyond the bedroom. Here are a few ways that a healthy sexual life can contribute to your overall well-being.
If having sex hasn't been a priority for you in the last year, that's fine. But, according to studies, we have less sex, with a quarter of UK adults reporting having had no sex in the last year, and 40% reporting having had less sex due to decreased libido caused by Covid anxiety.
However, did you know that sex has numerous health benefits, including the ability to help you cope with increased stress? Here are some scientifically proven reasons why sex can be beneficial to your health.
Sex is an excellent way to alleviate stress. A recent study found that emotional and physical intimacy, which does not have to be sexual, helps men and women reduce their stress hormone cortisol.
Sexual intimacy can also help alleviate anxiety and depression by releasing three mood-enhancing chemicals — dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. Endorphins, in particular, are brain chemicals released during exercise and sex that have natural opiate-like properties and can aid in pain relief and mood regulation.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain releases in response to pleasure. It is a significant factor in reward-motivated behavior and activates libido through flirtation or the anticipation of seeing, speaking with, or being with a partner.
Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, is released in response to touch, intimacy, and sex and helps couples develop a stronger sense of bonding. Additionally, it is the hormone that strengthens the bond between a mother and her newborn baby and has anti-inflammatory and calming properties.
The good news is that simply holding hands, expressing affection, and cuddling up with your partner will trigger the release of this potent chemical and put you in the mood for sex.
That post-orgasmic wave of sleepiness results from the hormone prolactin being released, which has a relaxing, somniferous effect on both men and women the following sex. Prolactin is produced in the pituitary gland and is typically associated with breastfeeding and lactation in women, but it is also produced in trace amounts in men.
The combined effect of oxytocin, the lowering of cortisol (as discussed previously), and the increase in prolactin following an orgasm suggests that sexual activity may be a component of an underlying neurohormonal mechanism that facilitates sleep following sex. According to a recent study, sex before bedtime can help women who have insomnia feel more relaxed and sleep better.
Whatever your age, research indicates that having sex regularly may benefit your brain health. For example, when women aged 18–29 were asked to memorize lists of faces and words, those who reported having more frequent sex had a better verbal recall, according to a recent study.
According to one theory (which scientists are currently investigating), sexual activity may promote the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus — the region of the brain associated with learning and memory. In addition, sexual activity was associated with improved memory in men and women in another study, this time of adults aged 50-89.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause sexual dysfunction. Indeed, research indicates that having sex at least once a week may help older men avoid developing erectile dysfunction. In addition, recently published research indicates that sexually active women have stronger pelvic floor muscles and improved sexual function.
You utilize your pelvic floor during sex, a group of muscles surrounding your genitals supporting your pelvic organs, abdomen, and spine.
Pelvic floor muscles aid in the coordination and control of ejaculation in men. In women, a strong pelvic floor contributes to increased sensitivity, which results in more powerful orgasms.
Pelvic floor muscles can become weak for various reasons, including aging, pregnancy, childbirth, and being overweight. However, sexual activity results in natural contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, which help keep those muscles toned and strong (and enhances sexual pleasure).
When men and women have physically and emotionally satisfying sex with a primary partner, this results in increased happiness. Regular physical and emotional sex with your partner replenishes the love hormone oxytocin, promoting bonding and emotional intimacy. According to one study, the sexual afterglow of loving, pleasurable sex can last up to two days between couples.
If you are not currently having sexual relations with another person regularly, you are not required to miss out on the benefits.
As with partner sex, masturbation results in the release of feel-good hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin. According to one study, these can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, alleviate pain (including migraines and period pain, according to one study), and leave you feeling calmer, happier, and more relaxed. Masturbation can also help boost sexual confidence by allowing you to become more acquainted with and comfortable with your own body.