Sleep and Sex

There are two things that your bedroom is designed for: sleep and sex.

But are they good for one another? Or does one interfere with the other?

The rather wonderful news is that the two actions are, in fact, mutually beneficial. More sex helps you sleep, and more shut eye boosts your sex drive.

It’s a classic win-win scenario.

The act of love makes it easier to fall asleep due to the hormones it releases into the bloodstream. It boosts your levels of oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’) and lowers those of cortisol (a stress related hormone). Assuming it’s late in the evening, these hormones combine with another hormone melatonin (which promotes sleep and builds up naturally over the course of the day) to produce an irresistible desire to sleep.

On top of this, a man having an orgasm causes another hormone prolactin to be released, which makes him feel sleepy and relaxed. Prolactin isn’t produced in nearly as great a quantity in women in this scenario and may explain why the male partner is so quick to nod off.

When you’re tired, you’ll notice that your mind and body are incapable of performing at their best. This is because sleep performs so many vital functions that even the smallest amount of sleep deprivation can have dire consequences.

As well as impacting your ability to concentrate and remember things, you’ll also notice how it impacts your mood and your ability to regulate your emotions. How many times have you caught yourself lashing out at someone only to later apologise because you were tired and not thinking straight?

Most importantly, if your partner is sleep deprived they will be less likely to be in the mood for sex. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a woman’s sex drive is directly correlated to how much deep sleep she gets. For every extra hour of sleep, there’s a 14 percent increase in the likelihood that she’ll want to have sex the next day.

The lesson here is simple. If you want more sex, don’t make your partner feel guilty about having an afternoon nap.

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The Alarming Consequences Of Poor Sleep

On the 13th of April 2015, Willa Junior woke up to find himself in a life-threatening situation.

He was trapped inside the cargo hold of an Alaskan Airlines plane. To make matters worse, it was airborne.

As a baggage handler, he had been loading bags hours before, only to fall asleep on account of exhaustion. Panicking, Willa first called his company. The person at the other end immediately hung up assuming it was a prank call.

As the plane climbed higher and higher, he became increasingly concerned for his safety. He placed a 911 call and then texted his mother. However, as the plane was already too high in the sky, it failed to go through.

Desperate, Willa resorted to shouting and banging on the roof of the cargo hold. Eventually, a member of the flight crew heard him and the plane was diverted to the nearest airport. Fortunately, he survived with no injuries but this story could well have had a different ending.

The consequences of poor sleep are numerous.

As Willa’s story above illustrates, a lack of sleep leads to accidents. For example, more people die from sleep related car crashes every year than from alcohol and drug related ones combined.

Doctors and nurses who are sleep deprived will make poor decisions regarding their patients care which, in some cases, leads to serious injury or death.

The accident reports into the disasters that befell the Challenger mission, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the two nuclear meltdowns at Nine Mile Island and Chernobyl all cited sleep deprivation as a key factor.

Recent medical research has also revealed that a lack of sleep is associated with weight gain, cancer and other types of diseases. In the case of weight gain, a 2004 study showed that production of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin increases as sleep duration goes down, increasing the likelihood of overeating and obesity.

Sadly, the implications on our health aren’t just physical.

Poor sleep also affects our mental health. Indeed, it has been linked to conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, this is likely related to the fact that one of the vital functions that sleep performs is to rid the brain of toxins via the glymphatic system.

As the writer Thomas Dekker once said, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

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Our Top 5 Books On Sleep

Do you feel like you had enough sleep in the last week?

If you’re anything like the rest of us, the answer is probably no. Indeed, according to the UK Sleep Council, we are getting one to two hours less sleep today versus the 1950s. How has it got this bad? And why do we seem to live in a culture that sees sleep as the enemy?

Whether we like it or not, sleep is non-negotiable and the consequences of not getting enough sleep can be serious. The good news is that attitudes appear to be changing in favour of making it a priority rather than a luxury.

Below are five great books to get you started on the fascinating world of slumber.

1. The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington

This book is written from the heart. The author became inspired to write it after a 2007 burnout as she was building her online news empire The Huffington Post. After many months with next to no sleep, things eventually caught up with her. She suffered a serious fall breaking her cheek bone. It was the wake up call that spurred her mission to encourage us all to urgently reconnect with sleep.

The book is packed full of quotes, science and helpful summaries of other’s work. It’s written mostly from an American perspective but there are references to the state of sleep around the world. Encouragingly, she makes the case that we have a better understanding of sleep than ever before and that’s allowing us to properly challenge the foolish ‘sleep is for wimps’ work ethic.

2. Sleep: Change the way you sleep with this 90 minute read by Richard Littlehales

Littlehales is a former sales and marketing director for Slumberland, the largest sleeping comfort group. A chance encounter took his career in a different direction and he ended up becoming a sleep coach for some of the world’s most elite athletes. The author’s CV makes for impressive reading as he counts Olympians, the football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and the Tour De France winning Sky cycling team amongst his former clients.

The book is organised around his ‘R90 Sleep Recovery Program’ based on the fact that our sleep cycles naturally occur in 90 minute periods. At times, it feels like a bit of a sales pitch for his products. Nonetheless, it is likely to be of particular value to those practising sport at a high level. It might, though, fall short for those that don’t.

3. The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night by Dr. Guy Meadows

The focus of this book is the serious sleep disorder that affects many people around the world: insomnia. Dr. Meadows runs a 5-week programme at the aptly named ‘Sleep School’ to help his clients with this particularly pernicious condition. He explains that mindfulness and awareness are an important part of the solution and that many of the strategies we practice to combat sleeplessness can end up generating their own anxieties.

It’s a touch light on the science of sleep and perhaps isn’t so beneficial for a more general audience. It is, however, likely to be a helpful and practical guide for those who are suffering from this unfortunate sleep disorder.

4. Night School: The Life-Changing Science of Sleep by Richard Wiseman

Wiseman is a great storyteller and this book is packed full of interesting science that busts some of the common myths about sleep. Like the other authors, he makes it clear that despite the advances in science in the last couple of decades, there are still many things we don’t understand about sleep.

Importantly, the author shares studies that show how even a small lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on both your health and happiness. There are also questionnaires throughout the book making it both a practical and informative guide.

5. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His scientific know-how comes through clearly in this international bestseller. It’s not hard to see why as it shares many fascinating insights as to what happens when we don’t get enough shut-eye.

For example, did you know that not getting enough sleep increases sweet and salty cravings by 30-40%? Or that an afternoon nap increases our learning capacity by 15-20%? Overall, this is a very valuable book. If you only have time to read one of the five then pick this one.

I love sleep; it’s my favorite.

— Kanye West

Are there any other books on Sleep that you’ve enjoyed reading? Please share them below. 

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