Does Masturbating Help You Sleep?

Does Masturbating Help You Sleep?
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
27th August 2020

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Many do it before bed, but does masturbating help you sleep? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
When you orgasm, you release chemicals that make you feel relaxed and happy, which can help ease you into sleep — but these chemicals don’t necessarily make you feel sleepy.
Masturbation can help you doze off in other ways. However, it can also hinder sleep. If you’re worried about how masturbation is affecting your sleep, there are steps you can take to help. 

Everyone does it. Loses sleep, that is. 

Many of us are familiar with the anecdotal effects of a bad night’s sleep, and for the 30% of the UK population with insomnia, it’s an all-too-frequent occurrence. That’s why the internet is peppered with tips for sleeping better, such as taking a hot bath before bed, limiting alcohol, or masturbating before sleep. 

But while cosying up with a chamomile tea feels a bit old fashioned, self-gratification is newer — and more X-rated — advice. So, does masturbating help you sleep? In this article, we’ll discuss the science behind masturbation and its effects on your Z’s.

Does Masturbating Help Sleep?

When you orgasm, your body releases a mix of neurochemicals, including oxytocin, serotonin, vasopressin, and prolactin, all of which can help prepare you for sleep.

Oxytocin and serotonin make you feel euphoric and relaxed and inhibit cortisol, the hormone that makes you feel stressed. Vasopressin has a known antidiuretic effect — reducing the need to urinate in the night — and recent studies show its effectiveness in managing stress and pain. Finally, prolactin makes you feel satisfied, with increased levels associated with a better orgasm and longer “recovery time” — a.k.a the time it takes men to be able to have sex again.

Your body naturally releases all these hormones at night, alongside melatonin, as part of your sleep-wake cycle. While melatonin is the hormone responsible for making you feel tired, the mix of these other hormones can help put you in the right frame for sleep. If you masturbate and orgasm, you’re effectively boosting that process.

The other way masturbation can help you sleep is via a placebo effect. Research has shown that the perception of orgasms as a proponent of better sleep also plays a part in achieving better sleep. In other words, if you believe an orgasm will help you sleep, you’ll fall asleep faster after orgasm. 

This helps to explain why the majority of respondents in surveys claim that masturbation before sleep is a good sleep aid, and why research is being conducted into masturbation’s effectiveness in treating sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome

Does Masturbation Without Orgasm Prevent Sleep?

So far, we’ve looked at how orgasms from masturbation can help you sleep, but what if you don’t get there? This is where scientific research runs thinner on the ground. In fact, there’s only been one investigation to examine sleep following masturbation with vs. without orgasm. It found that both had no major effect on sleep. 

However, it’s worth noting this study had limitations, the foremost of which was that the experiment required a researcher to remove an anal probe from participants following orgasm, which could have affected how quickly they fell asleep afterwards. 

One conclusion that masturbation without orgasm can prevent sleep can be drawn from the aforementioned study measuring the placebo effect of orgasms. If you believe an orgasm will help you sleep, a lack of one could negatively affect it.

There’s also evidence that masturbation before orgasm can make you feel more alert. As you reach climax, your body releases hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine, which give you energy and increase your blood pressure. If you don’t climax, you won’t release the “relaxing” hormones to counter this “fight-or-flight” response, so you could feel more awake.

Is it Normal If I Can’t Sleep After Masturbating?

Short answer: yes. 

When you masturbate or have sex, blood flows to all parts of your body, alerting your nervous system, muscles and brain. At the same time, as you build to climax, your body releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, which make you feel alert. 

This is why some people prefer to masturbate in the morning: it’s a mood-booster thanks to oxytocin and serotonin, and an energy-booster thanks to these invigorating hormones. In fact, this mix of chemicals mimics the effects of meditation, which is why masturbating can help clear your head.

So, why does masturbation work as a sleep aid for some people, and an espresso shot for others? 

One explanation comes from the release of prolactin at orgasm. Prolactin levels are naturally higher during sleep, and when researchers administered it to animals, they became tired immediately

However, you don’t always release the same amount of prolactin; higher levels are associated with better orgasms. If you reach a more satisfying climax, you’ll release more of this hormone, which may help you relax before sleep. Conversely, lower prolactin levels mean you’ll release less of this relaxing hormone to counter the energising ones, so you’ll feel more buzzed.

What If I Can’t Sleep Without Masturbating?

Solo masturbation doesn’t cause any harm, either physically or mentally, even if you do it often. If you’re worried that you’re masturbating before sleeping too much, however, remember that sleep requires routine. The regularity of your masturbation might lead you to believe that you need it to sleep, but adopting new habits — and sticking to them — can help. 

Read our tips for getting better sleep for more help. 

If you still can’t sleep without masturbation and you find yourself doing it compulsively at other times, it could be a sign of an addiction. Other signs include feeling like it’s out of control, feeling guilty or depressed, and finding that it interferes with your daily life. If that sounds like you, contact Relate or find your local Sexaholics Anonymous for support, or make an appointment with a medical professional.

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Key Takeaways

Masturbating before sleep can help you get a better night’s rest, largely because the chemicals released in your body as you orgasm make you feel relaxed and happy. Additionally, just believing that an orgasm will help can make you fall asleep faster. However, it’s also normal to find you can’t sleep after masturbating, because of other chemicals released in your body during arousal that make you energised. 

It’s important to note that while feeling relaxed and happy may ease sleep, it doesn’t necessarily make you feel sleepy. The hormone that does this is melatonin, which has nothing to do with orgasm or masturbation. Your body naturally releases this before bed, but it can be affected by factors like light exposure and sleeping patterns. 

Read more about melatonin and how you can boost yours for better sleep, or pick up more tips for better sleep so you can make the most of your Zs.

References

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  2. E. M. Hull, J. M. Dominguez and J. W. Muschamp – Neurochemistry of Male Sexual Behavior: https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-387-30405-2_2

  3. Ferenc A. Antoni (2017). Vasopressin as a Stress Hormone: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312152062_Vasopressin_as_a_Stress_Hormone

  4. T H C KrügerP HaakeJ HaverkampM KrämerM S ExtonB SallerN LeygrafU HartmannM Schedlowski (2003). Effects of acute prolactin manipulation on sexual drive and function in males: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14656205

  5. Michele Lastella, Catherine O’Mullan, Jessica L. Paterson and Amy C. Reynolds(2019).Sex and Sleep: Perceptions of Sex as a Sleep Promoting Behavior in the General Adult Population: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033/full

     

  6. Luis F Marin, André C Felicio, Gilmar F Prado (2011). Sexual intercourse and masturbation: potential relief factors for restless legs syndrome?: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21377419

  7. Suzanne Brissette Jacques Montplaisir Roger Godbout Pierre Lavoisier(1985). Sexual activity and sleep in humans: https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/0006-3223(85)90155-6/pdf

  8. Haake P., Krueger T.H.C., Goebel M.U.,  Heberling K.M.,  Hartmann U.,  Schedlowski M (2004). Effects of Sexual Arousal on Lymphocyte Subset Circulation and Cytokine Production in Man: https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/79409

  9. Divya Krishnakumar, Michael R Hamblin and Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan (2016). Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769029/

  10. K Spiegel, M Follenius, C Simon, J Saini, J Ehrhart, G Brandenberger (1994). Prolactin secretion and sleep: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8191199

  11. Livescience – Why Do Guys Get Sleepy After Sex?: https://www.livescience.com/32445-why-do-guys-get-sleepy-after-sex.html

  12. NHS – Is masturbation normal?: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/is-masturbation-normal/

  13. Relate – I’m worried that I (or someone I know) might be addicted to sex: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-sex/sex-common-problems/im-worried-i-or-someone-i-know-might-be-addicted-sex

  14. Sexaholics Anonymous -Sexaholics Anonymous Meetings In The UK: https://www.sauk.org/activities/find-meetings/

  15. MarkusHeinrichs, ThomasBaumgartner, ClemensKirschbaum and UlrikeEhlert (2003). Social support and oxytocin interact to suppress cortisol and subjective responses to psychosocial stress: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006322303004657

  16. Ståle Pallesen, Siri Waage, Eirunn Thun, Cecilie Schou Andreassen & Bjørn Bjorvatn (2019). A national survey on how sexual activity is perceived to be associated with sleep: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41105-019-00246-9

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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