Episode 28


Cupid's Pillow

Valentine’s is just a few days away. Ever wonder how your time between the sheets is affected by your sleep?

Better put the kid’s to bed early, because in this episode, I review some of the data on sleep and sex, including sexual function and dysfunction, fertility, and how improving sleep can improve your sex life.

Recent studies are demonstrating another benefit of sharing the bed with your romantic partner: synchronization. Bed partners, especially when going to bed at the same time (and not too late!), share more simultaneous sleep and wake periods across the night compared to separate bed times and those with later circadian rhythms. Not only simultaneous sleep vs wake, but literal sleep stages line up as well, like synchronized swimmers! Real life telepathy! And when sleeping together (vs in separate beds but at the same time), each partner actually benefits from a boost of more high quality REM sleep.

When the sleep of either partner suffers, so too does their shared intimacy. Issues like circadian misalignment or sleep apnea cause problems with male and female sexual arousal, orgasm, fertility. Poor sleep quality in women is associated with vaginal dryness and discomfort, and declining sexual health. Problems like sleep apnea don’t just cause sexual dysfunction, but actually worsen body image too in both women and men.

Sleep problems and circadian misalignment lower testosterone levels, lower sperm count and viability, lead to ovarian dysfunction and alterations in FSH, LH, prolactin - basically causing the loss of fertility (the evolutionary goal of Valentines after all). Any problem with sexual health or fertility basically mandates a medical screening of sleep and circadian health.

Women who sleep more have better sexual desire and arousal. One study demonstrated that just knowing a little bit more about sleep actually increases women’s sexual quality of life and sexual self-efficacy, despite continued circadian misalignment. Multiple studies have demonstrated the resolution in erectile dysfunction by treating sleep apnea, which in some ways is can function more effectively than medications. Studies now demonstrate the normalization in sperm count and mobility occur simply by correcting social jet lag and re-aligning circadian rhythms. Fertility improves with correction of sleep and circadian problems.

In short, Valentines day is just better when you’re well rested, no matter your age, no matter your reproductive aspirations. So skip the cards, flowers and chocolate, and give each other the gift of sleep.


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