Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?

woman awake and man asleepDo you and your partner both manage to stay awake after sex, basking in the joy of that blissful moment together?

Or does one of you uncontrollably drift off to sleep, leaving the other to enjoy the period of bliss on their own?

If the second sounds more like you or your partner, then you’re definitely not alone.

But is it just men that tend to pass out after sex, or do women too? And is it selfish behavior or are men at the mercy of their biological design?

Research explains why men fall asleep

In 2012, the French neuroscientist Serge Stoleru published research into the reason for men’s post-sex slumber which made headlines around the world.

He found that there are biological processes at work which lead to men feeling sleepy after climax. Neuroimaging scans show that the prefrontal cortex area of the brain reduces in activity after climax.

Being the area of the brain associated with consciousness, information processing and mental activity, this helps explain why men feel sleepy.

Following that, two more areas of the brain (the cingulate cortex and amygdala) then stop the man from having sexual thoughts. This leads to the refractory period during which the man rests and recovers.

To switch off this sexual thinking, the body releases hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin. These hormones are further associated with sleep and relaxation. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates your internal body clock.

In addition, prolactin is released after orgasm, which is another hormone associated with relaxation, satiation and sleep.

Prolactin also mediates the recovery time, as shown by the fact that men with lower levels of prolactin tend to recover faster. And studies have shown that animals injected with prolactin become tired immediately.

So it would appear that men aren’t in fact avoiding cuddles or being selfish. They simply don’t have control, with their body just shutting down temporarily.

Alternative explanations

There are several other ideas about why men fall asleep after sex, ranging from common sense possibilities to evolutionary theories.

For example, it could simply be that sex is often quite tiring. Sometimes men do engage in prolonged and physically exerting behavior.

The muscles may become depleted of glycogen, the intense breathing might tire them out, and the drop in blood pressure and heart rate might all contribute in some way.

One possible evolutionary theory is that men may need to rest so they can continue with their drive to produce offspring.

Women, however, may be more likely to want to engage in couple-bonding activities like talking and cuddling to foster long-term commitment.

And yet another evolutionary theory suggests that men shut down after sex to prevent them from moving on to the next partner. This helps keep them in check and to stick with one partner to eventually help with raising a family.

Why don’t women fall asleep after sex?

Anecdotally, it seems that men are the ones in the dog house when it comes to their post-sex behavior. But in fact, the evidence is actually conflicting as to whether women do or don’t feel sleepy after sex too. If they don’t fall asleep so easily though, why might this be?

Whilst some women naturally fall asleep with their partner, there could be a number of possible biological explanations for those that don’t:

1. Women don’t experience the exact same release of the potent cocktail of hormones which are associated with relaxation and sleep.

2. Women don’t have the same refractory period as men – in fact women tend to stay aroused much longer once they’ve experienced the high level of arousal associated with climax.

3. Women don’t always climax as easily as men do, and therefore the release of the hormones associated with relaxation and sleepiness is less likely to happen.

No difference in how long it takes men and women to fall asleep

Kruger and Hughes published a study in in 2011 which suggests that there’s no significant difference between the time it takes men or women to fall asleep after sex. Their online survey of 456 people therefore contradicts conventional wisdom entirely.

They do suggest that observational studies would be better than an online survey to measure this phenomenon more accurately. However, the results show that men and women believe they fall asleep in roughly the same time period after having sex.

Also interesting is that the study found that when partners don’t have sex, women tend to fall asleep quicker than men.

Could sex be a natural insomnia cure?

To answer this question, we also need to consider how sex impacts on other factors that are important in sleeping well.

1. Research has in fact shown that contrary to historical belief, exercise at any time in the day could help you sleep better. If the sex is vigorous enough, perhaps it will wear you out.

2. A raised bedroom and body temperature isn’t ideal for falling asleep. In fact, a falling body temperature is preferable. Perhaps then if you do have sex at night, it might be best to try to keep the room cool. Or even have a cool shower after sex before drifting off.

3. If you don’t experience a climax and therefore the relaxing hormones, could the increased adrenaline then become an issue for insomniacs? All the more reason to try and ensure both partners reach climax!

4. Contrary to the above point though, we also know that relaxation of the mind is very important in falling asleep. If sex with or without a climax can help reduce all the busy thoughts that can keep you awake, then that can only be a good thing.

5. A key point in managing insomnia is to maintain a regular sleep schedule. And the unpredictability of the timings of sexual desires and activity has the potential to seriously disrupt this. But to suggest a curfew for sexual activity could be going a step too far…

Conclusion

It does seem then that there’s strong evidence for men’s innocence when it comes to falling asleep after sex. They just can’t fight all the effects of the powerful hormones flooding their body.

It’s probably best to draw your own conclusions about whether sex is a viable insomnia cure or not though.

As an insomniac you should probably be grateful if it brings you the occasional release from the suffering of sleeplessness.

If your partner is the one who falls asleep straight away after sex though, leaving you once again to deal with your insomnia, then perhaps go easy on them and remember that they aren’t being selfish (hopefully).

If you feel strongly about it, then you could perhaps talk to them about it and encourage them to resist the pull of their biological mechanisms. Ask them to spend some time with you in what can be one of the most beautifully intimate moments between a couple.

Your views

If you’re a man, do you find that you naturally fall asleep after sex or not? If you’re a woman, do you find your partner often falls asleep when you wish he’d stay awake and cuddle for a while? How does it make you feel?

Do you think it’s possible to fight the biological processes at work? Do you think people should try and resist them to spend quality time together? Feel free to share you views and thoughts in the comments below.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hi, I just wanna throw out there that this article is really sexist (not that I’m trying to bitch about that) but me sleeping right after sex or not dramatically changed after having more less meaningful sex than I had when I wasn’t single..even though I’m a woman, I have a lot more guys fall asleep on me after now than I had when I was in long term relationships

    • Hi Aly
      Thanks for your comment. I’d love to know a bit more about why you feel the article is sexist? I imagine that it’s probably quite common for people to be less likely to resist the urge to sleep if the sex is less meaningful and not attached to a relationship.
      Regards
      Ethan

    • I’m a male in my 40’s now and have never went to sleep after sex. It’s more of a pain to have late sex and be up 4+ hours after putting in an hour+ of work. I end up crashing another day when my mind and body says shutdown. My lady goes straight to sleep no problem everytime, 1 minute tops unless she smokes a cigarette then its snoresville soon as the cig is done. Kind of upsetting that I can’t but happy for her. But it would be great to be a normal male (based off this webpage) I’d get great sleep a couple nights out of a week. I have tried several sleep aids and they never work when they suppose to if at all (herbal and prescription). All you people that sleep after sex enjoy, why stay up and talk after sex? You could talk/cuddle first or talk/cuddle instead of sex right?

  • Don’t be insulted if your partner starts sawing logs right after your most intimate moments together. Men fall asleep after sex for several main reasons—none of which are related to your relationship, personality or performance in bed.

    • Hi Rolando

      Thanks for your comment and wise words. You’re absolutely right there and hopefully other readers will believe it if they find it disconcerting.

      Regards
      Ethan

  • Don’t be insulted if your partner starts sawing logs right after your most intimate moments together. Men fall asleep after sex for several main reasons—none of which are related to your relationship, personality or performance in bed.

    • Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your comment, and your understanding point of view. I think you’re absolutely right in that people shouldn’t feel insulted by this very natural phenomenon.

      Regards
      Ethan

  • I doubt the validity of this.
    I’m a twenty year old male and ever since I learned what an orgasm was I have never felt sleepy afterwards. Quite the opposite in fact. I cannot sleep for a good hour afterwards.

    • Hi Bob,
      Thanks for your comment. There are many exceptions to the theory of course and not all guys feel sleepy after sex, so you’re not the only one. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen to a large number of men, and women though.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am sorry to say I have a high sex drive and my wife does not. I spend many a night / morning, having not slept. Tried to discuss it but she thinks it is a ruse to pressure her into sex. We are intimate give or take once a week.
    Nice to know i am normal and not being selfish as that is how I feel (34 – married 15 years – 4 boys -15 to 5)

    • Hi Dan

      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, I’m not sure that the information in this article really supports the argument for having more sex if there is a fundamental difference in libido etc. I imagine that like many couples you have entered a phase of life where intimacy takes second place to the need to rest after busy days looking after 4 kids, work, the house and life in general.
      I’m not a relationship counselor, but my advice would be have an honest chat about the difference in your desires, but perhaps don’t play the insomnia card. I doubt it will get you very far!
      All the best
      Ethan

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