Do you or your partner tend to fall asleep soon after having sex?
Even if you’d like to cuddle and enjoy the moment together, is the call of a post-orgasm snooze impossible to resist?
It’s a common phenomenon, but one that isn’t always appreciated. The sound of a snoring partner isn’t exactly a display of affection and connectedness.
If this sounds all too familiar, don’t be too hard on your partner, or yourself, though.
As you’ll see below, scientists believe there’s a biological mechanism at play. One which can overpower the emotional desire to stay awake.
Brain scans reveal why men fall asleep after sex
According to Serge Stoleru, a French neuroscientist, there are clear biological processes which make men sleepy after sex.
Using neuroimaging scans, he found that the prefrontal cortex area of the brain reduced in activity after reaching climax.
This is the area of the brain associated with consciousness, information processing and mental activity. So it helps explain why some men can’t help shutting down.
Additionally, two other areas of the brain – the cingulate cortex and amygdala – stop men from having further sexual thoughts.
That leads to the refractory period, which is when sexual desire reduces significantly. And with that sudden drop in sexual desire, rest can feel like the natural next step.
Sleep-inducing hormones released after climax
To switch off that sexual desire, the body releases the hormones oxytocin and serotonin. And those are both hormones associated with sleep and relaxation.
Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that helps regulates your body clock. You naturally produce more melatonin at night – when it’s time to go to sleep.
In addition, prolactin is released after orgasm, which is another hormone associated with relaxation, satiation and sleep.
Prolactin also mediates the recovery time; men with lower levels of prolactin tend to have a shorter refractory period after orgasm.
So there’s a lot going on biologically that makes relaxation and sleep a natural next step after sex.
Unsurprisingly, there are several other theories, ranging from common sense to evolutionary ideas.
Sex is tiring
Sex can be naturally tiring – especially if it involves prolonged and physically exerting behavior.
Muscles depleted of glycogen, intense breathing, and a drop in blood pressure and heart rate might all contribute in some way.
One evolutionary theory is that men developed the need to rest so they can continue with their biological drive to produce more offspring.
Women, on the other hand, might prefer to engage in bonding activities like talking and cuddling to foster long-term commitment from the father.
Another evolutionary theory suggests that men shut down after sex to prevent them from moving on to the next partner. So they are more likely to remain with the same partner and raise a family.
Do women fall asleep after sex too?
The evidence is 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?
Although some women naturally fall asleep with their partner, there could be a number of possible biological explanations for those that don’t:
- Their bodies don’t release the same combination of hormones. For example, women produce far less prolactin after climax.
- They don’t have the same drop in desire and refractory period as men. Women tend to remain aroused long after reaching climax.
- Women don’t always climax as easily as men do. So the release of any hormones associated with relaxation and sleepiness is less likely to happen.
Do men really fall asleep more often though?
Despite the research above, not everyone agrees that men fall asleep quicker after sex.
According to a study published by the scientists Kruger and Hughes, there isn’t much difference between men and women after all.
Their online survey of 456 people found that there was “no sex difference in reports of relative sleep onset after having sexual intercourse”.
They did add that observational studies would be better than an online survey to measure it more accurately. That might be unlikely research to happen though!
However, the results show that both men and women believe they fall asleep in roughly the same time period after having sex.
It’s also interesting that the study found that when couples didn’t have sex, women reportedly fell asleep quicker than men.
Could sex be a natural insomnia cure?
If both men and women produce at least some hormones associated with relaxation, and it affects brain activity, it makes sense that sex might help you sleep.
As for it being an insomnia cure, some people will find it more of a natural sleeping pill than others.
But as well as the biological mechanisms at work, there are some other points to consider:
- Research has shown that exercise at any time of the day can help you sleep better. Making it energetic, and for long enough, is the challenge though!
- A raised body temperature isn’t ideal for falling asleep. In fact, a falling body temperature is preferable. So try to keep the bedroom cool, or have a refreshing shower before going to sleep.
- If you don’t experience a climax, and therefore the relaxing hormones, will the increased arousal keep you awake?
- It’s harder to fall asleep when you feel stressed. If sex helps you relax, it might help prevent stress and anxiety from keeping you awake.
What if you don’t want to fall asleep after sex?
If you find it a struggle to stay awake after sex, but have a strong desire to do so, there are some steps you can try:
- Literally take some steps – out of bed and into another room.
- Don’t have sex in a dark room – darkness also influences melatonin production.
- Take sex outside of the bedroom.
- Have sex earlier in the day when you’re not already tired.
- Consider that sexual activity doesn’t have to finish when one person reaches climax.
If your partner tends to fall asleep straight away after sex, try to bear in mind that it’s not just inconsiderate or uncaring of them.
It might not be so easy for them to fight that potent cocktail of hormones flooding their body, relaxing and shutting them down temporarily.
But if you do find it upsetting, perhaps talk to them about it and encourage them to resist the pull of their biological mechanisms.
Tell them you’d like to spend more time cuddling and sharing every intimate moment together.
And it’s also worth remembering that according to some research, both men and women fall asleep in roughly the same time after all.
Do you or your partner drop off soon after sex? Does your partner always fall asleep first, or is there no noticeable difference?
Feel free to share your views in the comments below.