June 14, 2017
Can sex help cure depression, relieve pain and boost your memory? Yes, yes, YES
Sex is great. know that. We know that. Even your mom knows that (think about it—you’re here, aren’t you?) But do you know what’s even greater than sex? All the ways having sex improves your overall well-being, which we’ve listed below.
Sex Helps You Sleep
A 2012 study shows that sex is more likely to make men sleepy than women—that’s because the part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for stuff like decision making and how we act in social settings, winds down after ejaculation. That said, sex also triggers the release of relaxing feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin to the brain, which might account for why women sometimes become sleepy after sex, too.
Sex Relieves Pain
A 2013 German study found that migraine and cluster-headache sufferers who had sex during a headache episode reported partial or total relief. Another study out of Rutgers University confirmed their findings by showing that women who stimulated a certain area of the “G spot” experienced an elevated pain threshold as a result. The researchers attribute this to oxytocin, the so-called bonding hormone, which also has pain-relieving properties.
Sex Keeps You Happy
In addition to producing all those feel-good chemicals, a 2002 study out of the University of Albany found that women who have sex without a condom show fewer depressive symptoms than women who have sex with condoms. This is presumably due to the fact that various compounds in semen—including estrogen and prostaglandin—have antidepressant properties that are absorbed by the body (and the brain) after sex. That said, unless you’re safely with a long-term partner, you should always use a condom: There are other ways to improve your mood, but there aren’t many other ways to prevent STDs.
Sex Reduces Wrinkles
A Scottish study found that couples who have sex three or more time a week appear on average 10 years younger than their actual age. This is due to the fact that orgasms trigger the release of estrogen, which improves hair and skin health.
Sex Improves Your Heart Health
One 2002 study showed that men who had sex only once a month or less are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke or contract a cardiovascular disease than those who spend more time between the sheets. That said, this could be accounted for by the fact that men with better overall health (including healthier cardiovascular systems) have higher libidos and therefore have more sex, rather than the other way around. Still—can’t hurt to try, right?
Sex May Boost Your Memory
One 2010 rodent study found that, compared to rats who were allowed to have sex just once over a 14-day period (poor rats), those who engaged in “chronic” sex (once a day for 14 consecutive days) sprouted more neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with memory. While further studies are required to confirm whether or not this sex-induced memory boost also occurs in humans, we’re going to go ahead and tell ourselves that it does, even as we forget whether or not we turned the oven off.
But Also: Sex Can Be a Downer, Too
You can’t have sex (or write an article about sex) without acknowledging that occasional moment of glumness once everything’s said and done. That’s called the post-sex blues aka, postcoital dysphoria (or, if you want to be fancy and French about it, la petite mort). While researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes it, some suggest that high levels of testosterone (which may result from a failure to climax, in both men and women) can promote less positive post-sex conversation. This, in turn, leads to feelings of regret. Others believe the post-sex blues result from the realization that the relationship may not be going anywhere beyond the bedroom. Taken together, this all suggests that the best way to avoid this emotional dip is to make sure your partner gets off, then go to IKEA together to shop for lamps. Er, or not.
Don Fisher D.O.
Medical Director/ Physician
The BEST Program, Inc.