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Does masturbating help you sleep?

Sleep is essential for your physical and mental well-being, as well as your quality of life.

Written by
Kate Evans
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 15, 2024
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Does masturbating help you sleep?
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Sleep: something that's essential for your physical and mental well-being, as well as your quality of life. No biggie if you can't get enough then; short and disturbed sleep is only associated with negative health outcomes like hypertension, diabetes and mortality [1].

No biggie at all.

It's no wonder we turn to so many aides to help us get a good night's sleep. You've got things like white noise, diffusers, meditation apps, silk pillowcases, chamomile tea, blasting a fan... just a number of things that can help you sleep more easily.

But uh, have you tried masturbating to help you fall asleep faster?

Does masturbation help you sleep?

The age-old question. Does tugging one out—indulging in a bit of self-pleasure before bedtime—help you achieve a better quality night's sleep...as well as an orgasm?

You may have some anecdotal evidence—we'd hazard a guess most people have indulged in it once or twice—but let's get into the science behind it.

Firstly, studies dating back to the '70s have called it out, saying that masturbation often begins in adolescence for guys, as a strategy to help them fall asleep [2].

One study, that looked at both sexual intercourse and masturbation, stated that participants involved responded that both these activities had "positive effects" on sleep. When accompanied by orgasms, it's said to improve sleep quality and sleep onset—the actual time it takes you to fall asleep [3].

And it's not just one study that found this. Another said that it's apparent that partnered sex and self-pleasure with orgasm resulted in "reduced subjective sleep latency and increased subjective sleep quality" when compared to sexual activity without orgasm [1].

So there you have it. The answer to the question 'does masturbating help sleeping' is a resounding yes.

Why does it make you sleepy?

The simple answer: hormones. The long answer: read on.

Sexual activities — like sex (duh), and masturbation — release multiple hormones. One of these hormones you've probably heard of (oxytocin), and other hormones that help include one called prolactin. Both of these help promote sleep [4].

Oxytocin is associated, in both men and women, with quality sleep improvement, as well as improving quality of life [5]. In addition, it also helps to reduce the stress hormone, cortisol [4].

This last point is important because increased cortisol is associated with poor sleep quality, like multiple overnight awakenings [4].

Prolactin is a hormone said to be "heavily involved" in feeling sleepy [2]. Prolactin levels are produced on a circadian rhythm, surging on sleep onset; the plasma level of this hormone is highest during sleep and lowest during the daytime [6]. In fact, sleep conditions like narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnoea have shown lower levels of prolactin release [7].

Prolactin has been shown to increase during orgasm. Have a wank and get better sleep.

And let's not forget everyone's favourite hormone — endorphins. Not only do they make you happy, but the chemicals released into your bloodstream during orgasm include this one. Causing not only intense pleasure (thank you, masturbation) but also relaxation [8].

Is it OK if I need to masturbate in order to sleep?

If masturbation helps you sleep and get a better night's rest, then why not partake in it? Many people already use it as a sleep aid—something that Dr Caroline Pukall, director of the Sexual Research Lab at Queen's University, Canada, confirms.

“Patients often cite that it is part of their bedtime routine… and that it’s something that helps them to relax and fall asleep.” [9]

In fact, research shows that when looking at a representation of the general adult population, more than half of participants—54.1%, to be precise—reported that masturbation that ended with an orgasm improved the quality of their sleep. 47.4% reported that it improved the onset of sleep. Orgasms were shown to facilitate sleep in both men and women [10].

Really, it can be seen as a form of self-care at this point; it helps to reduce and relieve stress levels and ease pain, along with other benefits [11]. You could incorporate it into daily life if need be, or weekly, according to sex therapist Dr Chris Donaghue, as people who do so are more likely to feel positive about both their looks and body.

They also report better orgasms, better relationships, and improved quality of health — who would've thought that these kinds of body releases could do so much for you? [12]

Does masturbation without orgasm prevent sleep?

It's not that it necessarily prevents sleep—you'll eventually end up falling asleep at some point—but there are other negative consequences.

If masturbation doesn't end with orgasm, men judge it to delay the onset of sleep, as well impair sleep quality [13]. Actually, these results are the same when it's sex (y'know, or foreplay) with another person, not just a go at yourself.

One of the reasons? Lack of orgasm is reported to be "more frustrating" for men than it is for women [14], with men perceiving "stronger" negative effects [15].

Why might I not be orgasming after masturbation?

There are a few possible reasons why this might be happening:

Erectile dysfunction

If you find that you can't orgasm while masturbating, it may be erectile dysfunction [16]. In some instances, it may be situational ED; you're putting too much pressure on yourself to finish and too much hope into it being relaxing enough to help you feel sleepy.

However, if you've found that sexual arousal isn't keeping you hard — or isn't keeping you hard enough to the point of ejaculation and orgasm (and this is whether it's in bed, masturbating, as part of your nighttime routine or as part of your everyday sex life)—then we recommend talking to a healthcare professional, like our Pilot practitioners who are available to you via online consultation.

Not only do ED treatments result in improved erections, but also in improved sexual activity.

Premature ejaculation

The issue could be premature ejaculation. You may not have enough time to masturbate to truly feel relaxed, and in turn, feel sleepy afterwards.

The way orgasms work is that during arousal, your heart begins to beat faster, and your blood pressure rises. After a certain amount of stimulation, you orgasm—and all the muscles that were tightened throughout relax, causing a pretty freaking great feeling [8].

Whereas if you do experience premature ejaculation, instead of feeling relaxed after going at yourself and orgasming, you may just feel distressed and frustrated instead [17].

There are ways to treat premature ejaculation, like our clinical Pilot PE treatment, or there's our Last Longer Program, which can improve your stamina in just 4 weeks—even if it is just as a sleep aid, as opposed to working on your sex drive.

Delayed ejaculation

Finally, there's delayed ejaculation, a.k.a. the lack of ability to ejaculate at will. It may take much longer than desired or just not happen altogether.

Even with a regular sex drive and your standard erection, it may take long periods of stimulation—masturbation, sex toys, the whole damn thing—to come [18]. In that case, it's best to skip the sleep expert entirely and go straight to a health professional.

Is it normal if I can't sleep after masturbating?

Remember how (a few sections up) roughly half of the people surveyed said that orgasming after a wank helped with sleeping? Well look, there's always the other half.

If we're being honest, having sexual intercourse with another person can improve your sleep latency and quality more than masturbating will [14]. That hormone, prolactin, that helps you feel sleepy? Its increase is 5 times higher following sex than following masturbation [19]—so, for you, maybe having a tug isn't just quite enough.

It could be that generally, you're suffering from a lack of sleep and disrupted sleep. According to sleep experts, poor sleep begets poor physical and mental health, bringing on poor sleep again... and so on and so forth. Poor sleep has also been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, as has other sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.

Shift workers may find their body clocks out of alignment, interfering with numerous bodily processes, including sexual health. Working these non-standard hours has also been linked to erectile dysfunction.

If you find you can't sleep even after a good go at it, and you're just lying awake for hours—there are ways to help boost sleep-promoting behaviour, including Pilot's sleep support, which can help you get fall asleep and stay asleep. Our treatments help to regulate sleep and aid in relaxation to help tackle the stresses that can keep you awake.

How to improve your sleep in other ways

As we've discovered, having sex can help you sleep—granted that you finish (for those of you with female partners, that means letting them finish too).

Start improving your sleep by focusing on what you do during the day. Getting up and getting morning sun exposure helps your body clock to switch off the production of melatonin, known as the 'sleepy' hormone [21].

Exercise earlier in the day, and limit how much caffeine and alcohol you have after midday.

Keep your bedroom around 19-20ºC, and make the room as dark as possible at bedtime—if this isn't possible, invest in a good eye mask. Also, please invest in a good mattress, or at least a quilt and pillow. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is for you to relax.

A warm bath can help you sleep, as it can bring on some drowsiness, make you feel more relaxed, and help you out with muscle soreness and tension [21].

And also, keep your bed for sleep and sexy times only. No Netflix, no TikTok, no meals — teach your brain that bed = sleep.

Image credit: Getty Images

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/full/10.1111/jsr.13814
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sam-Hughes-12/publication/341193032_Release_Within_Confinement_An_Alternative_Proposal_for_Managing_the_Masturbation_of_Incarcerated_Men_in_US_Prisons/links/5eb2fcaf92851cbf7fad916f/Release-Within-Confinement-An-Alternative-Proposal-for-Managing-the-Masturbation-of-Incarcerated-Men-in-US-Prisons.pdf
  3. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/jsr.13504
  4. http://sleepscience.org.br/details/3149
  5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033/full
  6. https://www-tandfonline-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.3109/07420528.2014.975353?needAccess=true
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4402098/?source=post_page---------------------------
  8. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/ask-experts/my-girlfriend-says-she-feels-tired-after-masturbating-is-it-true
  9. https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/11/E384
  10. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00033/full
  11. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24332-masturbation
  12. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/celebrate-the-feel-more-man-this-holiday-season-with-dr-chris-donaghue-by-embracing-best-practices-for-physical-and-emotional-health-300761306.html
  13. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/jsr.13504
  14. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41105-019-00246-9
  15. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/full/10.1111/jsr.13814
  16. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/what-can-cause-orgasm-problems-in-men/
  17. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-ejaculation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354900
  18. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/delayed-ejaculation
  19. https://oce-ovid-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/article/01787238-202107000-00003/HTML
  20. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/sex-sleep
  21. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/blog/how-to-get-a-good-nights-sleep
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