Three Questions About Sex and Sleep And the Answers from Psychology Today

By Chad Taylor on June 23, 2015

Dr. Mathew Edlund used Psychology Today to answer 3 questions about sex and sleep and how they go together. The good news is that sex and sleep can still help revive spirits and help regenerate body and brain.

1. Does sex improve sleep?

That’s a tough one to answer scientifically. Sleep is often studied in sleep labs – not the most romantic place so that data is sparse. Subjective responses from individuals range widely from yes to no. Many women complain about the “le petit mort” – the little death – when men fall asleep immediately after sex which would lead to the conclusion that the man may be sleeping while the woman is tossing and turning.

The Doctor’s answer:

He suggested that the problem be addressed in two ways. First, don’t limit sex just to bedtime. Next – prepare for “let petit mort” and be ready to keep your partner awake with conversation and humor. Try some forthright physical maneuvers that may keep the sleepy partner awake for pleasures yet to come.

2. Can you have sex while you’re asleep?

The surprising answer is that sexsomnia really does exist. It was confirmed in a sleep lab in Canada that almost 8% of its clients experienced sexsomnia, initiating or engaging in sex with a partner while sleeping. More men (11%) than women (4%) experienced this and the researchers suggested that it may be more common in a sleep lab where people have come for help sleeping than in the general population. However, one British wife said she conceived while her husband was asleep and she had sent him a text the next day to tell him about their nightly adventure – before she knew she was pregnant.

The Doctor says:

While people may think sex and sleep are very separate, the truth is that people flux in and out of consciousness throughout the 24 hour day. Sexsomnia is like the microsleeps drivers sometimes experience; people can be partially asleep and partially awake. He suggests paying attention to your body’s clock and try to keep a regular sleep and wake cycle. Watch out for sleeping pills and if you take one go to bed. Sleepwalking and other events are reported with drugs like Ambien and the doctor says sexsomnia is not the preferred sexual experience so take the pill and go to sleep.

3. Can sleep improve sex?

Yep – sleep can improve your skin, your memory, your ability to concentrate, your immune system and your sex life. Poor sleep is a bummer for you and your sex life.

More from the Doctor:

Something to consider is REM sex. During REM sleep – the complex dream sleep – male sex hormones peak. Even a man who has trouble getting an erection during the day will normally have one during REM sleep. REM sex takes agreement from your partner because the longest REM period is the hour before awakening. If the partner agrees, wake him or her a little earlier than usual. The result may be a dreamy form of sex that you’ll both enjoy.

A parting word of general advice from sleep experts – both sex and sleep work best when the physical surroundings are conducive to relaxation. The temperature should be cool. The bed should be ready with smooth bedding and comfortable pillows. Plus, the mattress should both be supportive and responsive. A natural latex mattress may be exactly right since they offer full-body support and a breathable, cool surface. If you think your mattress might be part of your sexual or sleep problems – it’s time for a new one.