Sex is as good as, or better than, a sleeping pill

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A roll in the hay might keep you from tossing and turning at night.

That’s the takeaway from a new survey presented at the SLEEP 2023 annual meeting this week in Indianapolis.

In the survey, 53 adults were questioned about their sleep habits. The questions covered issues like sleep quality, sex and orgasms and the use of sleep medications.

“Little scientific data exists around the impact of sex and orgasm on sleep quality,” lead author Dr. Douglas Kirsch, medical director at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in a news release.

The study authors noted that sex is often portrayed in the media as conducive to a good night’s rest, but the link hasn’t been examined by scientists.

Most of the survey participants were fairly young: 89% were between 25 and 49. And 66% of the participants reported using sleep medication at some point in their lives to get better rest.

woman with pills on her nightstand
Sleep medication doesn’t help as much as sex, say a majority of survey respondents.
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couple in bed under the covers
Sex has many health benefits, including a good night’s sleep.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Other research backs up that high-usage figure: In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report revealing that in 2020, more than 8% of people had used sleep medication within the previous 30 days.

Women in the CDC report were slightly more likely to use sleeping pills than men (10.2% versus 6.6%, respectively), and medication use increased with age.

And 6.6% had used sleep medication daily for the past 30 days, a figure many experts find alarming.

pills on a nightstand
Sleep medication should not be used for an extended period of time, experts say.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Sleeping pills have a lot of side effects,” Nishi Bhopal, a psychiatrist and sleep expert, told CNN, while also noting that insomnia also has a serious impact on health.

“It’s really important that we support patients in the best way that we can because insomnia can lead to depression and anxiety,” Bhopal said. “So sleeping pills can be really useful in that context, but it’s not recommended to use them for more than two weeks.”

In the SLEEP 2023 survey, 75% of the participants reported sleeping better after sex/orgasm, and 64% felt that a sleeping pill had a similar or worse effect on their sleep.

“While this data is quite preliminary, it was interesting how often sex was used to aid in sleep,” said study co-author Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep in Fargo.

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