One Sure Fire Way to Have Better Sex Tonight

Does sex help you sleep—or does good sleep help with sex? See the link between healthy ZZZs and a healthy sex life.

You probably know that menopause can cause sleep problems, and that lack of sleep is associated with other health problems like heart disease, weight gain, hypertension and depression. But did you know that lack of sleep may affect your sex life, too? A study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), found that women ages 50 to 79 who slept less than seven to eight hours a night were less satisfied with their sex lives than women who slept longer. 

“If you think about it, it shouldn't be a surprise that there's a connection between the two,” says sleep specialist Dawn Stanley Cohen, MD of Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado. 

Regular sex not only feels good, it may increase your energy levels, lower your stress and anxiety levels, improve your relationship and much more. 

We talked with Dr. Stanley Cohen to learn exactly how aging and sleep habits might affect your sex life, as well as how to improve sleep, and in turn, the amount of time you spend making love. 

The main takeaways from the study 
The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study followed 93,000 women aged 50 through 79. The study found only 56 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with their sexual activity, 52 percent said they had partnered sexual activity within the last year and 31 percent of them had insomnia. In addition, women over 70 who slept less than five hours a night were 30 percent less likely to be sexually active than those women who were sleeping seven to eight hours. 

Why the connection? 
Stanley Cohen says that as you age, the risk of sleep disorders increases. She sees a huge spike in insomnia and sleep apnea in women who are in their 50s and 60s, and those going through perimenopause and menopause. 

This connection is not surprising, since women who are going through menopause typically have a hard time sleeping due to symptoms like hot flashes and sleep apnea. 

And loss of estrogen leads to loss of muscle integrity and an increased risk of sleep apnea, says Stanley Cohen. “Sleep deprivation, regardless of the cause, can also contribute to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. If someone has depression, I would assume they are less likely to want sex,” says Stanley Cohen. 

Emotions play a role, as well. “If you're overly tired and you're not able to concentrate on things, it's hard to have a sexually satisfying encounter,” says Cohen. 

6 ways to improve sleep 
"Obviously, getting more sleep isn’t the cure for all sexual problems," says Stanley Cohen. This study is a reminder that it is not just hormones that are affecting sex drive during menopause. 

If you’re looking for ways to improve your sex life, start by getting more sleep. Here are some other easy ways to get started. 

Watch what you eat: Try eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and steer clear of spicy or acidic food when you can. Eating these foods can worsen hot flashes. Large meals before bedtime can keep you awake, so it’s best to stop snacking three hours before bedtime. 

Try to stick to a schedule: It may be tough to do on the weekends, but sticking to a sleep routine can help regulate your body’s internal clock. Waking up at the same time every day and going to sleep at the same time every evening will help you get to sleep faster, and can help you stay asleep. 

Track your sleep: If you’re having a hard time keeping track of how much sleep you’re getting, you can use Sharecare, an app for iOS and Android. The app automatically tracks your sleep, or you can enter your sleep manually if you prefer. Try to record notes in a journal, too, about when you go to bed and when you wake up each morning, how long it takes you to fall asleep and whether you wake up in the night or not. From there, you can work on fine-tuning your habits to address any issues. 

Take some time to relax:  
An evening bath, a date with your favorite book and meditation are all activities that can help calm your mind before bed. And on the flipside, having sex before bed can also help you get better ZZZs. 

Lose the light: Electronic devices like cellphones, tablets, TVs and iPads can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. The bright light emitted from these devices can keep you awake and alert. 

Try ditching technology before bed (especially social media!) and turn any alarm clocks or light-emitting devices so they face away from you. It’s best to keep computers and tablets out of your bedroom completely, and your phone face down when it is in your bedroom. 

Work on building a sleep sanctuary: One of the ways to improve sleep is by making your bedroom comfortable and relaxing. Make sure the temperature is cool—somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Try darkening the room by closing the shades and blinds, and ensure it’s free of noise. Earplugs and sleeping masks can help if you have a significant other who snores or needs a light on to sleep. “White noise” machines can also help drown out disruptions like snoring and sounds from outside. 

And don’t forget to assess your mattress. Most mattresses last for around 9 or 10 years, so it’s best to replace them after that. 

Medically reviewed in January 2020. Updated in March 2021. 

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