*Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. Seek the guidance of a physician if you have any questions.*
Most of us understand the importance of getting good quality sleep because it positively impacts overall wellness. But, did you know that sleep deprivation can negatively impact your sex drive? Sleep allows the brain to slow down, recover, and restore, promoting better physical and mental performance in the long run. Unfortunately, most people overlook the correlation between the sleeping process and sex, which results in tons of money being spend on supplements to increase their sex drive, treat erectile dysfunction (ED), and much more. Some experts have questioned whether programs like Medicaid and Medicare should cover the cost of erectile dysfunction drugs. According to one study, "spending for the three most popular phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) tops $1 billion worldwide annually". However, most researchers find that adequate sleep is essential for sexual desire, stimulation, and stamina. According to Psychology Today, "a healthy sex life will lead to better sleep health and vice-versa. If sex or sleep is suffering, the chances are that one can be improved by improving the other".
The Link Between Sleep and Sex Drive
According to MedAlertHelp, in the US, more than 10% of adults have chronic insomnia. Two common side effects of insomnia and sleep deprivation are anxiety and depression, which inadvertently causes sexual dysfunction. Suppose a person is stressed due to sleep deprivation. In this case, the body typically suppresses sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone but triggers the stress hormone production, cortisol. The abrupt change in hormone levels may lead to a decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. Women generally suffer from sleep disorders more than men because of pregnancy, postpartum depression, and menopause. Pregnancy and new babies alone can cause sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and insomnia. Therefore, new mothers may experience insomnia or other sleep disorders, which will lead to a lower interest in sex because of fatigue or stress. Sleep deprivation makes people too tired to even worry about sex, which has been proven through several studies. For example, one set of researchers at the University of Michigan found that when individuals slept longer, their interest in sex increased significantly.
Ironically, healthy sex can help a person sleep better because sex and sleep are interdependent. Experts have found that folks who engage in sex before turning in for the night have less anxiety, depression and are more relaxed. Sex releases endorphins that naturally lead to relaxation and help produce a hormone called oxytocin, acting as a sedative.
Sleep Deprivation and Sexual Disorders
It is common for sleep disorders and sexual disorders to occur together, which can be frustrating for the person living with the sleep disorder. It is no secret that sexual health not only impacts the person with the condition but will also negatively impact the sexual health of the spouse or partner of the patient. Fortunately, the silver lining behind getting a sleep disorder diagnosed and treated is that it typically takes care of any sexual dysfunction at the same time. Another study found that certain sleep disorders contributed significantly to sexual problems like ED in males. The problem stems from insufficient sleep, disrupted sleep, and unique sleep disorders, which significantly impact many aspects of human health, including sexual function. Patients with urological conditions or ED may have a sleep disorder contributing to their sexual dysfunction. For example, obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, shift work disorder, and restless legs syndrome are all common sleep disorders associated with ED and other urological diseases".
Sexsomnia is a parasomnia condition formally defined as an abnormal activity during a specific type of sleep. This condition is strikingly similar to sleepwalking because it also occurs during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stage of sleep. Robert Oexman, DC, director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, MO states, "[it} causes people to engage in sexual acts such as masturbation, fondling, intercourse, and sometimes rape while they are asleep." Since this activity happens during the deepest part of the sleep-like sleepwalking, the person usually does not remember anything that happens. Most patients may even deny the event because they cannot recall any of the activities. Often, sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea may cause a secondary illness like Sexsomnia. Experts believe that Sexsomnia is underreported because there is a shame associated with the order, but they have found that it appears more in men than women. Experts are still trying to find out more about the correlation between the two disorders and admits that more research is needed in sleep medicine.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation seems to be the common factor between most sleep disorders and sexual dysfunctions. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of dying prematurely. (It is that serious!) Most people end up consuming large amounts of caffeine to combat the sleep debt. However, the caffeine may help during the day but end up causing insomnia at night. The best way to fix sleepiness is to go to sleep. Signs of sleep deprivation are:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Frequent yawning
- Daytime fatigue
Americans Spend Tons of Money on Sleep Aids
People tend to spend money trying to fix things like sleep deprivation but strangely overlook the obvious, simply getting enough sleep. CBS News recently reported that 164 million Americans struggle to get a good night of sleep at least once a week. In 2016, Americans spent a whopping $41 billion on sleeping aids and remedies, and the number was projected to increase to $52 billion by 2020. Unfortunately, empirical data showed that people who took Ambien for sleep get an extra 20 minutes on average. If a person would set a goal and try to sleep at least seven hours every night, one could bypass drugs' cost and the unwanted side effects. The best thing is to get sleep, but if rest continues to be problematic, a sleep study may be used to determine if a sleep disorder is present.