It’s officially spring, and love is in the air. With new research on sexual wellness making headlines, we thought now is no better time than ever to have an honest conversation about sex and health. Sure, everyone knows that sex feels good, but it may not be something that immediately comes to mind when you think about your daily wellness routine.
Just like taking a daily vitamin, exercising, or eating your vegetables, we should be reaping the mind and body benefits that having regular sex, either with a partner or solo, adds to our overall health and wellbeing.
Sexual health is more than avoiding diseases and unplanned pregnancies. It’s also about recognizing that sex should be an important part of your life, according to the American Sexual Health Association. The mind and body benefits of having regular sex range from slashing stress levels to lowering your risk of cancer and heart attacks. It also facilitates bonding and feelings of intimacy with your partner. This kind of connectedness does more than make you feel warm and fuzzy, it actually reduces anxiety and boosts your overall health.
If you’re looking to have a stronger immune system, better sleep, increased heart health, and more, a little action between the sheets can help. Read below for 4 surprising health benefits that can result from getting jiggy with it.
image by lauren riboldi
Sex releases hormones in your brain known as endorphins (the same ones released during exercise). Through this endorphin release, your brain gets the signal to decrease the hormones we often refer to as “stress hormones,” cortisol and epinephrine. When cortisol and epinephrine decrease, your blood pressure, anxiety, pulse, and brain all slow down and start to relax.
Increases Feelings of Intimacy
Sex can help you better connect to your partner thanks to oxytocin. Oxytocin is the warm and fuzzy hormone released during intimacy that can help deepen feelings of intimacy and build confidence in your relationship. Coupled partners often have increased relationship satisfaction when they fulfill one another’s sexual desires. You may find positive growth in your relationship when you’re able to express yourself and your sexual desires.
But, what if the desire isn’t there? If you have low sexual desire and associate it with feelings of stress and discomfort, it may be hypoactive sexual desire disorder, (HSDD), which is the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women. Studies show that low sexual desire affects roughly 15 million women in the US. It’s important to know that for these women, a lack of sexual desire or feelings of comfort and intimacy when it comes to sex can actually be rooted in a biological basis.
Brain scan studies show markedly less activity in areas of the brain that are important in sexual response for women who suffer from HSDD. The key components of HSDD can negatively impact personal attitudes, such as body image and self confidence, and can lead to interpersonal difficulties, such as feeling less connected to a partner. Think you may be suffering from it? Find out here.
Another hormone that sex causes your brain to release is called prolactin. This hormone as it relates to sex is only released when one achieves orgasm, and the level actually increases the more orgasms you have. A surge of prolactin to the brain is what causes people to feel oh so sleepy, calm, and relaxed after sexual activity. This in turn may lead to a deeper and better sleep. Good sex and a great night’s sleep? Double the fun!
When endorphins are released during sex, they activate the “reward center” of your brain and stimulate your opiate receptors. These are the same receptors that are stimulated by morphine and pain medication. This literally gives us the scientific definition to the phrase “sex is a drug” – meaning, your experience of pain decreases after orgasm. Next time you have bad cramps or a migraine, you might be able to skip the Advil and take sex instead!
Trade in your apple a day for some good ol’ fashioned hanky panky a few times a week. In a recent research study, people who had sex 1-2 times a week had an increased level of an immune antigen called IgA in their systems. This immune antibody is the first line of defense in the body for fighting colds and flu, and typically the more IgA in your saliva, the less often you become sick. Bye bye Doc’s office, hello more sexy time.