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For Some, Sex Is Better Sleep Aid Than Pill, Small Survey Finds

Dec 21, 2023Dec 21, 2023

by Salynn Boyles, Contributing Writer June 7, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS -- Having sex at bedtime is perceived by some as being as effective as taking a sleeping pill for getting a good night's sleep, according to findings from a small survey conducted via social media.

When 53 people were asked, 75% reported that they slept better after nighttime sex or orgasm, with or without a partner.

And among the 35 individuals who reported use of sleep medications, almost two-thirds said that having sex and/or an orgasm helped them sleep at least as well as or better than taking a pill.

The findings were presented by Douglas Kirsch, MD, of Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the annual SLEEP meeting here, hosted jointly by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

In an interview with MedPage Today, Kirsch acknowledged that the study was not all that scientific. He said he conducted it, along with co-investigator Seema Khosla, MD, of the North Dakota Center for Sleep in Fargo, in hopes of getting a conversation going within the sleep medicine community about sex and sleep.

"This is an aspect of sleep medicine that has not been well explored, and I am the first to admit that our findings raise a lot more questions than they answer," Kirsch said.

"Obviously this is an uncomfortable topic for many patients and their doctors, and I don't think it's talked about all that much," he said. "Our findings suggest that many people use sex to help them sleep better. That may not be all that surprising, or maybe it is."

The eight-question survey, created with Qualtrics, was distributed through social media -- mostly Twitter, but not Facebook, Kirsch said.

The first two questions related to age and gender. Just over half (53%) of the responding participants were female, and close to 90% were ages 26 to 49. About 9% of respondents were 50 to 64, and none were older than 65.

The survey questions made no distinction between having sex and having an orgasm with or without a partner, and the questions included the following:

A total of 27% of respondents reported never using sex/orgasm to improve their sleep, while 16%, 33%, and 24%, respectively, reported using sex/orgasm to fall asleep monthly, weekly, or multiple times a week.

Of the 40 individuals who said they slept better after having sex/orgasm, just over 50% reported moderate improvement in sleep and around a third reported a small improvement.

Kirsch said there was no significant difference between males and females in the responses.

And while the small survey suggested a largely positive association between sex and sleep, Kirsch said this certainly may not be the case for many people, such as those who have experienced sexual trauma.

"This isn't one-size-fits-all, and while sex may promote sleep for some it may do the opposite for others," he said. "We need to do the research to better understand this."

Andrew Spector, MD, of Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, who was not involved with the research, told MedPage Today that he agreed with Kirsch that more research is needed and that the topic is largely ignored within the sleep medicine community.

"I do talk about it with my patients," he said. "I can't say I talk about it often. But in the right setting when I think the patient will be receptive to the conversation I will certainly mention that sex is a non-pharmacological way to treat insomnia. It's perfectly safe, can be used at will, and can be done with and without a partner."


Kirsch reported no support for the study, and had no disclosures.

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Source Reference: Kirsch D, Khosla S "Sex as soporific -- Did Hollywood get this right?" SLEEP 2023; Abstract 0405.