How Sex Reduces Stress

By Dr. Jess Sexual Health

Studies show that pleasurable experiences reduce the stress response in the brain – likewise, those who have sex regularly are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This is no surprise given that a healthy sex life is positively correlated with regular exercise, a boosted immune system, a youthful appearance and lower incidence of depression, chronic pain and migraines.

There are several chemical explanations for the association between stress reduction and sex. Oxytocin, for example, spikes right before orgasm, and this so-called “love hormone” is associated with increased compassion and deep relaxation. It makes sense then that sex often leads to restful sleep which carries a host of other related health benefits — from lower blood pressure to a longer lifespan. While oxytocin surges during sexual arousal, cortisol, the stress hormone, decreases. Studies show that even exposure to erotic materials can lower levels of this stress hormone, so if you’re too tired to get it on, watching a sexy flick might do the trick.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a state of mild euphoria after sex, it may have to do with the endorphin rush during arousal and orgasm. This natural high not only blocks pain and enhances pleasure, but can help you let go of some of the little things that cause unnecessary stress by inducing a state of blissful satisfaction.

How Sex Reduces Stress

The intimate connection fostered through sex also helps to reduce stress. Couples who report having a healthy sex life also report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. And couples in happy relationships are more likely to exercise, eat well, seek medical care, recover from illness and avoid smoking, so the benefits flow from both directions. In addition, some animal studies suggest that sex can also impact the brain in a positive manner. In one study of rats, daily intercourse for fourteen days led to cell growth in the part of the brain associated with the regulation of emotion and memory.

Sex not only reduces overall stress, but it can also help to calm nerves in particularly stressful situations – including public speaking! One study found that participants who recently had intercourse were better able to regulate their stress response when asked to speak in public and perform verbal arithmetic. So if you have a big presentation coming up, skip your last round of rehearsals and get busy already!



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