It can alleviate stress, boost our brains, lower the risk of diabetes in men, prevent infections in women and, in some cases, lead to live performances of “Feels Like the First Time” to sound in your head. And many swear that masturbating is a tried-and-true method of defeating insomnia. But does the act of self pleasuring actually help you sleep?
To find an answer, we reached out to Nicole Prause, sex researcher and founder of Liberos, an independent research institute that studies orgasms. According to Prause, any sort of pre-sleep sexual satisfaction, whether from masturbation or sex with a partner, has no documented effect as a sleep aid or on quality of rest.
Prauses reasoning comes from a 1985 study in which researchers performed polysomnographs on ten different self-loving participants and determined that giving onesself a hand made no difference on sleep patterns. Per Prause, this was the only of its kind that ever observed the relationship between masturbation and sleep.
Okay. But what about sleep latency, which is the amount of time it takes us to fall asleep? Doesn’t masturbation help us in that regard?
Again, there’s no proof. “It’s never been studied,” Prause says. “Not once. We don’t actually know.”
Alright. But just because nothing’s been proven doesn’t mean that we still can’t consider a possible relationship between (insert hysterical term for masturbating here) and drifting off. Prause speculates that if people get tired after masturbating, it might have to do with increases in vasopressin, a hormone that gets released when we orgasm or experience sexual arousal.
“When you inject rats with vasopressin, they start yawning like crazy,” Prause says. “So it’s something that provokes sleepiness, and we’re not totally sure why. But it seems to be related, and that’s probably the mechanism that is promoting sleep with masturbation.”
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.
Another theory about getting off before going to bed deals with consistent bedtime routines, which some studies have indicated lead to a better night’s sleep. If self-pleasuring is a regular part of your nightly routine, then it’s possible it will lead to better lie down.
So there you have it.
Oh, and one last thing. Has anyone ever told you that you should fire off a round before a date, because it’ll reduce your sex drive? According to Prause, there’s no proof behind that, either. That particular masturbatory myth stems from former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Elders was actually fired by President Clinton for suggesting that young people should sexually gratify themselves pre-date as a preventative measure for having sex.
Aside from the obvious, the problem with that theory, Prause says, is that there’s no science behind masturbation lowering your sex drive. There’s a short refractory period, obviously, but researchers haven’t determined whether any of those feelings linger an hour later.