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Behavior Impact

Podcast 160: Sex as a Health Promoting Behavior

February 16, 2022

This week’s episode is all about sex. Dr. Michele Lastella discusses its impact on sleep quality, physiology, and emotional wellbeing.

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Our VP or Performance, Kristen Holmes, sits down with Dr. Michele Lastella, a researcher in sleep, sexual activity, and athletic performance, for an in-depth discussion on how sexual activity plays a role in your sleep quality, your physiology, and your emotional wellbeing.

Dr. Lastella is a true expert in this field, with one of his primary areas of research focusing specifically on the relationship between sex and sleep. He has authored over 60 papers covering sexual activity, sleep, recovery, sport psychology, and athletic performance, and his 2019 study found that both men and women perceive that they fall asleep quicker (and sleep better) after orgasm with a partner, or alone.

Kristen and Dr. Lastella discuss what happens physiologically and psychologically during and after sex, what sleep latency is and how sex can reduce it, and the role sexual activity plays in longevity. They also talk about the differences between sex with a partner vs. masturbation, and how libido changes over time and why sleep might be the key to keeping your drive higher.

Plus, we reveal which age groups on WHOOP have the most sex, which states report the most sex, and how events like the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day affect the instances of our members’ reported sexual activity.

Stay healthy and stay in the green!

 

Dr. Michele Lastella Podcast Quotes & Highlights

5:01 – Being Present During Sex. “We are actually present when we’re engaging in sexual activity,” Dr. Lastella says. “I think that’s really important to remember because a lot of talk about mental wellbeing these days is about being present and mindful. I think that’s important apart from all the physiological things that happen [during sex].”

6:26 – Hormonal Response. “Engaging in sexual activity, particularly when we orgasm, [causes our bodies to] release different hormones, such as oxytocin. Oxytocin tends to increase, prolactin also tends to increase – it’s essentially that sexual satisfaction hormone – and also you have a reduction in cortisol, which then can cause a reduction in stress.”

8:48 – Sleep Latency and Sex. “Sleep latency is essentially how quickly you can fall asleep. Some of the data that we’ve collected through some surveys is essentially saying that when people are engaging in sex that includes an orgasm, they’re reporting that their sleep latencies are shorter than usual.”

13:01 – Sleep and Libido. Michele discusses how both sleep and libido tend to decline as we age, and hypothesizes that there is a strong relationship between a decline in libido and less sleep. “If you want to increase your libido, then get more sleep,” he says. He also mentions a study that shows that women who got one more hour of sleep per night were more likely to engage in sexual activity the next day.

16:50 – Sex as a Health Promoting Behavior. Kristen and Dr. Lastella talk about how WHOOP data shows that members in their 30s, 40s, and 50s don’t have as much sex as people in their 20s and 60s. “If you’re not [having sex], then potentially you’re missing out on all the other health benefits that come with sex,” Dr. Lastella says.

19:58 – Sex Over Sleep. Michele says while sex can help promote sleep, it can also have a negative affect on sleep duration if you aren’t careful. “The longer you go into the night, the less hours of sleep you’re obtaining. The less hours of sleep you’re obtaining, then the more likely you’re heading into [the next day] sleep deprived. I feel like the sleep deprivation or sleep restriction will have a greater impact [on you than] the actual sexual activity itself.”

21:53 – Sex and Masturbation Data. Male and female members record similar amounts of sex in the WHOOP journal, but male members record masturbation almost twice as often as femal members do.

23:02 – Sexual Activity by Age. The 20-29 age range records the most sex on WHOOP, which is 10% more than the next closest group 60+ year olds. Masturbation drops sharply with age, with 60+ year olds reporting 28% less masturbation than 20-29 year olds.

24:19 – Sex and Sleep. “Engaging in sexual activity does not disrupt your sleep in any way,” Dr. Lastella says. “We’ve hypothesized with some of my research that it actually helps promote sleep in terms of reducing how long it takes to fall asleep, but also [with] overall sleep quality.”

24:45 – Sex with a Regular Partner. “Some new research we’ve found with the relationship type and sexual activity is that regular partners or coupled partners have greater sleep satisfaction scores. They also report emotional satisfaction to be higher. So that also has an indirect effect on their sleep quality.”

27:52 – Purpose. WHOOP data shows that people are more likely to report having a sense of purpose after having sex.

30:46 – Sex by State. The top 3 states reporting the most sex in the WHOOP journal are Utah, Wyoming, and Oklahoma. The 3 states that report the least amount of sexual activity are Vermont, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The states reporting the most masturbation are Arkansas, Delaware, and Montana, with Alaska, South Carolina, and West Virginia reporting the least amount of masturbation.

35:44 – Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the most popular time for sexual activity reports on WHOOP, with members reporting it 40% more often than normal. New Years Eve and New Years Day are the second and third most popular days for members to report sex, averaging 9% more entries than a typical day.

36:31 – Super Bowl Hangover. Following Super Bowl LV, members living in the losing city of the Super Bowl (Kansas City), reported a 40% decrease in sexual activity.

Connect with Dr. Lastella on Twitter

 

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