How Poor Sleep Can Be Ruining Your Sex Life

Let’s start this out with complete honesty: is there anything better than an orgasm? Especially when it’s experienced with another person? Clinging, gasping, hormones racing…wait...stop…this isn’t that kind of blog. But you get the idea. And, if you like that sort of thing and would like to enjoy it more often, there’s a simple prescription: sleep.

According to the Sleep Council, nearly half of us are getting just six hours sleep or less a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate sleep. It has negative impacts on pretty much every aspect of our health and well-being (here are 25 terrifying side effects), but today let’s focus on how poor sleep could be ruining your sex life.

Lack of sleep makes you too tired to even care about sex.

This is the most literal biological repercussion of not getting enough sleep, but it’s real. In fact, 60% of people crave sleep more than sex (1).

Lack of sleep lowers testosterone levels.

Scientists from the University of Chicago found men who get less than five hours sleep a night for a week or longer have far lower levels of testosterone than those who get a good night’s rest (2). Their study found that the levels of the hormone are reduced dramatically to levels more akin to someone 15 years older. Less testosterone = lower sex drive.

Lack of sleep can lead to limpness.

Several studies have found links between sleep loss and erectile dysfunction. In a literature review of surveys taken from 1985 through 2006, researchers found an association between sleep disorders and erectile dysfunction (3). In a 2009 study, researchers found that 70% of men diagnosed with sleep apnea also had erectile dysfunction (4). Not only that, after men are treated for sleep apnea they are less likely to have erectile dysfunction and the quality of their sex lives improve as well (5,6).

Lack of sleep can make men read sex signals all wrong.

Sleep loss has profound effects on the brain, especially in regards to the frontal lobe which influences risk-taking, inhibition, and decision-making. In a 2013 study published in the journal SLEEP, just one night of sleep deprivation made men greatly overestimate the sexual interest and intent of women (7). “Our findings here are similar to those from studies using alcohol, which similarly inhibits the frontal lobe,” said co-principal investigator Jennifer Peszka, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., who led the study along with her colleague Jennifer Penner, PhD. “Sleep deprivation could have unexpected effects on perceptual experiences related to mating and dating that could lead people to engage in sexual decisions that they might otherwise not when they are well-rested. Poor decision-making in these areas can lead to problems such as sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and relationship conflicts.”

Lack of sleep makes you look less desirable.

We all know how one night of bad sleep can show on our faces, but did you know looking tired makes people less likely to socialize with you? It’s true. In one study, people who had not gotten enough sleep the night before were rated as less attractive and unhealthy looking – both factors that made people want to steer clear of interacting with them (8). And if people don’t want to socialize with you, they certainly won’t want to have sex.

On the flip side...

More sleep = more desire.

The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that for women, a one hour increase in sleep duration causes a 14% increase in desire for partnered sexual activity (9).

More sleep = wetter = better.

In the same study as above, researchers found that the women who got more sleep reported better genital arousal and vaginal lubrication. As any lady knows, vaginal lubrication is essential to pain-free, pleasurable sex (yes, wetter is definitely better).  

More sleep = more sex = more sleep = more sex.

Every sleep expert will tell you your bed should only be used for two things: sleep and sex. And, it turns out the two go hand in hand. More sleep boosts your sex drive and more sex helps you sleep. Here’s how the National Sleep Foundation explains it:

Yes, sex can actually make it easier to fall asleep. This is mostly because of the hormones that are released during the act. Sex boosts oxytocin (a hormone that makes you feel connected to your partner) and lowers cortisol (a stress-related hormone). Plus, having an orgasm releases a hormone called prolactin, which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. All of that leads up to a nice, drowsy state that’s perfect for cuddling up and falling asleep.

There’s an added bonus for women, which is that sex boosts estrogen levels, enhancing your REM stage and giving you deeper slumber. Don’t feel left out, men. You sleep deeply after intercourse, too. In fact, there’s even a French term for how quickly men fall asleep after orgasm: le petit mort.

So, hit the hay early tonight. Start clocking 7-9 hours of sleep each night. And reap the rewards of better sex and better sleep and better health and happier happiness.


  1. The Better Sleep Council. “Americans Crave Sleep More Than Sex.” Accessed January 13, 2018, from
  2. Leproult, Rachel. “Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men.” Jama, vol. 305, no. 21, Jan. 2011, p. 2173., doi:10.1001/jama.2011.710.
  3. Jankowski, Jason T., et al. “Erectile Dysfunction and Sleep Related Disorders.” The Journal of Urology, vol. 179, no. 3, 2008, pp. 837–841., doi:10.1016/j.juro.2007.10.024.
  4. Budweiser, Stephan, et al. “Sleep Apnea Is an Independent Correlate of Erectile and Sexual Dysfunction.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 6, no. 11, 2009, pp. 3147–3157., doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01372.x.
  5. Goncalves, M, et al. “Erectile Dysfunction, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and Nasal CPAP Treatment.” Sleep Medicine, vol. 6, no. 4, 2005, pp. 333–339., doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2005.03.001.
  6. Meara, Daniel J. “Poster 099: Quality of Life Evaluation of Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery for Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, vol. 66, no. 8, 2008, p. 127., doi:10.1016/j.joms.2008.05.252.
  7. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Sleep deprived men over perceive women’s sexual interest and intent.” Accesses January 13, 2018, from
  8. Sundelin, Tina, et al. “Negative Effects of Restricted Sleep on Facial Appearance and Social Appeal.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 4, no. 5, 2017, p. 160918., doi:10.1098/rsos.160918.
  9. Kalmbach, David A., et al. “The Impact of Sleep on Female Sexual Response and Behavior: A Pilot Study.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 12, no. 5, 2015, pp. 1221–1232., doi:10.1111/jsm.12858.

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