Since sex and exercise are both so much a part of being human, it’s not surprising that each can affect sleep for better or worse. They key to sleeping well is when and how we engage in these activities. Exercise during the day or early evening will make you more relaxed at night and help you sleep better.
So will vigorous sex. Later at night, soothing gentle sex is an excellent sleep promoter. But rigorous physical or sexual activity before bedtime will leave you more alert and may make falling asleep much more difficult. In general, you should avoid such activities during the 4 to 6 hours before going to sleep.
When we exert ourselves physically over a sustained period of time, the brain release compounds called endorphins that invigorate us and the same time produce a pleasurable sensation. When it comes to sleep, however, endorphins can prove to be a problem. By simulating the nervous system, they make us alert and the alertness can take 4 to 6 hours to wear off. When the endorphins finally do wear off, however, the brain releases sleep promoting compounds to help us rest from the exertion. This “rebound” effect is why regular exercise or vigorous sex can be helpful to sleeping well.
Clearly, using sex and exercise at the right time can help us sleep. Ideally, you should combine physical activity with sunlight exposure. The body’s natural sleep wake cycle is intimately tried to cycle of light and darkness. We produce melatonin in response to light and release it, as a sleep promoting agent, in response to darkness. By engaging in aerobic activity in sunlight, we get the advantage of two natural sleep promoting agents together.
Soothing, sensual sex with minimal aerobic activity can be a great sleep promoter. Likewise, vigorous sexual activity during the day promotes sleep for the same reasons that exercise during the day promote sleep. When the endorphins leave the system, the “rebound effect” releases a compound in the brain that actually promotes sleep. They key, then, is not abstaining from sex, but simply doing the right thing at the right time.