- Researchers continue to study the ways that sex can affect your brain, because having sex is great for both your body and your mind.
- Aside from simply feeling good, having sex is great for your overal health and can have some seriously powerful benefits on your body and brain.
- From lowering stress levels to improving your memory, these are the 10 ways sex affects the brain.
Having sex isn’t just a surefire way to feel closer with your partner and enjoy some time connecting with your own body, but sex also has some pretty powerful benefits for your mental health, as researchers have studied over time.
It’s true that sex is good for the body and brain, and can have both immediate effects as well as long-term benefits, especially as you get older.
From lowering stress levels to improving your memory, these are the 10 ways sex affects your brain.
Sex triggers the release of a cocktail of chemicals in the brain.
There’s a reason why sex feels so good, and it’s all because of the brain. During sexual activity, a flood of feel-good hormones are released throughout our bodies, lighting up the reward centers in our brains.
” Dopamine, produced by the hypothalamus, is a particularly well-publicized player in the brain’s reward pathway – it’s released when we do things that feel good to us. In this case, these things include spending time with loved ones and having sex,” shares K.J.Wu. Ph.D., a graduate student at Harvard, adding, “High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, are released during attraction. These chemicals make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric.”
Another feel-good hormone, is also released during sex, with Wu adding, “Oxytocin is often nicknamed the ‘cuddle hormone’ for this reason. Like dopamine, oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and released in large quantities during sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth. This may seem like a very strange assortment of activities – not all of which are necessarily enjoyable – but the common factor here is that all of these events are precursors to bonding.”
These same chemicals may make you feel sleepy, too.
Aside from the fact that sex can be a pretty rigorous activity, that chemical release can actually make your brain tired, too, leading to that telltale feeling of wanting to doze off into your partner’s arms.
“During sex, the brain releases oxytocin which heightens arousal and excitement,” as sex therapist
“Oxytocin is often accompanied by melatonin, the primary hormone that regulates our body clocks,” added sex therapist Dr. C, C. noting that melatonin has a “calming” effect on our brains.
Penetrative sex may also lower your stress and anxiety levels.
For many of us, it’s easy to feel stressed out more than ever these days, between hectic work days, our home lives, social commitments, and seemingly never-ending to-do lists. But one solid remedy is sex, as researchers have proven.
Sexual activity creates a response in several areas of the brain, which is why it has so many impacts on our physical and emotional health, including acting as a natural stress reliever.
As Costa previously told INSIDER, the release of oxytocin during intercourse also helps regulate levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to a calming effect.
Exposure to semen might lower levels of depression in women.
Though sex helps boost mental health in all genders, it’s women who benefit most from exposure to her partner’s semen.
Nearly 300 women were screened based on their mental health and sexual behavior, and UAlbany psychology professor Gordon Gallup found that “females who engaged in sexual intercourse but never used condoms exhibited significantly lower scores” in a depression screening than “those who usually or always used condoms.”
Of course, having safe sex and using protective measures against sexually transmitted infections is of the utmost importance.
Orgasm also lights up several parts of the female brain.
Though male sexual response has been extensively studied, fewer studies have been done on the effects of sexual response on the female brain.
But in 2017, researchers at Rutgers University Newark used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to examine brain activity immediately before, during, and immediately after female orgasm.
The study, published in The Jurnal found that brain activity was “heightened” in the moments during orgasm, with activity overall being lower during the arousal period beforehand and the recovery period afterward. The activity level increased during orgasm in several parts of the brain, indicating that it’s not just our bodies that experience heightened sensations during orgasm, but our brains as well.
Male sexual stimulation may also increase brain activity, too.