Is your sex life lagging? Two new studies offer scientific guidance for both sexes for combatting sexual dysfunction, which affects roughly 43 percent of American women and 31 percent of men.
The research suggests that women looking to boost their sex lives should focus on spending more time between the sheets -- sleeping, that is. For guys, on the other hand, enjoying a little porn could boost erectile function and keep desire strong within a relationship -- despite common concerns about porn hijacking men's libidos and setting up unrealistic expectations for real-life sex.
Ladies first: One of the studies, recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, tracked hours of sleep and next-day sexual desire among a sample of 171 women. Every extra hour that a woman slept increased her chances of having sex with her partner by 14 percent, which the researchers attributed to an increase in sexual desire. Women who slept longer on average also experienced fewer issues with vaginal arousal than women who slept less.
"These findings indicate that insufficient sleep can decrease sexual desire and arousal for women," Dr. David Kalmbach, a psychologist at Kent State University and the study's lead author, said in a statement. "I think the take-home message should not be that more sleep is better, but that it is important to allow ourselves to obtain the sleep that our mind and body needs."
The power of porn: It's often said that porn, if anything, is bad for a man's sex life. But a new study published in the online journal Sexual Medicine suggests that men who watch porn may enjoy greater desire and arousal in normal, real-life sexual situations with their partners.
Researchers from UCLA and Concordia University analyzed data from 280 men, nearly half of whom were in serious relationships. The men answered questions about how many hours per week they spent watching porn, their levels of sexual desire and their experiences with erectile function. Then, in the lab, the men watched porn showing a man and a woman having consensual vaginal intercourse, and rated their own levels of arousal.
The researchers found that men who watched porn at home were more aroused when they watched "vanilla" porn in the lab, suggesting that watching porn may not have a desensitizing effect, as is commonly said. The researchers also found no correlation between watching porn and erectile dysfunction.
"Viewing more sex films was associated with a stronger sex drive, including the desire to have sex with a partner, so sex films may be able to 'stoke the fire,'" Prause told The Huffington Post in an email.
Of course, researchers acknowledged, it's possible the men who watched more porn had a stronger sex drive in the first place. But the findings still suggest that many popular stereotypes about porn don't hold up -- and that watching porn may indeed have a place in a healthy sex life within a relationship.
"The most common error of thinking with respect to men and porn is that all porn is bad for men all of the time," Prause said. "The truth is probably that some porn is good for some men in some situations. The challenge is to identify when sex films are most likely to be helpful."