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Less Sex, More Fat: Why You Need to Get Some Sleep


Having written obsessively about sleep deprivation, I was eager to be further educated on the subject at a book publication party for Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex? by Dr. Billy Goldberg and Mark Leyner -- the follow-up to their surprise best-seller Why Do Men Have Nipples? At the party, held at Pravda in Soho and hosted by Best Life magazine, I tried to get the lowdown on post-coital crashing from a group of men I was talking to.

"Men go to sleep because women don't turn into a pizza," Dave Zinczenko told me with a grin. He should know what he's talking about since his new book, coming out in September, is Men, Love and Sex: The Complete User's Guide For Women. But then one of the Nipple authors, the good doctor, explained the real reason: a chemical cocktail of hormones and glandular secretions, including oxytocin, known as the "cuddling hormone," which is released after orgasm. According to Goldberg and Leyner, "in one study oxytocin was shown to inhibit male sexual behavior in prairie voles." I didn't pursue the question of just what kind of researcher would be studying the sex life of meadow mice. Maybe for the next book.

Of course, both men and women release the same post-climax hormones, so why is the after-sex snooze more of a male trait? According to the authors, it's because -- cover your ears guys -- women don't always have orgasms during sex, and hence, don't always release the sleep-inducing hormones.

Given the sleep crisis in this country, men falling asleep after sex may not be the worst thing in the world. After all, the widespread sleep deprivation we are suffering from has dire consequences -- leading to car crashes, diminished productivity at work, and diminished activity in the bedroom (a quarter of adults say they have less sex because they are just too damn tired to bother).

Two new studies add even more fuel to the get-more-sleep fire. The first, conducted by the Warwick Medical School in England, found that not getting enough sleep can make you fat (I thought that might get your attention!).

After reviewing the sleep patterns of 15,000 adults and 28,000 children, the Warwick scientists found that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night (and, remember, as a whole Americans average 6.8 hours a night) and kids who get fewer than ten hours are twice as likely to become obese as folks who are rolling in REM. In our body image-obsessed society, that's a stat that will surely leave some unable to sleep... which will only help pack on the pounds. Talk about your vicious sleep cycle.

According to the researchers, lack of sleep can lead to hormonal changes that cause an energy imbalance -- which can then lead people to compensate for their lack of energy by chowing down. Forget about cutting down on late night snacks, we need to start thinking about cutting down on late nights, period.

The second study, conducted by a University of Florida business PhD candidate, confirms what many employers already suspected: that a well-rested worker is a happy worker.

The Florida study found that employees who don't get enough sleep tend to dislike their jobs more than their well-rested co-workers -- and are less likely to perform well (on the job, I mean). "There's an established link between job satisfaction and job performance," says Brent Scott, the study's author.

Interestingly, Scott found that the negative effects of not getting enough sleep are felt more strongly by women than by men. This is a problem, given the lure of workaholism for women trying to get ahead in the still male-centric business world.

Women intuitively know -- and have learned from experience -- that they still don't "belong" in the male clubs that thrive at work. So they often attempt to compensate by working harder than the next guy. Hard work helps women fit in and gain a measure of security. And because it works, they begin to do more and more and more of it until they can't stop.

This workaholism frequently leads to a lack of sleep. Getting enough sleep signifies to some people that you must be less than passionate about your work and your life. It means, well, you're lazy. Very often women workaholics forego sleep, because they've bought into the mentality that says sleep time is unproductive time.

Yet what have all this workaholism and sleep loss bought us?

Less productivity, less job satisfaction, less sex, and more inches around the waist. Doesn't seem like a very good deal, does it?

So do yourself a favor and go to sleep right after sex. Or before sex. Or instead of sex. Just not during sex.

Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariannahuff