Most people eat a substantial dinner at 6 p.m. or after--even as late as 8 or 9 p.m. Then they sit down to watch television or a movie, or work or play at their computers. Some may watch the news before bed and then attempt to sleep. If I were to write a prescription for 'how not to sleep well' this would be it.
I asked my 80 year-old trainer for his advice about sleep and he said, move your body. And by that he meant simple walking or slow treadmill, not anything over-stimulating. He also believes that eating after 5 p.m. is a mistake, as is becoming sedentary at night.
As common sense as these suggestions might be, insomnia has become a massive problem in our culture. I would say at least half of those who come to my office for a very different set of problems also have a significant sleep disturbance. They either can't get to sleep, can't stay asleep or feel fatigued most of the time because of restless sleep. Just the fact that the Huffington Post Living section has dedicated this month to sleep advice is indicative of just how widespread this problem is.
Now, I have titled this blog with a question mark because there are many ways using sex to help one sleep can be misused--so let me list some of these ways first so I won't be quoted as "sex therapist says you should have sex to be able to get to sleep."
- Sex should never be an obligation, which it is all too often in long term relationships. So "I need you to do this for me so I can relax" is not a sexy approach, unless you both have a great sense of humor and it works for you.
- Sex just to have an oxytocin release, which is that nice aaah feeling after orgasm, can deaden one's interest in sex in general over time. It happens way too much in relationships and I hear stories all the time, mostly from women, about feeling used for just this purpose. It might be the single most common reason women lose interest.
- Self-pleasuring is an honorable way to get that aaah feeling before sleep without burdening your partner with obligatory and boring sex. But this comes with a caveat because, as most of us have heard, people become seduced into lots of internet sex opportunities whereas using the old-fashioned sexy magazine approach didn't offer such 'rabbit holes' that might have sucked the unwary into the world of cyber sex.
I call it Accommodation Sex and this notion that submitting to sex even though it doesn't feel that the sex is about 'us' but only about 'me' becomes very impersonal to say the least. After a while, even when someone is offered a genuine opportunity for love making, their desire has been chipped away over many such episodes. The numbing effect has taken its toll.
Persistent choices in favor of having an interlude with self to help one sleep can lead to lots of enticements that distract people away from their relationships as well as work and family obligations. People may then be stay up long hours to pursue the stimulating options and sleep ends up going out the window anyway. Having heard many stories of people increasingly drawn to going down that rabbit hole of cyber sex, I am quite aware that many do not realize how damaging their habit has become until they lose their partners.
Now that I have stated my reservations about sex for sleep, I will say that in a good relationship - where communication is open and both partners feel very comfortable with being honest about what's true for each at the moment - having a wonderful sexual encounter and a loving cuddle after is a yummy option. Not only do you get that orgasmic oxytocin, you prolong the feeling with loving emotions.
That sense of connection to a beloved partner is one of the precious benefits that I personally feel is right up there on the list with any other sleep advice--and I see it as higher than most. Although for all the reasons I've given, it cannot be a routine, every night kind of remedy, I believe that the secure bond and the loving energy generated lasts for several days, maybe even over a week or so.
I'll be writing about my experiences in Brazil with my next post, so stay tuned.