By Jennifer Valli, Published in Memphis Health and Fitness, February, 2018.
Every day we’re bombarded with ads for products to help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve sleep, but one of the most effective things to do all three may already be in your bedroom. According to The British Medical Journal, orgasms boost the immune system and increase life span. Those who orgasmed two times a week or more added eight years to their lives. A recent study showed that 50-to-89-year-olds who engaged in sexual activity in the past year had higher levels of cognitive functioning. One study reported men who sexually engaged once a month or less had an 45% increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who engaged 2-3 times a week. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports the more a man ejaculates, the lower his risk of getting prostate cancer. Endocrinologists at both Columbia and Stanford found that women who have sex at least once a week have more regular cycles and less painful menstrual cramps.
Some health benefits are related to orgasm, alone or with a partner, but other benefits relate to partnered interactions. For example, many studies link lower blood pressure and orgasm, but a landmark study found that intercourse specifically lowered systolic blood pressure.
Strong pelvic floor muscles help women maintain healthy vaginal tissue and avoid incontinence, with the latter being an issue experienced by 30% of women over a lifetime. During orgasm, women experience contractions every tenth of a second. Vaginal penetrative sex, whether producing an orgasm or not, helps keep a woman’s vaginal barrel and muscle tissue healthier. In fact, if women aren’t having vaginal penetrative sex weekly, they should use a dilator once a week to maintain healthy vaginal tissue, strengthen pelvic floor muscles and to prevent atrophy to the vaginal barrel.
After orgasm, there is an increase in the calming hormone oxytocin and a decrease in the stress-producing hormone cortisol. This improves the ability to fall asleep, and according to a study in the Journal of Women’s Health, increased estrogen levels allow for deeper REM cycle sleep.
Increased levels of oxytocin had added benefits for monogamous couples. Researchers in Germany found that oxytocin impacted monogamous men’s choices when encountering an attractive stranger. Male subjects either received oxytocin or a placebo via nasal spray. An attractive researcher would stand about 24 inches away from the subjects, moving toward and away from them. The men were asked to determine when the attractive researcher was at an “ideal distance” or if she made them feel “slightly uncomfortable” from being too close. The monogamous men who had received oxytocin preferred keeping 4 to 6 additional inches between themselves and the tempting researcher compared to those who were single or didn’t receive the oxytocin. The hormone promoted bonding with their significant other, not the stranger.
But what about those who engage in consensual non-monogamy or BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism)? Reuters found BDSM-identified people were less neurotic and felt more security in their relationships. In the field of sexual health, we sometimes say that BDSM, poly or open people should teach classes stressing communication and negotiation. They have to be able to understand what they want and what they don’t, and they have to be able to communicate this clearly to their partners. On the other hand, not telling a partner about a different erotic interest/fetish can create distance and a lack of intimacy and emotional connection.
As an individual or as partner involved in any kind of relationship, sex is not just an enjoyable part of life, but helps you enjoy even more life in the long run.