We spoke with sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus about how to better understand our sleep habits to improve our sex lives. Check out our podcast on the topic or read below for some advice on how you can catch enough Zzz’s to master your O’s.
Ah, sleep and sex: two of the most sacred bedroom activities. Unsurprisingly, the two are intrinsically connected; the better your quality of sleep, the more likely you are to have energized and mind-blowing sex. The opposite is (sadly) equally true—if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep, your sex life is also going to take a hit.
Luckily, there are lots of ways for you to hack your sleep cycle so that you can feel more productive, alert, and yep, turned on. Here’s how to get started.
A Science Lesson: The Connection Between Sex and Sleep
“In all cases, sleep is directly tied to performance,” says sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus. “Relationship and sexual performance certainly have their roots in sleep.”
But strengthening the sleep and sex connection isn’t just about getting enough sleep—it’s about working with your body’s natural cycles and circadian rhythm to better understand when you should be sleeping, versus when you should be having sex, working out, sending emails, or any of your other day-to-day activities.
Let’s go back to science class. According to Dr. Breus, there are five hormones that need to be balanced and present for good sex: testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, and adrenaline. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, should be on the lower end of your hormonal spectrum. Our hormone levels vary throughout the day; some folks have more melatonin in the evening, while others feel it more at night. This is why one partner may feel “too tired for sex” while the other is putting on some Marvin Gaye and gearing up the mood lighting.
Here’s the good news: Learning you and/or your partner’s sleep cycles can help you overcome this hurdle and find optimal times to get your play on. Enter, the chronotypes.
WTF is a Chronotype?
It may sound like a robot, but a chronotype is actually a special classification that can help us better understand the best times for us to sleep.
“You may not know the word ‘chronotype,’ but if you’ve heard of the phrase ‘morning person’ or ‘night owl,’ you know the concept,” says Dr. Breus.
According to Dr. Breus, every person is one of four chronotypes: a bear, a wolf, a lion, or a dolphin. Once you learn your chronotype, you can start to work with your sleep schedule rather than against it. Dr. Breus also notes that while our chronotypes tend to shift when we’re young (babies are “lions” and teenagers are “wolves”), they settle in once a person hits their early twenties. That said, a chronotype can fluctuate if a person goes through any drastic lifestyle changes, like having a baby or working a graveyard shift-style job.
Similar to discovering your enneagram or love language, one of the easiest ways to learn your chronotype is with Dr. Breus’s online quiz. (Fun!) Learning one’s chronotype not only teaches you when to have sex but also when you should be exercising, working on creative projects, or even when to ask your boss for a raise.
How to Best Catch Those Z’s
Of course, deciphering your chronotype is just one of the many things you can do to hack the sex/sleep relationship. Small lifestyle choices can make a huge difference in boosting the quality of sleep.
- Waking up at the same time each morning
- Avoiding caffeine past 2PM
- Limiting alcohol intake later at night
- Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day
- Limiting blue light before bed
- Kickstarting the morning with a big glass of water and 15 minutes of direct sunlight
It’s also worth noting that quality sleep benefits every aspect of your relationship—not just your sex life. When you’re living life according to your chronotype, you’re less likely to start difficult conversations at non-optimal hours. You’re also less likely to gripe over the small stuff in your relationship, like your partner not immediately putting away their laundry or leaving coffee-covered spoons on the counter. Without those petty stressors, you can grow closer, feel more connected, and foster more intimacy, both in and outside of the bedroom.
So the next time you’re lacking in ideas for date night, consider learning about your partner’s chronotype. By understanding your body’s natural rhythm and employing just a few of these simple tricks, you can start having dream-worthy sex IRL.
Alex Anderson is an LA-based lifestyle designer proactively raging against the cultural grain. By day she works in television production, and by night enjoys writing, sewing, and seeking guidance from the stars. She also finally has an all-black kitty named “Cher.” You can follow her alt-lifestyle blog MSFT Living and on Instagram.