Are you having enough sex? 8 reasons to do it more or risk a shrinking brain
WHEN was the last time you had sex? Last week? Last month? This morning? Just now?
Whenever it was, and whoever it was with, have you ever stopped to think whether your sex life is ‘normal’?
It’s not a question easily answered, and likely not studied.
However, sex isn’t just something that makes us feel oh-so-amazing; it’s actually incredibly good for our health.
This year, a study suggested that men who ejaculated more had a lower risk of prostate cancer – five times a week to be exact.
But is there really a gold standard we should be aiming for?
How many times is normal?
Of course, ‘normal’ is a slightly broad term; after all, what’s normal for one person could be very abnormal for another.
But if you’re keen to compare, our Sun Health survey carried out in December 2022 found that most readers (75 per cent) are having sex less than once a week – and the majority are fine with it.
Just 20 per cent are having it once or twice a week.
People say they aren’t having more sex because they are tired (27 per cent), have no one to do it with (22 per ecent) or don’t have time (19 per cent).
It backs that of a 2017 study that appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior which found that the average adult has sex roughly once a week.
Those in their 20s had sex the most (averaging 80 times a year), compared to those in their 60s (averaging 20 times a year).
People generally are having less sex than they used to, the survey conductors said.
Another study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, which surveyed over 30,000 Americans over 40 years, found that a once-weekly frequency was the gold standard for happiness.
Couples who had sex more than once a week didn’t report being any happier, and those who had sex less than once a week reported feeling less fulfilled.
But Samantha Marshall, sex educator and head of brand at sex toy company Smile Makers, reckons there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t compare.
She says: “The thing about our libido is that it differs from person to person, and ebbs and flows too.
“Menstrual cycles, menopause, medication, stress, mental health, general life – all these things can impact our desire for sex.
“Sexual wellness isn’t about having a consistent routine or ticking off a certain amount of times as if it’s like having our five-a-day.
“It’s about listening to our bodies and being aware of how sex and pleasure impact our wellbeing.
“That can mean giving ourselves pleasure when we’re in the mood for it, or acknowledging when we’re not.”
Whether it’s alone or with a partner, there is plenty of research to suggest that regular sexy time is a big player in good health…
1. It improves sleep
Fancy a decent night’s shut-eye? You might want to have sex before hitting the pillow.
A recent Smile Makers survey found that 77 per cent of women are using masturbation as a way to get to sleep faster.
“Orgasms can boost levels of prolactin, the hormone that makes us feel relaxed and satisfied – the perfect situation for a good night’s sleep,” she says.
“It’s worth thinking about what contributes to pleasure because it’s far more than just physical stimulation.
“Creating the perfect sex-come-sleep sanctuary in the bedroom can support us drifting off into sweet dreams post-orgasm.
“Turn off the big light and light a scented candle or try a massage oil with lavender in to build arousal and relaxation at the same time.”
2. It increases libido and intimacy
Sex drive flagging? Feel like you and your partner just don’t have that same spark? It’s only natural as busy lives take over, with work, kids and general life just taking priority.
But, sex itself could be the answer to a dwindling libido.
“Oxytocin is the ‘love’ hormone activated by sensual touch and can make us feel more connected and intimate with our partner, which in turn can increase our sexual libido,” says Samantha.
Aim to schedule in regular alone time with your loved one to help keep the spark alive.
3. It makes you happier
Finding that your mood has taken a steep downturn since we waved goodbye to summer and approach into the depths of winter?
It’s time to get busy between the sheets as often as you can because Samantha reveals that sex could be the mood booster we need.
“The mix of happy hormones (endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin) released during sex make us feel good,” she says.
“This can also improve our self-esteem and make us more confident throughout the day.”
4. It boosts brain health
According to the NHS, one in 11 people over 65 in the UK suffer from dementia, which causes extreme brain atrophy, or shrinking.
But, having sex, among other things, could actually help improve general cognition as it boosts blood flow to the brain.
Research published in the Journal of Sex Research found that for adults aged 62 to 74, better sexual quality was linked to better cognitive functioning, while for those aged 75 to 90, more frequent sex – at least once a week – was related to better cognitive functioning.
Samantha adds: “There have been some interesting studies in recent years about how sex can improve cognitive function, and it really comes down to those feel-good hormones again – especially dopamine.
“Let’s remember sex isn’t just partnered, and when we’re older we can still reap the benefits of masturbation to get our dose of dopamine.”
5. It could lower the risk of prostate cancer
Men who have sex or masturbate frequently could end up less likely to develop prostate cancer, which is currently the most common cancer for men in the UK, according to Prostate Cancer UK.
A 2016 US study found that men aged 20 to 29 who climaxed five times a week were around a third less likely to suffer from prostate cancer than those who only climaxed four to seven times a month.
The study interviewed 32,000 men about their ejaculation habits and then followed them to see if they were diagnosed with the disease.
6. It eases menstrual cramps
If there was ever an excuse to have an orgasm on your period, then this is it!
“Endorphins, and the contraction of muscles during orgasm, can soothe tension and pain,” says Samantha.
Worried about the mess?
Samantha says: “If you do fancy vaginal sex when on your period, just lay down a few towels you don’t mind getting period blood on.
“Though, let’s be honest, for those of us that have menstruated, we’ve all had at least one of our favourite beddings ruined by a leak in the past – at least this time it will be for pleasure!”
7. It supports heart health
A good bonking could help your cardiovascular health too.
Research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour says that “high frequency of sex is positively related to later risk of cardiovascular events for men”, whereas good sexual quality seems to protect women from cardiovascular risk in later life.
How so? One of the big reasons is because sex counts as physical activity, with studies suggesting that it’s the equivalent to mild to moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking.
Plus, during sex, our muscles, joints and tendons are being worked, giving us that full-body workout.
8. It relieves stress
According to research, one in 14 adults feels stressed every single day, with stress-related illnesses in the UK costing around £8.13billion.
But, regular sex and/or masturbation could be the secret stress relief, and it’s free!
“When we’re stressed our brain releases cortisol, a chemical that makes our blood pressure rise,” says Samantha.
“When we orgasm, endorphins are released which lower cortisol levels.”
Research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour found that sex, which is classed as physical activity, helps to lower both women’s and men’s stress hormone levels, including cortisol and adrenaline.
Plus, research has found that having an orgasm during sex releases the love hormone, oxytocin, which promotes bonding and may also help to relieve stress.
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