How well did you sleep last night? Getting enough good quality sleep plays a critical role in our overall health. When you sleep, for how long, and the quality of sleep you get can affect emotion and metabolic regulation, overall performance, memory, and learning, as well as the body’s recovery process.
In the past, studies about the quality of sleep revealed that when you don’t sleep well, your sexual functioning is also negatively affected. But would you believe that when you sleep poorly, it can actually make you feel greater sexual arousal? Read on to find out how sexual functioning is affected by how well you sleep at night.
Effects Of Sleep Deprivation On Erection And Sexual Behavior
A 2009 study investigated the effects of food restriction and sleep deprivation on the sexual behavior of male rats. The results showed that the rats who went through sleep deprivation and food restriction had lower copulatory rates compared to the control group, indicating that sexual motivation and performance were both negatively affected.
Also, the rats were slower to mount the females and ejaculate after sexual stimulation. Moreover, in rats that were sleep deprived, the testosterone concentrations were much lower as compared to rats that did not experience any sleep deprivation.
Sleep Deprivation Impairs Sexual Functioning
A 2015 study investigated how sexual functioning in male rats was affected by sleep deprivation and sleep restriction. The control group did not undergo sleep restriction or sleep deprivation. Two other experimental groups were formed, one wherein the rats were deprived of sleep for 96 hours or 5 days, and in the other group, they underwent sleep restriction for 21 days.
The researchers were able to validate the results of the 2009 study cited earlier, in terms of testosterone levels. Same as with the earlier research, the testosterone levels of the test subjects that were sleep deprived were significantly lower than that of the control group.
Moreover, when compared to the control group, the sperm viability levels of both the sleep deprived and sleep restricted groups were much lower. Between the two experimental groups, those that were sleep deprived showed a bigger reduction in the number of live sperm. The study concluded that in male rats, the reproductive system is adversely affected by lack of sleep, most especially the production of viable sperm.
Lack Of Sleep Increases Sexual Arousal
Previous studies on how sleep deprivation affected sexual functioning in male rats spurred further research, this time, in human models. A 2017 study, for example, investigated how sleep quality affected sexual frequency and unstimulated sexual arousal in 275 Portuguese men and women.
Results of the study showed that the more severe the sleep problems, the more it leads to unstimulated sexual arousal. This suggests that when you lack sleep, or when you often experience disruptions in your sleep, or when you don’t get to sleep at all, you may actually feel sexually aroused the next day, even when there’s no member of the opposite sex present, or even when there’s no sexual stimulation. In short, poor sleep quality may lead to spontaneous erections.
Here’s a summary of the study’s interesting results:
♦ Men with high testosterone levels showed a more significant correlation between poor sleep quality and unstimulated sexual arousal, same as with women who had high testosterone levels but were not taking oral contraceptives. This means that men who sleep poorly have a strong likelihood of feeling sexually aroused even while they’re in their resting states.
♦ On the other hand, in women who had low testosterone levels, greater sexual dissatisfaction was associated with poor sleep quality. This means that when women engage in sexual intercourse when they feel that they did not have a good sleep the previous night, it’s highly likely that they will feel sexually dissatisfied. Despite this, the more severe the sleep problems experienced, women showed greater sexual arousal induced by fantasy.
♦ Sleep quality did not appear to significantly influence sexual desire or sexual frequency.
♦ Men who were sleep deprived exhibited increased erections when shown erotica. They also showed greater attention when presented with images of women. Moreover, shorter sleep durations the previous night resulted in increased perceived genital arousal.
♦ And lastly, as a consequence of general sleep deprivation, men tend to experience more unstimulated erections when they are sleep deprived.
Sleep And Erectile Dysfunction
Aside from your testosterone levels getting affected when you don’t get enough quality sleep, it can also lead to erectile dysfunction. In a 2010 study, researchers found that poor sleep quality, in particular, when sleep is fragmented or when there is lack of REM sleep, increased the risks of developing erectile dysfunction.
Thus, getting adequate sleep and maintaining normal or high levels of testosterone, can help protect a man against erectile dysfunction. Moreover, the researchers concluded that sleep apnea has adverse effects on sexual activity and that it had a strong influence on erectile function.
Poor Sleep Quality As A Predictor Of Sexual Dysfunction
One of the more recent studies on sleep quality and sexual function investigated how it goes in men who work nonstandard shifts. More than 180 men who started work either before seven in the morning or after two in the afternoon were tested.
Results of the study indicated that when men are working in nonstandard shifts, those who were able to sleep well despite their irregular schedules turned out to have better sexual functioning. Moreover, these men exhibited lesser hypogonadal symptoms.
Hypogonadism in men means that the gonads or the testes are not functioning properly, resulting in diminished production of sex hormones. Symptoms of diminished hypogonadal functioning include erectile dysfunction and infertility. Other symptoms related to low testosterone levels such as decreased body hair growth may also occur.
The study also showed that even though the male subjects were working irregular shifts, those who were very satisfied with their sleep quality actually scored high on the International Index of Erectile Function. This means that these men did not experience or perceive any problems with their erectile function. Thus, the researchers concluded, that men who work irregular shifts are susceptible to developing hypogonadal symptoms and sexual dysfunction.