One of the most effective ways to help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve sleep may already be in your bedroom. According to The British Medical Journal, orgasms can also boost your immune system and increase life span. Those who orgasm two times a week or more add eight years to their lives.
A recent study showed that people ages 50–89 who engaged in sexual activity in the past year had higher levels of cognitive functioning. Another study reported that men who sexually engaged once a month or less had a 45% increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who engaged two to three times a week. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that the more a man ejaculates, the lower his risk of getting prostate cancer. Endocrinologists at both Columbia and Stanford University 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 orgasming in general, 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, which 30% of women experience over a lifetime. During orgasm, women experience contractions every tenth of a second. Vaginal penetrative sex, orgasm or not, helps keep a woman’s vaginal barrel and muscle tissue healthy. In fact, if women aren’t having vaginal penetrative sex every week, they should use a dilator once a week to maintain healthy vaginal tissue, strengthen pelvic floor muscles, and 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 have added benefits for monogamous couples. Researchers in Germany found that oxytocin impacted monogamous men’s choices when encountering an attractive stranger. Oxytocin promoted bonding with their significant other, not the stranger.
There are benefits for those who engage in consensual non-monogamy or BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism). Reuters found people who identify with BDSM were less neurotic and felt more secure in their relationships. When a relationship is not monogamous, the people involved have to be able to understand their wants and boundaries and effectively communicate that to their partners.
Sex is more than just for pleasure. Its health benefits can improve your quality of life and make it last longer.
Jennifer Valli is a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual health. She is certified nationally with AASECT, the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. She is an adjunct instructor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in the departments of OBGYN and Occupational Therapy. JenniferValli.com