Jhere is a common caricature of monogamous heterosexual intercourse, in which after climaxing the man collapses into pillows on a bed in a state of blissful pleasure, ready to fall asleep while the woman is wide awake, twiddling your thumbs and staring at the ceiling. Sure, this vignette is full of generalizations about gender norms and relationship dynamics, but it still raises an interesting question: what does it mean if you’re more energetic or tired after sex (whatever your identity or orientation)?
When your and your partner’s energy levels don’t match after sex, it can affect your relationship inside and outside the bedroom. Knowing why you may have more or less energy after sex — and how you can address your concerns or better communicate your needs with your partner — is an important way to strengthen the relationship as a whole.
Hormonal Reasons Behind These Post-Sex Energy Levels
The hormones your brain releases during (and immediately after) sex play a role in how energized (or not) you feel after having the deed. “During sex, the brain releases oxytocin,” says Sari Cooper, LCSW, board-certified sex therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex in New York City. Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” helps you feel warm and comfortable by lowering cortisol (the “stress hormone”), she says. So, from a purely chemical perspective, being physical with your partner can help you or your partner relax enough to fall asleep.
It’s just a sexual “encounter”. “If a person has an orgasm, other hormones are released, including vasopressin, prolactin, serotonin, nitric oxide, and endorphins,” says Cooper. Vasopressin affects memories, concentration, and even aggression, which is why people often feel bonded to their sexual partners. Serotonin and endorphins are hormones that improve your mood. Nitric Oxide promotes extra blood flow to the genitals, increasing sensation and supporting orgasm. More importantly, prolactin is released after orgasm to help decrease desire and help you feel satisfied, promoting that relaxed state again.
Everyone produces prolactin, but a person’s levels vary at different times in their life depending on whether or not they have an orgasm, if they are or have been pregnant, or if they are breastfeeding. Since prolactin levels affect sexual satisfaction, resulting in an additional release of energy-affecting hormones, their effect may depend in part on the sexual biology of the person having sex. It doesn’t help that heterosexual women often experience the “orgasm gap” which contextualizes the reduced likelihood of a vagina to orgasm during penetrative sex compared to a penis. This would therefore make people with a vagina less likely than people with a penis partner to have released the hormones after cis-hetero sex that would tire them out.
Keep in mind that “we are all unique individuals, so these hormones can have different effects on people regardless of gender,” says Cooper.
The other variables at play if you are tired after sex
What you feel after sex isn’t as simple as chemicals in your brain. There are all sorts of variables that can affect the release of hormones such as a person’s menstrual cycle, medications, or other factors. Your day-to-day sexual response is also likely to vary, and “the same person doesn’t have the same reaction every time,” says Stella Harris, intimacy coach and author of Tongue Tied: Unraveling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships And The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. “Not only can sex be different, but the state we go into can also affect how we feel when we come out.” In other words, if you’re already tired before having sex, chances are that sex will make you feel more tired.
The physical toll of sex can also impact your energy levels after intimacy. “Sexual activity can be like exercising and your stamina is tested, so when some people are done they’re ready to sleep and for others they’re more wired,” says Cooper.
“What’s important is accepting whatever your body needs after sex…Nothing good comes from fighting our body’s needs.” —Stella Harris, intimacy coach and author
Your emotional state also affects your level of alertness or exhaustion after sex. For example, “if a person fears engaging sexually to create a deeper emotional connection, their vulnerability will be higher,” Cooper says. “If the emotional connection isn’t apparent or hasn’t returned, falling asleep could be a way to deal with their disappointment.” Or, “if two partners share an aligned experience that makes them both equally connected and optimistic about their relationship, sleep can be the result of a super relaxed state,” she says. One could also see how either of these scenarios could cause someone to be more awake, either because their head is spinning with anxiety or because they are buzzing with excitement.
“What’s important is accepting whatever your body needs after sex,” Harris says. “If you’re a person who jumps out of bed and goes for a run, that’s great. If you need a cat nap, that’s great too. Nothing good comes from fighting our body’s needs. She says to plan it out as much as possible once you know your routines. For example, if you know you need to rest after sex, you might want to schedule a little extra cuddling time before. to get on with your day. Or if you know you feel wide awake afterwards, see if your partner is up for morning sex.
When to worry about post-orgasmic drowsiness
It’s normal for your energy levels to fluctuate through the phases of your life, a relationship, or even the week. It’s also normal for people to have patterns they notice about themselves, such as always sleeping through the night after orgasm. However, if you think your reaction to sex or orgasm is extreme – say you’re so wired that you can’t sleep at all, or unable to stay awake even if you want to – experts say you’ll want to. perhaps investigate potential causes with your health care provider.
A condition called post-coital dysphoria (PCD), is what Cooper describes as when a person “might experience deep sadness after a sexual experience with a partner.” People with PCD may experience symptoms such as mood swings and low energy. There is also a rare medical condition called post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), which can cause exhaustion, fogginess, or other flu-like symptoms in people. It can last up to five days after the orgasm or sexual encounter. The cause is currently unknown, but may be due to either a process in one person’s brain or an allergy to another person’s seminal fluid. If you suspect any of these conditions, talk to your healthcare or mental health provider.
When to tell your partner about fatigue after sex
Let’s say you don’t feel the need to go to a health care provider to figure out why you might feel tired after sex. Even then, it can be helpful to discuss energy shifts with your partner to make sure they understand how you’re feeling, especially if they’re feeling differently.
For example, you can mention whether your partner’s energy level affects your enjoyment of partnered sex, so that “one partner falling asleep is not misinterpreted as abandonment by the another, and a burst of energy by a partner is not misinterpreted as a lack”. genuine connection,” says Cooper.
It’s important to talk about what you need beforehand so that you can defend yourself when you’re in a calm, sexually uncharged situation. For example, Harris says one solution would be for the person who tends to have a lot of energy after sex to burn it off beforehand, leaving it available for quiet cuddles with their calmer partner afterwards. Or, the more cuddly partner may need to compromise and have a shorter cuddling session after sex to accommodate a partner who needs less time to be still. Cooper suggests using “I” statements, such as “I feel…” or “I’d rather…”, to avoid making assumptions or projecting inaccurate intentions onto your partner.
As with most aspects of relationships, communication and compromise are key to finding a solution that works for everyone, and the case of fatigue after sex is no exception.
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