It’s not uncommon to feel sleepy after sex.
There are a lot of reasons for post-coital sleepiness, which include feeling physically exhausted and emotionally spent.
The body also releases a host of chemicals during sex that can make people drowsy.
Men and women may experience post-sex sleepiness differently due to the ways certain hormones affect them.
There’s a good chance you’ve found yourself falling into a peaceful slumber after an intimate encounter. Or maybe you’ve been frustrated with a partner who has passed out without cuddling. But there are a lot of reasons people fall asleep after sex, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a partner is uninterested.
There are some obvious reasons, like the fact that sex usually takes place at night after a long day at work and that it’s a physically exhausting workout. But there are also a variety of chemical and psychological reasons at play.
INSIDER talked with sex therapist and University of Florida psychology professor Dr. Laurie Mintz, sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino, clinical sexologist and certified sexuality educator Dr. Lawrence Siegel, sex therapist Dr. Jane Greer, and sex therapist Dr. Carlen Costa to find out why sex makes you sleepy.
One of the most obvious reasons you might get tired after sex is that it’s physically exhausting.
“No matter what type of sex you’re having, even if you’re not hanging from the chandelier, it’s still a cardiovascular workout,” Laino told INSIDER.
During sex, your blood pressure and blood flow increase and there’s a release of endorphins. “There’s a feeling of being spent like after any sport,” Greer told INSIDER. Needless to say, not everyone is an athlete. And if you’re in poor health or suffering from a cardiovascular condition, sex can tire you out even more.
When you orgasm, the brain releases a cocktail of neurochemicals that make you tired.
“During sex, the brain releases oxytocin which heightens arousal and excitement,” Laino told INSIDER. “But when it wears off, it can leave people feeling really tired.”
“Oxytocin is often accompanied by melatonin, the primary hormone that regulates our body clocks,” Costa told INSIDER. Oxytocin, which has been dubbed the “cuddle hormone,” also helps you regulate the stress hormone known as cortisol, according to Costa. The result is a calming, almost narcotic effect.
In addition to oxytocin, men and women release vasopressin, prolactin, serotonin, nitric oxide, and endorphins, according to Costa. Some of these chemicals aren’t released until you orgasm, so whether or not you orgasm can make a difference in how sleepy you are.
Of course, men and women may react differently to some of these chemicals.
“Women are often more sensitive to the adrenaline or stimulant effect which is why sometimes after a powerful orgasm, some women are energized,” Siegel told INSIDER. “After a powerful orgasm, a guy may be in a coma because he might be more sensitive to the morphine-like effects of the endorphins.”
Sex can also make you tired for a variety of emotional reasons.
Generally speaking, when you’re having sex, you’re doing so with someone you trust. “When we feel more trusting, we are putting our bodies in an increasing relaxed state,” Costa told INSIDER. “This then tells our brains that we don’t need to be on alert, or in fight-or-flight. Instead, it tells us to stay calm.”
Sex can also help you feel safe and grounded. “If it’s been a good encounter, it helps you feel connected, close to your partner, relaxed, safe in the world, and all of those things facilitate sleep,” Mintz told INSIDER.
On the flipside, you might feel emotionally depleted after sex. “Just the intensity of feelings that people experience in lovemaking, from feeling overwhelmed by their love to feeling very excited, all of these feelings can be depleting,” Greer told INSIDER. “For many people, opening up sexually can make them feel vulnerable and vulnerability can use up a certain degree of emotional energy.”
Stress can also have an impact on whether or not someone gets tired after sex. “If someone’s really, really stressed and they have sex, and maybe they’re having sex for a release, after they have sex or after they ejaculate or have an orgasm, they’ll get even more tired,” Laino told INSIDER.
Responses to sex differ from person to person.
Some people might feel energized after sex and ready to take on the world, while others want nothing more than to curl up and fall asleep.
“There are so many influential factors including your current nutrition levels, your mental health, who you’re having sex with, why you’re having sex, plus all the goodness happening in your body, that it is difficult to pinpoint an exact reason why we become sleepy after sex,” Costa told INSIDER.