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Overview

There are few articles and resources available explaining the exact reason why men and women may or may not fall asleep after having sex. There seems to be more anecdotal evidence and individual experiences mentioned but there's not much evidence presented to prove why this happens.

Evidence

In one 2011 study, it was actually shown that the assumption that men would fall asleep faster than women after sex was not the case and seemed to be a stereotype based on what is seen on television. In an anonymous questionnaire that was sent to participants of the study, it was demonstrated that men and women were equally prone to fall asleep or stay awake after having sex.

The study suggested that staying awake after sex may have a more emotional and behavioural component linked to it rather than just a physical and physiological one.

The factors that seem to be responsible for men staying awake include:

  • An evolutionary need to protect his partner. This comes down from the fact that in the animal kingdom, many males would copulate with a female so this was a way for the dominant male to prevent this from happening.
  • Bonding with their partner, especially if they are involved in a committed or long-term relationship.

Interestingly, when compared to those who were questioned on who falls asleep first where sex is not involved, it was seen that men fell asleep after their female partners did so.

There are limitations to the study though because the results were based on subjective answers which were interpreted objectively, so further studies are warranted to improve on the findings. 

Psychology versus physiology   

A note was made that the prolactin levels in those who had experienced an orgasm during sex were four times higher in the body and this hormone has a sedating effect which helps people fall asleep faster. An orgasm also helps to release endorphins which would also have a relaxing effect on the involved individual.

Women are also less likely to orgasm before their male partners unless the adequate amount of foreplay has been achieved. Physiologically, it takes women longer to achieve orgasm than it does their male partners. When orgasm is achieved, men's urge for sex goes back down to zero but in females, the urge to continue having orgasms is still present. This is also an evolutionary process where females would still be able to continue to have intercourse to make sure she had enough male partners make enough sperm available to increase the chances of egg fertilization.

Psychologically, though, not achieving an orgasm may cause frustration and this increases anxiety in a person. Physical changes then occur as the hormone cortisol is released which stimulates the production of adrenaline and this causes the heart rate and blood pressure to elevate. All these changes keep a person wide awake and alert and they struggle to fall asleep.

The hypothesis then could be made that those who don't experience an orgasm are affected by frustration which increases anxiety, and the mentioned hormonal changes and levels in the bloodstream are all factors that would cause individuals to stay awake after sex.

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