Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex and What Can Be Done to Prevent It?

Man asleep in the bed

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How often might you hear snoring in less than a few moments, after spending some intimate time with your male partner? This pattern is very common among men and is quite an area of complaint by their partners who may feel like they lose time to cuddle and bond in a shared euphoria. Often times, people may blame themselves, or measure the success of the relationship on whether their partner can’t help but catch a snooze right after sex. There is a biological explanation for why men might feel sleepy after sex, and some strategies that might help fight the feelings of sleepiness.

Why Might We Feel Sleepy After Sex?

It is quite natural for both men and women to feel the urge to fall asleep right after sex. Sex can be physically exerting and emotionally tiring, making anybody have an enhanced desire to sleep. There are also a few characteristics about the nature of sex, including a role for hormones and chemical changes within the brain, that tell a person's body to prepare for sleep right after intercourse.

People most frequently have sex at night, which is when our bodies naturally are ready for sleep. While we are awake, a chemical in the brain called adenosine builds up and is thought to drive the body towards sleep. By the late evening, these levels of adenosine are at their highest, easing the transition to sleep.

Men with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea associated with snoring, may be at higher risk of falling asleep quickly right after ejaculating due to poor sleep quality.

As sex frequently happens at night, sex also often occurs in a setting with dimmed lights or even total darkness. The lack of light might also help signal to the body that it is time for sleep, reinforcing a natural circadian rhythm. Melatonin, a sleep hormone in the body that increases when it is dark, naturally initiates the sleep cycle around this time.

Additionally, an orgasm itself can tire out a person. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans show that before a person can experience an orgasm, it is important to release fear and anxiety. After the release, you may naturally feel relaxed and ready to fall asleep. The sudden switch from feelings of fear and anxiety, which are stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system (think “fight or flight”), to feelings of relaxation, stimulated by the parasympathetic nervous system, can also promote your desire to call it a night.

While both men and women fall asleep after sex, men tend to have more trouble staying awake. Many people complain about trouble communicating with their male partner after sex, missing the chance to share intimate bonding time.

This phenomenon may contribute to problems in the relationship, but this doesn't have to be the case. In fact, the biological changes that happen in the male body during and after sex have a lot to do with why he may be dozing off right after making love.

The Biochemical Explanation

When a man ejacuates, expelling semen from his erect penis, several chemicals are released within the body. These chemicals include:

  • Nitric oxide
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • Nitric acid
  • Oxytocin
  • Vasopressin
  • Prolactin

In particular, prolactin is a chemical hormone associated with the feeling of sexual satisfaction associated with an orgasm, and momentarily stops feelings of sexual arousal by suppressing a stimulating neurotransmitter called dopamine.

The pause in feelings of sexual arousal is called a refractory period, or sometimes the recovery period, and it denotes the time before a man is able to “give it another go.” He may not be able to maintain an erection and would not be able to ejaculate again during this time period. Men who are deficient in prolactin tend to have much shorter recovery times.

Generally, when a person is asleep, the amounts of prolactin within the body are much higher. Researchers found that after injecting the chemical in animals, they became immediately tired.

The relationship between tiredness and the release of prolactin may explain why men tend to easily fall asleep right after sex. Notably, studies have shown that the release of prolactin is four times greater after intercourse compared to after masturbation.

During an orgasm, two additional chemicals are released—oxytocin and vasopressin. Both of these chemicals are typically associated with sleep.

These are released along with melatonin, a chemical that initiates the drive for sleep and kickstarts the sleep cycle. Oxytocin surges during sex and is also known to help counteract stress, which may lead to that feeling of deep relaxation and eventual sleep.

The Evolutionary Explanation

Counter to what you may think, falling asleep after sex might actually be a sign of a healthy and happy relationship, despite the potential inconvenience.

Although oxytocin and vasopressin, the chemicals released during an orgasm, are associated with sleep, they also may have an evolutionary function. Both oxytocin and vasopressin are related to pair bonding.

Pair bonding refers to the social attachment between partners, encouraging trust and security. Bonding is especially beneficial for couples who are planning on raising children, increasing a child's chance for survival.

The release of these chemicals and the association with pair bonding might be why sex is so often related to an emotional attachment. Sex frequency may enhance a healthy relationship and lead to long-term attachment.

The act of falling asleep together reduces the likelihood of abandonment, increasing the chance of the male partner staying to provide for the female partner and any potential offspring. (Admittedly, human relationships, and social roles, are more complicated than this potential example would suggest.)

Falling asleep together after sex may indicate greater expressions of affection and emotional connectedness. It also may have a purely physical role: helping in increasing sperm retention by counteracting gravity and enhancing favorable movement within the female reproductive system.

How Might He Combat Sleep After Sex?

Despite explanations of why he may be falling asleep after sex, it is reasonable to consider some solutions for altering his patterns if these are truly bothersome. Try these suggestions:

  • Consider changing positions: In theory, lying horizontally or flat on his back during sex may increase his mood for sleep after sex. Choosing an alternative position may help lessen the desire to snooze. Getting out of bed right after sex might also help push away the desire to sleep.
  • Avoid having sex in a dark room: The absence of light is one of the signals that initiate the chemical processes that prepare our bodies for sleep. Having sex in a dark room will encourage the release of melatonin, leading to a deep snooze quickly after.
  • Avoid having sex late at night: Naturally, our bodies are prepared to sleep at night, so it is not unusual to immediately desire to sleep after an emotional and physical activity like sex. Sex in the morning, or at other times such as over lunch, may be helpful to counteract any desire for sleep.
  • Switch up the conditioning associated with when you orgasm: If you are consistently having orgasms prior to falling asleep, this pattern may reinforce the fact that orgasming encourages sleep. This is known as simple conditioning. The orgasm becomes a signal to your brain telling it that you are ready for sleep, in the same way that a dark room or lying comfortably in bed might encourage sleep. This can be a great sleep aid, but only if both partners accept it as such.
  • Try having sex before meals: While this might seem a little strange, the feeling of hunger might help to keep both you and your male partner awake. In general, it is easier to fall asleep on a full stomach rather than an empty one. Frankly, it is more comfortable to have sex with less food in the stomach as well.
  • Communicate and compromise: Before sex, setting an agreed-upon allotted amount of time for bonding and talking might be a necessary action to help combat sleep. Having a candid conversation should also bring awareness to the importance of bonding after sex, rather than simply falling right to sleep, and begin to change patterns for future moments of intimacy.

A Word From Verywell

It is safe to say that falling asleep after sex is completely normal, yet its regular occurrence can cause plenty of concerns to partners who may feel neglected. The biochemical and evolutionary explanations help us to better understand why he might be snoring in your ear, but also help us to understand that this can be a great sign for a healthy and loving relationship.

If you have more questions about falling asleep after sex, or want to discuss ways to avoid falling asleep after sex, chat with your doctor or a board-certified sleep specialist who may help to identify other sleep-inducing problems like sleep apnea.

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