Parallels: Sex

Does it actually improve your life? Versión en español

Research shows that when in a healthy relationship, regular sex can have its benefits – on your health as well as your relationship.

Sex and touch in general can improve long-term intimacy in a relationship both in and out of the bedroom, including greater regard for each other and motivation to make each other happy.

Some experts believe less sex in relationships can result in less positive affection toward one another and sometimes anger, emotional detachment, or infidelity.

Having sex has been shown to improve memory recall and general cognition, or brain power, in older adults. This could be down to your body producing more of the pleasure hormone, dopamine.

Going through a long dry patch could leave you less focused, so you should try other ways to boost your brain, such as ensuring that you get enough sleep and exercise.

A recent study found that American adults had sex nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s than they did in the late 1990s.

Source: Archives of Sexual Behavior

Research shows that couples who communicate well with each other are better able to navigate sex ruts, in turn boosting their happiness with each other.

Less sex could result in more dissatisfaction in a relationship since partners may not be communicating about what they want and acting more like friends.

Some research shows sex can burn, on average, 100 calories in men and almost 70 calories in women per 30 minutes of activity – but not all couples last this long, so keep up other forms of exercise as well.

Without sex you’ll need to rely on other forms of exercise to burn those extra calories.

On average, sex lasts six minutes, during which an average man in his 30s would burn 21 calories.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Research has shown a link between how often you have sex and how strong your immune system is. Sex once or twice a week was shown to increase one aspect of immunity in college students.

Try other known tips to keep your body fighting tough: avoid smoking, exercise regularly, eat fruit and veg, and sleep well.

The ability of sex to make you feel happier leveled off at once a week in a recent study. Those who said they did the deed four or more times a week did not report feeling any happier.

Source: Social Psychological and Personality Science

Sex releases the hormones oxytocin and prolactin and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, resulting in deeper sleep.

For people who are sexually active, a sex drought can worsen sleep, since the body does not release relaxation hormones like oxytocin and stress levels may remain high.

Women over 50 who get under seven hours sleep most nights report being less sexually active. In college students, every extra hour of sleep correlated with greater sexual desire, studies show.

Source: North American Menopause Society, Journal of Sexual Medicine

Sex during a headache or migraine has been shown to provide relief and sometimes stop them. However, for some people, sex can trigger them.

Painkillers, a hot or cold compress, or simply resting are the main options for headache and migraine relief.

  1. Talk to your partner, about an experiment, with how much sex you each want to be having
  2. Avoid using your smartphone in bed
  3. Get enough sleep
  4. When life gets busy, try scheduling sex

A digital series exploring the health benefits and disadvantages of a variety of topics.

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Editorial Lead Meera Senthilingam

Editorial Sandee LaMotte

Design and Production Sarah-Grace Mankarious

Development Marco Chacón

Illustration and Animation Kirstin Smith