A recent survey in Singapore suggested that married couples are having more frequent sex during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, Singaporeans tend to have less frequent sex compared to worldwide statistics, and are also found to have less sexual satisfaction. It is healthy to have sex regularly with a partner. Regular sexual intercourse between two consenting adults may not only boost intimacy and confidence, it may also promote emotional and physical wellbeing.
Several studies have suggested that sex can relieve stress by reducing the level of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is a steroid hormone in our body that regulates many processes including our stress response. It increases our heart rates, blood pressure, and sugar levels in our blood. Over time, long term complications may include weight gain, sleep problems, memory impairment, diabetes and heart problems. Additionally, sex boosts all the happy hormones such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine. Overall, sex improves stress levels by reducing the cortisol levels and increasing the happy hormones in our bodies. This in turn has many other health benefits which are mentioned below. So the next time you are feeling stressed out, in addition to going for a run or a quick session of yoga, try getting naked with your partner too!
You may also wish to read “Happiness Chemicals and How to Hack Them Without Medication”
While sex does not burn as much calories as running, it certainly keeps you active! On average, studies suggest that a 20-25 min session including foreplay may help women and men lose 69 calories and 100 calories respectively. The number of calories you burn also depend on how vigorous the sexual activity is and on the position - generally partners on top lose more calories than those at the bottom. If you like to switch things up a bit, you may incorporate sex into your workout regime!
Again, the same stress-relieving hormones that are produced during sex help to improve the quality of sleep. Research has suggested that orgasms release oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and reduce the amount of cortisol in our bodies, which prepare our bodies for sleep. This is why some people tend to feel sleepy after sex.
Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep. Many people may have stressors in their lives or sleeping disorders which prevent them from getting the adequate amount of sleep required for their bodies to recharge. Additionally, it is important to have good quality sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety and depression and in the long run lead to chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks. It can also affect memory and concentration.
Having regular sex not only helps you fall asleep faster, it also improves the quality of your sleep. This indirectly improves your overall mental wellbeing as well as physical health.
May protect the heart
Some research has suggested that sex also improves blood pressure and reduces the likelihood of heart attacks in the future. In fact, a study published in 2016 found that good quality sex protects women from getting heart attacks in the future. However further studies are required to confirm the statistics. Nonetheless, coupled with a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise and a varied diet, the advantages mentioned above (sleep-promoting, calorie-burning, stress-relieving) may improve cardiovascular risk factors and reduce your chances of getting a heart attack in future.
Sex has been shown to relieve the perception of pain such as headaches and menstrual cramps. In fact, earlier studies suggest that even masturbation alone may improve menstrual cramps. Again, the feel good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin are responsible for decreasing the sensitivity to pain. So the next time you have a mild headache or a migraine attack, while it may seem like sex is the last thing you want to do, try cuddling with your partner and get things heated up in the bedroom. You might find it to be just as effective as a dose of paracetamol!
Mental Health and Wellness
Unsurprisingly, the benefits of sex add up to boost mental health. The surge in happy hormones, reduction in stress levels, and most importantly of all, improvement to sleep are the physical and emotional factors. By forging stronger bonds in a relationship, sex develops the social aspect of mental health. But what if you do not feel these benefits, or they fade as quickly as the waves of pleasure fade upon climax?
Mental Health is only a state of mind that fluctuates with the ebbs and flows of life. Mental Wellness however is an active process of thinking, feeling, and acting in ways that positively impact physical and social-wellbeing. It is a universal condition and longing of all. There is no need for shame and loneliness, you can feel fulfilment (even with a mental disorder). Instead of languishing, you can flourish - a meaningful existence. Sex then supports a proactive strategy to strengthen your mental, emotional, social and psychological assets. Even if sex does not feel as beneficial as it should be, it only matters if you like and find meaning in it. The thoughts, feelings, and acts associated with sex can form a holistic approach to a life of happiness, peace, resiliency, and alleviation of suffering.
5 Tips for Better Sex
The importance of foreplay
Foreplay refers to the things that people do to get themselves in the mood or sexually aroused. This includes making out, masturbation, oral sex, fingering, role playing, and dirty talk. Foreplay not only helps to increase the duration of sex and improve orgasms, it also boosts physical and emotional intimacy.
It is important to communicate with your partner(s) about things that excite you, such as what makes you feel good, whether or not you like dirty talk, or which body part you would like to be stimulated. Having an open and honest conversation helps you to communicate your desires across to your partner; at the same time it allows you to know what your partner wants and how you can in turn satisfy him/her/them.
Spontaneity is fun and can make things exciting! At the same time, planning ahead can help to set yourselves in the mood, such as organising a trip or booking a hotel room for special occasions. It also allows you to have condoms ready when you need to, as prevention against STDs is just as important as good sex! In particular, if you have specific fantasies that you would like to play out (e.g. role playing), it would require some time and effort to plan it out. So don't be afraid to spend some time brainstorming and getting organised.
Engage all your senses
It is important to stimulate your five senses (smell, touch, sight, touch, taste) for a heightened experience. Many partners listen to music during sexual intercourse, while others incorporate things like candles, massage oils, chocolates, and lingerie. In contrast, depriving your senses can be equally exciting. For example, you may include blindfolds in your bedroom.
If you are new to this, a good trick is to go slow. Whether it is kissing or cuddling or touching someone, don’t rush into it. When you slow down, you become more mindful of each sensation and the pleasure that is derived from it. Slow sex also builds your arousal and helps you to pay attention to your partner and/or how they respond to you through their responses.
Now that you have a few tricks up your sleeve, try it out with your partner! There is nothing taboo about having sex regularly! Once again, do practise safe sex habits such as using protection with a new partner and get tested regularly before you get into bed with a new partner! Do remember that other forms of sexual activity such as oral and anal sex can still put you at risk of STDs!
This Valentine’s Day, we have partnered with frankie to write about the ups and downs of relationships. To learn more about relationships and how to build a healthy relationship, check out our Ultimate Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship or 5 Signs Your Relationship is So Stressful That It's Unhealthy
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