The Surprising Way Sex Can Benefit Your Immune System

When you think of boosting your immune system, you probably think of the usual staples used to combat colds. Orange juice, echinacea, and chicken soup are usually at the top of the list. But experts in several fields are suggesting a new addition to your immune support arsenal: sex. And likely not for the reason you think.

It turns out that the most common things tanking our immune systems today is stress. Busy days, short nights, and pressure from every direction makes it harder for our bodies to stay healthy (via the American Psychological Association). Our bodies are so busy fighting the stress that they just don't have the resources to combat illness.

This is where sex comes in. It's a great stress buster. Dr. Nicole Prause, a leading sex researcher at UCLA, spoke on this when interviewed by Women's Health in 2015.

"Sex can get you to sleep and get your brain off what it's ruminating about."

So what happens when your brain stops focusing on worry and stress? In most people, at least, the result is sleep. And that's a good thing. Our bodies need sleep to rest and recharge, which is part of why stress tanks our immune system (according to the National Sleep Foundation). When we're stressed, we don't sleep.

Sex and sleep, according to the studies

The effect of stress on sleep is old news. A study released almost fifteen years ago in the Sleep Medicine Reviews journal outlined the link between hyperarousal and insomnia. Despite the name, hyperarousal means only that the brain can't shut off. It is always seeking stimulation even if it has to create it by repeatedly going over the same thoughts.

As Dr. Prause told Women's Health, sex knocks our brains out of that pattern and lets us get some rest. A 2017 study out of Central Queensland University in Australia backs her up as well. Of 282 participants, 60 percent reported better sleep after an orgasm. The University of Ottawa had similar results when they conducted a study in 2016 on the impact of sex on women with insomnia. They found "Engaging in sexual intercourse prior to sleep can decrease stress, and can assist female insomniacs by helping to initiate and maintain sleep."

When you sleep better, your body performs better. And sex can not only help you fall asleep sooner, but may even improve the quality of your sleep. There is one small hiccup in all the research, however. As this Healthline article explains, the United States federal government refuses to fund sexual research. This means studies are few and far between, and there is limited information on the difference between masturbation and sex with a partner. 

Don't write it off yet, though. Your sleep may improve just as much with a solo session as with a partner. And with the surprising effect sex has on your mood, it's a great option to keep in mind.