He Came, He Saw, He Fell Asleep: Why Men Can’t Stay Awake After Climax
Teelee, 27, a beautician in New Jersey, has a secret method for getting exactly what she wants from her husband in bed. It’s not an aphrodisiac-filled dinner or sexy lingerie. “I just make him a coffee before," she admitted. "Works like a charm."
It may seem like an unconventional bit of foreplay, but Teelee devised this strategy after she became increasingly frustrated by his penchant for falling asleep after sex when she wanted to cuddle. It's not uncommon to enjoy snuggling after a satisfying romp. So when someone immediately nods off amid post-orgasm bliss, it can be disappointing. Rest assured, this phenomenon is quite normal. And if you’re a person who tends to pass out after sex, you’re in good (albeit sleepy) company.
Take sleepiness as a compliment
When someone falls asleep after coitus, it’s because the body releases oxytocin during sex, which helps people relax and unwind. If someone has had a busy, stressful day, reaching orgasm may slow the body down, aka immediate shut-eye.
But it's not just oxytocin. “The cerebral cortex shuts off during orgasm and the cingulate cortex and the amygdala send messages to other parts of the brain signaling the need to quash all sexual desire,” explained Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. “This results in the release of slumber-inducing chemicals like serotonin and opioids that lull you into a relaxed, drowsy state.”
Frances, 29, a Los Angeles-based operations assistant in the fashion industry, had been dating a guy for about a month before they had sex. When they decided to finally hook up, he snoozed off immediately after his quick finish—right on top of her. “He eventually rolled over and bought me Plan B in the morning,” she said. “It was a letdown after such a buildup...and then we dated for three and a half years.”
Frances’s boyfriend didn’t continue to have such an extreme reaction to post-orgasm exhaustion once they started dating. She thinks he was just nervous. Or perhaps he was pulling out all his best moves for their first time and simply wore himself out. While the average penetrative sexual encounter typically lasts between five to seven minutes, according to a survey published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, this can sometimes involve a lot of heart-pumping, groin-thrusting action—especially for the male partner. Just as some people sleep better after a workout, some may fall asleep better (or immediately) after sex.
Tips on breaking this habit
You’ve probably heard that looking at your phone before bed leads to poor sleep. That’s because your body’s circadian rhythm, which control’s sleepiness and wakefulness, is heavily influenced by light. The body’s circadian rhythm is biologically adjusted for a 24-hour day, which is why artificial light can confuse your body as to when it’s bedtime.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your body is most sensitive to light from about two hours before you fall asleep to one hour after you wake. This is why exposure to blue light from your phone or laptop before bed can make it more difficult to zonk out or why you may sleep extra late if you have room-darkening shades.
Many of us turn the lights off during sex, whether out of habit or to set the mood (or to distract from unsightly stains on our sheets). This makes it easier to shut our eyes after sex and fall into a post-coital slumber.
If you’re trying to avoid falling asleep post-orgasm, try leaving the lights on (and enjoying the views) or experimenting with less supine positions such as doggy style, pressed up against the wall or any position that involves a chair.
Talking can also help
Like all relationships (even purely sexual ones), communication is key. In relationships involving BDSM “aftercare” involves checking in with your partner and ensuring they feel good after what might have been an intense or painful sexual exchange. It can involve cuddling, cleaning your partner up, tending to any sex wounds (perhaps from a whip or hard spanking) or even making sure your partner has had enough to eat. Many therapists believe aftercare is important even in non-BDSM sexual encounters, too, which is why falling asleep post-orgasm can potentially make the awake partner feel neglected or as if the sexual exchange wasn’t properly concluded.
If you’re a post-sex sleeper, Stella Harris, author of "Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships," suggested talking to your partner before it becomes a problem. “Ask your partner, ‘Hey, I know I always doze off right after sex. Does that bother you at all? Are you getting the attention/snuggles that you need?’” she said. If you already know the answer, Harris recommended proposing a solution, such as making time for “additional closeness before sex or setting separate times for snuggling.”
On the other hand, if you’re the partner of someone who’s always snoozing post-sex, Harris recommended saying something like, "After sex, I'd really like to be able to snuggle, can you try to stay awake for 5-10 minutes so we can do that?"
Of course, this doesn’t always work as well as planned. Jose, a 30-year-old marketing coordinator in Los Angeles, has a long history of sleeping after sex. “It’s always fast. It’s borderline uncontrollable,” he said. While many of his partners will ask him to stay awake and cuddle them, he usually falls asleep.
“If your partner doesn't think they can avoid falling asleep, there are some other options,” Harris advised. “First, figure out what bothers you about them falling asleep. What do you need during that time? Is there something you could get more of before sex (additional touching, talking, etc.) that would help you feel better when they fall right to sleep? Or is there something that could happen the next morning instead?”
The good news...
Most humans are more concerned with what happens during sex than immediately afterward. Chances are you’re not the only person your partner has been with who gets drowsy after an orgasm. “Many folks pass out after sex,” O’Reilly explained. “Simply put, sex feels good, and it can help you to relax, which can induce a good night’s sleep.”