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Women’s Desire, Arousal Improved by Sleep

Women’s Desire, Arousal Improved by SleepGood sleep is important for a woman’s sexual health, American scientists have found.

Their study, recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, showed that in a group of college-aged women, sleep affected desire, genital arousal, and the chances of having sex with a partner the next day.

The 171 women were enrolled in university psychology classes. About half of them had a regular partner. None of them had taken an antidepressant within the previous four weeks. This was important, as antidepressants sometimes have sexual side effects.


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For two weeks, the women submitted daily reports on their sleep and their sexual activity. They told the researchers how long it took to fall asleep the night before, how long they had slept, and whether that sleep was of good quality. On average, the women slept about 7 hours and 22 minutes each night. 


The daily reports also included information on the women’s sexual activity in the past 24 hours, such as whether they masturbated or if they had sex with a partner (vaginal, hand, oral, and anal sex were all considered “sex” for this purpose). They described how much desire and arousal they felt and indicated whether they were menstruating.

After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered that the longer the women slept, the more sexual desire they felt the next day. Women with regular partners were also more likely to have partnered sex the next day if they slept longer the night before. In fact, sleeping one extra hour increased their chances of partnered sex by 14%.

Genital arousal encompasses the physical changes that happen as women’s bodies get ready for sex. Vaginal lubrication is one example.

How did sleep affect arousal? The results were a bit tricky. If women slept longer on average, they became more aroused during sex in general. But if they slept longer than usual on one particular night, they were less aroused the next day.


The researchers weren’t sure why sleep influenced women’s sexual response and activity. They speculated that hormones could be involved, but added that more study is needed. It’s also possible that sleep disorders like insomnia could negatively affect sexual function.

The study did have some limitations. The women were not screened for mental health issues (except for depression and anxiety) or other medical conditions that could affect sexual response. The researchers asked the women about their use of birth control pills and antidepressants, but they didn’t ask about other medications that can inhibit desire and arousal.

Still, the results suggest that poor sleep might contribute to sexual problems. Further research could explore this further and healthcare providers might consider poor sleep when treating women with sexual problems, the authors said.

Print this article or view it as a PDF file here: Women’s Desire, Arousal Improved by Sleep


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Kalmbach, David A., PhD, et al.

“The Impact of Sleep on Female Sexual Response and Behavior: A Pilot Study”

(Full-text. First published online: March 16, 2015)