Do you feel energized or tired after sex? Here’s why

THere’s a common cartoon of heterosexual monogamous intercourse where after the climax, the man collapses into pillows on a bed in a blissful state of pleasure, ready to fall asleep, while the woman is wide awake, twiddling her thumbs and staring at the ceiling . Of course, this vignette is full of generalizations about gender norms and relationship dynamics, but it still raises an interesting question: what does it mean when you’re more energetic or tired after sex (regardless of your identity or orientation)?

When the energy levels between you and your partner are mismatched after sex, it can affect your relationship in and out of the bedroom. Knowing why you might have more or less energy after sex — and how to better address any concerns you may have or better communicate needs with your partner — is an important way to strengthen the relationship as a whole.

Hormonal reasons for this energy level after sex

The hormones your brain releases during (and immediately after) sex play a role in how energetic (or not) you feel after the act. “During a sexual encounter, the brain releases oxytocin,” says Sari Cooper, LCSW, board-certified sex therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex in New York City. Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin helps you feel warm and relaxed by lowering cortisol (the “stress hormone”), she says. On a purely chemical level, exercising with your partner can help you or your partner relax enough to fall asleep.

However, this only comes from the sexual “encounter”. “When a person orgasms, other hormones are released, including vasopressin, prolactin, serotonin, nitric oxide, and endorphins,” says Cooper. Vasopressin affects memory, concentration, and even aggression, which is why people often feel attached to their sexual partner. Serotonin and endorphins are hormones that improve your mood. Nitric Oxide promotes extra blood flow to the genitals, increasing sensation and supporting orgasm. Most importantly, prolactin is released after orgasm to reduce cravings and help you feel satisfied – which in turn promotes the relaxed state.

Everyone produces prolactin, but a person’s levels vary at different times in their lives depending on whether or not they are having an orgasm, whether they are or have been pregnant, or whether they are breastfeeding. Because prolactin levels affect sexual satisfaction, leading to the continued release of hormones that affect energy, their effects may depend in part on the sexual biology of the person having intercourse. It doesn’t help that straight women often experience the “orgasm gap,” which reflects the lower likelihood of orgasm from vaginal intercourse compared to a penis man. This would then result in people with a vagina being less likely to release hormones after cis straight sex than people with a penis partner, which would make them tired.

Keep in mind that “we are all unique individuals, so these hormones can affect people differently regardless of their gender,” says Cooper.

The other variables come into play if you are tired after sex

How you feel after sex isn’t so easily determined by the chemicals in your brain. There are all sorts of variables that can affect hormone secretion, such as a person’s menstrual cycle, medications, or other factors. Your everyday sexual responses may also vary, and “the same person doesn’t respond the same way every time,” says Stella Harris, intimacy coach and author of With a Tied Tongue: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kinks, and Relationships And The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. “Not only can gender be different, but the state we put ourselves in can affect the way we feel about it.” That said, if you’re already tired before sex, chances are high that sex makes you feel even more tired.

The physical stress of sex can also affect your post-intimacy energy levels. “Sexual activity can be like exercising and your stamina is tested, so when it’s done some people are ready for sleep and others are more hyper,” says Cooper.

“The important thing is to accept whatever your body needs after sex… There’s no good in fighting our body’s needs.” —Stella Harris, intimacy coach and author

Your emotional state also affects how alert or drained you are after sex. “For example, if a person fears engaging in sexual contact to create a deeper emotional connection, their vulnerability is greater,” says Cooper. “When the emotional connection isn’t obvious or isn’t restored, sleeping can be a way to deal with the disappointment.” Or, “When two partners are going through a similar experience that makes them both equally connected and hopeful for their relationship, sleeping can do that.” It can be the result of being in a super-relaxed state,” she says. One could also imagine how each of these scenarios could result in someone being more alert, either because their head is spinning with fear or because they are spinning with excitement.

“The important thing is to accept whatever your body needs after sex,” says Harris. “If you like jumping out of bed and running, that’s great. If you need a cat nap, that’s great too. There’s no good in fighting our body’s needs.” She says once you know your patterns, plan as much as you can. For example, if you know you need to rest after sex, you might want to set aside some extra snuggling time before moving on with your day. Or if you know you’ll be wide awake afterwards, check if your partner is ready for morning sex.

When to Concern about Post-Orgasm Drowsiness

It’s normal for your energy levels to fluctuate throughout your life, relationship, or even week. It’s also normal for people to have patterns that they notice about themselves, such as always sleeping through the night after orgasm. However, if you find that your response to sex or an orgasm is extreme — say, you’re so distraught that you can’t sleep at all or are unable to stay awake even when you wanted to — you should According to the experts, investigate possible causes with your health care provider.

A condition called postcoital dysphoria (PCD) is what Cooper describes as when someone “feels deep sadness after a partnered sexual experience.” People with PCD may have symptoms such as mood swings and decreased energy. There’s also a rare medical condition called Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome (POIS) that can cause people to feel exhausted, foggy, or have other flu-like symptoms. It can last up to five days after orgasm or sexual encounters. The cause is currently unknown, but it can be due to either a process in one person’s brain or an allergy to another person’s semen. If you suspect any of these conditions, consult your doctor or psychiatrist.

When should you talk to your partner about feeling tired after sex?

Let’s assume you don’t feel the need to see a doctor to find out why you might be feeling tired after sex. Still, it might be worth talking about energy fluctuations with your partner to make sure they understand how you’re feeling — especially if they’re feeling differently.

For example, you might address whether your partner’s energy levels are interfering with your enjoyment of having sex with your partner so that “one partner’s falling asleep isn’t interpreted as abandonment by the other, and an energy surge in one partner isn’t misinterpreted as a lack of an authentic connection.” says Cooper.

It’s important to talk about what you need in advance so that you can speak up for yourself in a calm, non-sexually charged situation. For example, Harris says one solution is for the person who tends to have a lot of energy after sex to possibly burn it off ahead of time so they’re available for quiet cuddles with their calmer partner afterwards. Or the more snuggly partner may need to compromise and have a shorter cuddling session after sex to accommodate a partner who needs less time to breastfeed. Cooper suggests using “I” statements like “I feel…” or “I would prefer…” to avoid making assumptions or projecting inaccurate intentions to your partner.

As with most aspects of a relationship, communication and compromise are key to finding a solution that works for everyone — and post-sex fatigue is no exception.

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